Storm surges, winds, rainfall, waves and even the occasional tornado, are all in the realm of hurricane territory. And preparedness is necessary to survive these natural disasters.
Us boaters, especially, should know how to secure a boat during a hurricane.
But what’s the first step should this extra-nasty weather come knocking on your dock?
Here are some tips to help you secure your boat and keep it afloat when the next storm rolls in.
Make a Personal Hurricane Evacuation Plan
Know what to expect in a hurricane and plan ahead. Create an evacuation plan for yourself, family and pets.
You will want to get ready long before a hurricane warning is posted. Part of preparation is learning to be a storm-watcher.
If you already store your boat at a marina, check with the harbormaster to find out the hurricane plan already in place.
Ideally, you should have a Plan A and Plan B:
- Plan A — Haul your boat as far away from the water and coastline as possible, and secure it at home or a nearby storage facility.
- Plan B — If there’s no time and limited options, go for Plan B and at least secure it in the water as best you can.
Below, we’ll break these plans down into further details on how to secure your boat in a hurricane properly. But whether you use Plan A or Plan B, here are the initial steps you should take:
Check Your Boat Insurance’s Hurricane Coverage
During a hurricane, boats get scattered along the shoreline. Check your boat’s insurance and make sure it has hurricane coverage. Chances are, if you live in a hurricane prone area, you have it. But double-check anyway.
Companies like BoatUS/Geico specialize in boat insurance and are great places to start with quotes.
Be Wary of Storm Surges
Storm surges bring water onshore and are often underestimated when preparing for storms. This can cause major damage because it puts docks and dock lines underwater as the boat attempts to continue floating.
Keep in mind surges of up to 10-feet are common in hurricanes.
Remove Actual (and Potential) Sails
Raining Cats and Dogs: Mind the Rainfall
Don’t underestimate how much rain can fall during a hurricane. It isn’t uncommon to see between six and 12 inches of rainfall within a 24-hour period.
Cockpits are rarely 100% watertight and bilge pumps can only pump so fast. Torrential rain often sinks boats, which is why it’s best to stick to a Plan A and try to secure your boat indoors, possibly in your garage.
The ocean has been blessed with tremendous energy and with that waves can reach tremendous heights. Even in harbors and marinas that are normally calm can have breaking waves that reach three to six feet high. Remember, hurricanes aren’t the norm even though they are becoming more frequent.
Tornados: You’re Not in Kansas
Hurricanes have offspring and sometimes spawn tornados. If a tornado touches down, there’s little you can do to prepare.
However, if you have a trailer to haul your boat, your best bet is to get far away from the coastline and be ready when the hurricane makes landfall. After all, you’re not in Kansas anymore so get your boat back up on the shore.
Plan A: Land Ho!
If you need to move your boat, where do you go? A nearby marina? Your garage? Your buddy’s garage?
Consider the time it’ll take to get the boat ready, load it and possibly battle traffic. A trailer can be your e-ticket ride to a better shelter away from surges and the possibility of tornado touchdowns.
Don’t neglect your trailer. There’s nothing worse than two flat tires and some rusty wheel bearings when you are attempting to outrun a hurricane. Make sure to take properly maintain your trailer as well as your boat on a regular basis.
If you’re leaving your boat on the trailer during the hurricane, you’ll want to secure the trailer to trees or anchor it with an auger. As mentioned earlier, make sure to remove all gear that could become a sail or could be damaged by rainfall.
If you take your boat home, it’s wise to store it in the garage, as opposed to your car (sorry, car).
Why? Because your boat most likely weighs less than your car. Not-to-mention your boat sits higher in the air and has the potential to blow over in high winds if it’s kept outside.
Use Reinforced Jack Stands
Leaving your boat on jack stands requires the same type of preparation as does a trailer. You may want to also reinforce the stands with chains and plywood if necessary.
Avoid Davits and Lifts
Insurance companies and their team members often cringe at the thought of leaving their own boats on a hoist or lift during a hurricane. That’s because insurance companies see hundreds of damage claims for boats left on lifts and blown off their cradles. In addition, collapsed lifts also leave boats spilled about the shipyard.
Plan B: Mooring or Anchor
If you can’t trailer your boat to a safer location, your only option is to stay on water. So you need to know how to moor and anchor to secure your boat during a hurricane. And knowing how to do so is half the battle. Here’s a good battleplan to save the day.
Relocate to a Hurricane Hole
Leave major bodies of water and seek out smaller canals, rivers and waterways (if available). These areas are better known as “hurricane holes” and offer less wind and an alternative to otherwise crowded marinas.
And always anchor your boat with the bow facing into the wind.
Use Long (and More!) Dock Lines
Boats on docks get bounced around during hurricanes. If it breaks loose, expect to find it blown out of the harbor and possibly stranded. If you’re at a fixed dock in a hurricane, use extra caution and longer dock lines!
Members of the BoatU.S. Cat team estimate 50% of boat damage could have been prevented using proper dock lines.
So make certain to use longer, larger lines and arrange sensibly. If you store your boat in hurricane prone areas, practice tying up and devise a dock plan for hurricane line management.
The more space a boat has in a slip, the better its chances are of surviving a hurricane. Minimize the movement of the boat by arranging multiple dock lines to help prevent the boat from encountering dock or pilings.
The “Spider Web” Method and Ample Anchors
If your boat is already in (or relocated to) a “hurricane hole” and away from open waters, secure it by the “spider web” method. Using this method, you can secure the boat in the middle of the canal with multiple lines running to both sides of the shore. Securing a boat in mangroves works well! And aways utilize multiple anchors.
If you locate anchorage in a wider canal or waterway, more lines and anchors are always better. Remember to find an area away from open water.
Will Your Mooring Hold?
Hurricanes are infamous for dragging moorings. So one of the first questions you must ask: Will it hold?
Know how to hook onto the mooring ball ahead of time and make sure you have your mooring’s chain inspected periodically and if you have questions about it ask your harbormaster. They are a great resource at any marina or harbor.
Interestingly enough, a conducted study found helix anchors and helix moorings to be the strongest anchor around for hurricanes.
Always Stay Safe
There isn’t a simple answer for hurricanes. Taking the boat inland is your best bet, however, there are times when you can’t trailer your boat inland and you must navigate to a safer location.
But if your boat must stay in water during a hurricane, never stay aboard with it. You’re not the Titanic’s Captain. There’s absolutely no need to go down with the ship, no matter how much you love her.
Do everything you can do to protect your boat, family and pets when a hurricane approaches. Once you’ve done what it takes, head inland.
Your boat’s replaceable—you and your family are not!
Nicole Anderson is a communication professional and freelance writer. She learned to sail on the Great Salt Lake and enjoys being out on the water as much as possible, as well as camping, hiking, and traveling the world. Anderson resides in the Salt Lake valley with her husband, Mike, and her border collie, Luke.