A Boater's Guide to Hurricane Preparation

Well, the wind is blowin’ harder now Fifty knots or there abouts, There’s white caps on the ocean. And I’m watching for waterspouts — Jimmy Buffett, Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season

Sailing Safely in a Hurricane

If you boat anywhere down the East Coast or the along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, you’ll have to deal with some direct or indirect affects associated with a hurricane. Now that the hard reality is out there, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you keep yourself safe and protect your property.

Stay Informed

One of the reasons folks get into boating in the first place is to get away from the constant sensory input of today’s overly connected world. But if you live an area that’s exposed to hurricanes (or other extreme weather for that matter), you need to find a reliable and fast way to get the latest forecasts. Of all the things you can do to keep safe when you’re in the path of a hurricane, advance warning is, by far, the most effective.

Get Out Of The Way

For most recreational powerboats, many times the best solution is to pull the vessel and head inland. This reduces the impact of the initial storm surge and the accompanying rain and wind. The sooner the better on this because there will be lots of folks who either don’t or can’t move their boats in advance. Those folks will be the ones jammed onto the back roads and highways when mandatory evacuation orders are issued.

Batten Down The Hatches

For those boats that can’t be moved, it’s time to go old-school mariner and batten down those hatches. That phrase has survived modern times because it precisely describes what you need to do in a crisis situation. First, remove anything that’s not permanently part of the boat. That means cushions, toasters, life jackets, curtain rods and anything else that would fall off if the boat gets sideways. Leave them aboard and you not only risk losing them for good, but you could create dangerous projectiles for anyone or anything still hanging around during the worst parts of the storm. Use plenty of extra fenders, used tires or anything else that will absorb impact and lash them to the boat. Quadruple your normal line usage, springing to any and all potential contact points. Check that all hatches and portholes are secure and detach or cover windscreens. It also wouldn’t hurt to drop an anchor fore and aft and make sure they’re well set.

Don’t Try To "Ride" It Out

There seems to be some absolutely crazy theory floating around out there that you and your boat might be better off away from your marina, riding out the storm in open water. That is a misguided and misinformed idea. Yes, you are technically out of the way of more flying debris and your boat won’t be lashed to a "fixed" object like a dock when the indescribable physics of a hurricane are set in motion. Here’s the rub: YOU will be unnecessarily in harm’s way. There is NOTHING tough about riding out a furious storm on the water. Boats become a part of our lifestyles and identities, but they can ALWAYS be replaced.

Read more about preparing for a hurricane.

For additional information, visit our Hurricane Preparation Checklist.