Learning how to prepare for a hurricane can be intimidating and a little bit frightening, especially in a midst of a storm approaching. If you own a boat anywhere along 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. Being proactive and getting prepared before the storm hits is extremely important—not only for the safety of you and your loved ones, but also for the safety of your boat. Here are some things to keep in mind that can help you stay safe and protect your property.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane: You & Your Boat
- Stay informed and up-to-date on weather reports.
- Trailer your boat, and head inland to a safer region that is out of reach from the storm.
- If you can't transport your boat out of the area, then prepare to batten down the hatches.
- Remove anything that's not permanently part of the boat.
- Apply extra fenders and double up on your normal dock line usage.
- Check that all hatches and portholes are secure.
- Drop an anchor fore and aft.
- Evacuate to a safe location.
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.
- 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.
Looking for more on boating safety? Read...
- Weather Safety Tips for Boaters
- Boating Safety Guide
- Safe Boating Tips
- Boat Safety Checklist & Equipment List