Top Ten Hurricane Preparation Tips

If you keep a boat in the water during hurricane season in the tropics, you need to be prepared for the possibility of a hurricane warning in your area. Boats in the water will be subjected to high winds and waves and torrential rain and one should prepare for all such conditions.We have been in several hurricanes in the Caribbean and in Florida and it is not a fun experience but being prepared makes it a lot more tollerable. Stock up well with water, batteries, propane, fuel and food.

After surviving these hurricanes (the worst of which was “Lennie”, the category 4 direct hit on Sint Maarten) we were able to return to the boat and live a fairly normal life while people on land had no power and water for days. Here are our top ten tips:

    • Strip all sails, canvas, bimini tops, spray dodgers and unneccesary lines and other “projectiles” off the boat and stow inside the boat or in storage. Make sure that your sails are dry before stowing it or it will get moldy. Sails are one of the main causes for boats getting damaged or creating damage during a storm. It is NEVER a good idea to leave sails up especially roller furlers!
    • Secure bimini frames and other equipment securely.
    • Seal hatches, instrument covers and vents as tightly as possible.
    • During a hurricane, there is no such thing as too many lines and chafe gear. Put out as many lines as you can in spider like pattern and protect the wear points with chafe gear. We used old firehose that we lashed to our lines as chafe gear and it worked great.
    • Allow for storm surge and low tide to avoid your boat hanging on it’s docklines. Remember, lines stretch under load, so allow for that. All lines should be as long as possible and tied to the furtherest points on land as is feasible. The same rules apply for the use of spring and stern lines in storm surges but the distances are greater because the tide may rise much higher than normal.
    • Put out as many fenders as you can and lash them securely at both end if possible or they may shift during the storm. Secure the boat at as many attachment points that is safe and reasonable.
    • If you must put out anchors, put out large anchors with enough chain and rode. Check your shackles and chain for wear.
    • Allow and plan for other boats not properly prepared or secured especially upwind from you. If time allows, remove or secure projectiles and secure that boat. It’s a lot cheaper and less aggravating than having to fix your boat.
    • Avoid the temptation to stay aboard during a storm. During the height of the storm there will be precious little you can do to affect change but you certainly can get hurt unneccesarily.
    • Get your insurance policies, important papers and anything else that money cannot replace, off the boat.

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