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How to Prepare Your Boat for Hurricane Season Thumbnail

How to Prepare Your Boat for Hurricane Season

This year has certainly seen no shortage of challenges. Amid all of the trying times, heartache, and personal or professional setbacks, we strive forward and hope for the best for ourselves and our family.

Unfortunately, those of us on the Eastern Seaboard may not be out of the woods quite yet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The outlook, generated by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, calls for a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.

How fun.

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Whether you are a new or seasoned boat owner, this post will help you prepare your most prized marine possession ahead of the upcoming hurricane season.

Ahead of Hurricane Season

It’s imperative you build a hurricane plan well in advance of any storm. Your hurricane plan should include instructions about where and how you will store your vessel. You will also want to make a list of, and stock up on, materials you may need to prepare your boat for an impending storm, including emergency provisions.

Securing all of the documentation for your boat is a good idea, including insurance policies, photos of your vessel, registration, equipment inventory, contact numbers, and any other essential documents.

Don’t forget to review your boat insurance annually, making sure you have sufficient coverage. It’s also a very good idea to ensure you have coverage well in advance of the season. Often times when a tropical storm is declared, insurance companies will no longer process applications until after the storm.

Further, if your boat is located in a marina, review your dock contract to understand your requirements or preparations you may need to take in advance of a storm. Speak with the dockmaster to understand their own hurricane plan. You may be able to implement parts of the plan yourself.

You might also be able to join a local boater’s hurricane club, which can help reduce your individual planning and preparation ahead of the storm and get your boat to the safest spot possible.

Before the Storm

If possible, it’s best to secure your boat on land. A study conducted by MIT showed that boats secured on land were far more likely to have survived intact than boats stored in the water. However, storing ashore may not be feasible for you and your vessel.

Whether you secure your boat on land or on water, be sure to remove all detachable equipment and electronics. Items like canvases, rigging, cushions, antennas, and other electronic gear should be stored in a safe, dry place. Also make sure to lash down anything else you can’t remove, like booms, tillers, or wheels. 

Option 1: Securing on Land

If you boat is trailerable, inspect your trailer to make sure it’s operable ahead of any storm. In advance of the storm, move your trailered boat to high ground to avoid storm surge. Ideally, it’s in a location that offers protection against the wind. It would be ideal to store your boat in your garage if it fits.

If the vessel has to stay outside, don’t rely on jackstands. Hurricane-force gusts can rock the jackstands back and forth, moving them out of position and greatly increasing the chance of the boat being blown over. It’s best to strap your boat down to a secure anchor, like an eye set in concrete or helical anchors drilled into the ground. Don’t forget to place blocks around the wheels and deflate the tires to prevent the trailer from rolling.

While it might be tempting to simply store your boat on your lift, this is a critical mistake. Most boating experts suggest never leaving your boat on davits, lifts, or racks during a storm. These structures are highly unstable in this environment and greatly increase the chance of the boat blowing over, grinding against motors or neighboring boats, or collapsing under the weight of rainwater.

Another option, if possible, is to store your boat at a dry-stack storage facility like The Port Marina in Fort Lauderdale. Make sure you find a facility that was built after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 since construction standards were raised and those facilities likely are built with better structural supports. 

Option 2: Securing on Water

Sometimes taking your boat out of the water for a storm simply isn’t an option.

For those who keep their vessel at a marina, make sure that the docks have tall, sturdy pilings and that the marina offers reasonable shelter from open water or storm surge. If pilings are too short, they are less likely to be able to accommodate the storm surge.

Make sure you invest in a sturdy set of lines, too. A BoatUS Cat team estimated that 50 percent of boats damaged at fixed docks during hurricanes could have been saved by using better dock lines. Use larger, longer line; arrange them in a spiderweb; add chafe-protectors (like double neoprene hose line) to the line to prevent fraying; and put out extra fenders and fender boards.

Similar preparation applies for those securing their boat in a canal, though it’s critical to work with your neighbors to ensure that the community has a plan. It does you no good if your boat is safe and secure but your neighbor’s lift breaks, shooting their center console like a torpedo towards your pristine sport fisher. 

Hurricane holes are another good option. Search ahead of time for a deep, narrow cove or inlet surrounded by trees. The further inland, the better. If you plan on securing your boat in a hurricane hole, don’t wait until the last minute to find a sound location. Anticipate additional time to reach your chosen destination since rising wind and seas can slow your travel. Further, bridges may open less often once a hurricane warning is posted. Tie the boat to the surrounding trees and use anchors to secure your vessel.

Protect Your Financial Investment This Hurricane Season 

I’m sure we all hope we escape this hurricane season unscathed. It certainly feels like we deserve a break from another 2020 disaster. However, if nature chooses to deal us another poor hand, following the tips laid out in this post will help you protect your most prized marine possession.

If you would like additional advice on how to protect the financial investment you made into your family’s boating lifestyle, sign up for our newsletter.