Prepping for hurricanes: Part Two

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We are still in the busiest part of the hurricane season and several named storms are still expected to roar across the Atlantic.

Last week I started the discussion with part one on our discussion about hurricanes. This week we move to part two and a discussion about considerations you should make if you own a boat and your vessel is pier-side.

First and foremost, as I mentioned last week, NEVER take a hurricane, or hurricane warning lightly. Hurricanes are some of the most destructive forces on earth. During my tour in the Caribbean I watched just about an entire half of an island leveled by one so please heed warnings from professionals. It is especially important not to take a Category one hurricane lightly. I can’t tell you the number of people that have said &uot;Oh it’s just a Category one.&uot;

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Wrong answer – it’s a HURRICANE! This should be in the forefront of your thoughts.

OK, how do you prepare? Consider the following; as a hurricane approaches you should consider a three-stage plan to readying your vessel to &uot;ride out the storm&uot; in port.

With the incredible capability of Doppler radar and round-the-clock television coverage provided by cable TV on the Weather Channel, or via the internet, most owners will have a good idea when and in some cases

even where, the hurricane may hit. This means you should have at the very least 48-72 hours to make your vessel ready.

One added benefit of working on vessel preparations as soon as possible is that it leaves you more time to ready your home and family. Technology has made the whole ability to predict a hurricane better, with warnings and projected paths becoming more accurate.

Stage One – Initial Assessment

This is perhaps the most critical preparation time, as you should have time to be both deliberate and meticulous in your efforts. Initially, as you work on your vessel tune your radio station and then monitor the National Weather Service marine broadcasts. Once this done you are ready to get to work.

The first thing that you need to do is look all around the vessel topside and start a list of all removable items. Things like spare rigging, life rings, pads for the cockpit, portable fuel and oil storage containers etc should be removed. The reason is simple; they make great &uot;missiles.&uot;

Items such as tops, dinghies and even a ship’s bell should be taken ashore and stored. Think outside the box.

Additionally, you should also confirm with your insurance company the exact parameters of your policy. In addition to your vessel see what your lease or rental agreement says involving a storage shelter, if you have one, at the marina. These calls will allow you to have a clear understanding what your policy covers and what it does not. It is better to be as informed as possible before the storm hits.

Stage Two –

Move Below Deck

Moving below remove all important ship’s papers (i.e. registration, log books, passports, etc) and put them in a safe place away from the water.

Have a complete list of all the equipment, both on the vessel and in the storage shack.

Make sure you have details such as equipment models and serial numbers. It makes the insurance claim easier. One good recommendation, to keep all these lists and, if you have them, pictures, is to buy a portable lock box and keep that with you.

This is actually a good idea for hurricane preps in general and not just for your vessel. Moving about the vessel you should shut off the fuel tanks, leave the bilge pumps on and use enough line to allow for storm surge in your mooring lines.

You should ensure that the battery is charged and the bilge pumps are operational. Clean the bilge of any material that would clog the pump. Both of these devices will be imperative.

Stage Three – A Final Look

This final stage actually involves getting the vessel itself ready to ride out the storm. Start by setting chaffing gear where mooring lines will rub. A number of materials, even radiator hose, can be used for this purpose. Look to place chaffing gear near deck edges and chocks.

This should be followed by a methodical search of all openings to the vessel should be completed. As you move from bow to stern make sure that the vessel is as watertight as possible. You can secure hatches and doors (yes, you can have a door on a vessel, all you salty dogs!) with tape, such as air conditioning duct tape, from the inside.

You should also make sure that the &uot;self-bailing&uot; cockpit drains are open. Set your storm anchors, and then triple your bow and stern spring lines. As your walking off the vessel make sure your electrical connection to the shore is disconnected.

The final thing you need to do is take off the valuables and easily removable electronic devices such as radios, GPS, etc you may have onboard.

Obviously this is not an &uot;all-inclusive&uot; list but should at least serve as a foundation to build your own list, which I strongly recommend. In addition, on top of all of the above have a backup plan in case you are caught in a situation where you can’t do these actions yourself. Identifying a neighbor, relative, or friend who has a good working knowledge of your vessel and can get all the actions done before the storm hits.

Perhaps the best advise I can give you, even if you are the most experienced sailor is don’t remain on your vessel during a hurricane. This is a very bad idea and may cost you your life. Your life is too valuable. Property can always be replaced. You can’t!

Remember that a Category Five hurricane for example, packs speeds above 156 MPH and storm surges of 18 feet.

Next week we’ll look at how to prepare for a hurricane if caught underway.

Until then….Boat Safe….and Boat Smart!

Joe DiRenzo is a retired Coast Guard officer, and former cutter Commanding Officer, who currently works as a civilian for the Coast Guard. A nationally published author on maritime terrorism and port security issues he has written the Boating column for the News-Herald for the past four years. He can be reached at