Boating Safe – Hurricane Season Preps Part I

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 25, 2003

Several news media outlets, from newspapers (including our own Suffolk News-Herald) and television stations to radio and magazines have all said the same thing in the past few weeks: this coming hurricane season, which runs from June 1- Nov. 30 is going to be a bear!

In fact, this season could serve as a wakeup call for recreational boat and homeowners alike from Maine to Florida. The boating public has been lulled into a false sense of security that hurricanes are not a concern anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We’ve been lucky so far. In fact, those of us who live on the East Coast have been incredibly lucky. In the past two years there have been just nine tropical storms, and only one turned around and developed into a hurricane which impacted the United States. Overall there were four hurricanes last year, significantly lower than the average. This significant decrease is not the norm; we are due for a significant increase.

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In fact, in recent comments officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), made during National Hurricane Awareness week, it was stated that an average of between 11 to 15 tropical storms will develop in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico during the 2003 season. Of this group it is predicted that at least six and potentially up to nine will become full-blown hurricanes. The possibility that between two and four of these hurricanes will develop into Category Three or greater gives boaters a reason to prepare.

Trust me: you haven’t lived until you have experienced a Category Five hurricane. I experienced four of these in two years while stationed down in Puerto Rico in the mid-1990’s. The power and devastation that comes from these monsters is beyond description. Remember Hurricane Marilyn? When it got through with St Thomas the destructive path was horrendous. Hundreds of boats were destroyed. Thousands lost their houses.

Over the next few weeks the focus of this column will be hurricanes. I’ll look at the different categories, methods to help &uot;ride them out&uot; and precautions you can do to ensure your boat is the safest possible during one of these events.

One recommendation in the safety area that I want to highlight immediately is the need to buy and install a radio system that has the &uot;Specific Area Message Encoder&uot; feature. This feature provides the ability to receive automatic National Weather Service alerts. They give the boating public updates when bad weather is approaching. This is a great system, which should be considered.

When looking at ways to prepare for hurricane season the prudent boater needs to take a macro view. You need to look at your boat itself, asking the question, &uot;How can I reduce my vulnerability?&uot;

The next thing you need to look at is your moorings. If you trailer your boat, the safety in this condition needs to be considered. If you are underway and get into a position where making a run for land is impossible you need to understand the techniques that can be used to approach a hurricane via its &uot;safest&uot; quadrant.

Lots of things to consider.

Next week we will look at hurricane categories, and how a hurricane operates. Until then, Boat Safe and Boat Smart!