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hurricane preparation tips for boaters

Lee County and Fort Myers Beach has seen its share of aggressive summer weather, including hurricanes. Hurricanes approaching from the south or west pose the greatest danger because of storm surge. The ravaging wind and torrential rain combined with rapidly rising waters can devastate our tropical paradise and the boating community.

If and when a hurricane strikes, proper preparation is the best way to help ensure that your boat survives.

Here at Salty Sam’s Marina, we believe the best hurricane preparation is to have a good plan in place. We want you to know that we always take the necessary steps in order to protect our boat storage facilities and marina.

We here at Salty Sam’s Marina hope the following hurricane preparation information helps you in protecting your vessel.


Top 10 Tips to Prepare for a Hurricane

If you keep your boat on the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts of the United States, you face the possibility of a hurricane striking during the second half of the year. The following 10 tips are developed using information from the Marine Insurance Division of BoatUS, experts in hurricane preparation.

  1. Prep Now, Not Later

Create and write out your comprehensive plan in advance. The sooner the better. Do you have all the necessary gear and supplies? Are your lines and anchors in good shape? Are you missing anything? Hunting for these things when a storm is threatening will have you competing with everyone else scrambling around and you could run it stores being out of stock on things you need.

  1. What’s Your Boat Insurance Coverage?

Understand your insurance policy and your marina contract. Your policy may pay at up to 50 percent of the cost of hauling or moving your boat prior to a hurricane. Some marinas require that you haul your boat in advance of a storm to protect your boat and the marina.

  1. Get on Land

If you plan on hauling your boat, coordinate in advance with your marina. Evidence shows that boats stored on land fare better on average in a hurricane compared to boats kept in the water. When you haul, locate jack stands along the hull in areas reinforced by a bulkhead to withstand the pushing force of the wind. You should also chain the jack stands together to keep them from spreading apart. If jack stands are located on soft ground, be sure to place plywood pads under them to keep them from sinking into the ground.

  1. Moor Wisely

If you must moor your boat in the water during a hurricane, try to locate it in an area with the least amount of fetch, in other words, where waves have the least distance to build up. Canals are ideal, because lines can be run from both sides so the boat does not pound against the dock. Remember that the wind will veer around as the storm goes by, so be sure your boat is protected from a wide range of wind angles. “Hurricane holes” provide protection since they are completely enclosed.

  1. Use Long Lines

If your boat will be moored to a fixed dock or piling that does not ride up as the water level rises, you will need to use long lines so your boat can float up as the water level goes up. Lines that are too short can break or in some cases actually pull the piling out of the water. Tie up your boat with the bow facing the anticipated wind direction. This may be different from how you normally tie up. If you moor your boat to a floating dock, take note of the height of the pilings, which must be higher than the anticipated storm surge. If they are not, the entire dock will become a raft and take your boat with it. So if you think the pilings might be too short, get your boat out of the water.

  1. Strengthen Your Mooring

Boats on moorings face special challenges. Most moorings can withstand storms and squalls, but hurricanes place an extraordinary load on the anchor and anchor rode. The best mooring anchors are helix types, which screw into the seabed. They hold much better than mushroom or deadweight anchors. One problem with mushroom anchors is that they may have taken a set with the prevailing wind direction. The storm however, may come from a completely different direction. Also, if your boat will be on a mooring, or anchor, now is the time to replace or upgrade your mooring pennant, making sure that it has chafe protection.

  1. Set Multiple Anchors

If you must anchor out, select your location so there is as little fetch as possible, so as to reduce the size of the waves. Two or even three anchors can be used. One approach is to set two anchors in linear formation connected together by chain or in multiple directions at 90 degrees to the anticipated direction of the wind. Three anchors can be set in an array of 120 degrees and led to a single swivel and line leading to the boat’s bow. This can be especially effective where the boat has little room to swing.

  1. Replace Old Lines

Now is also the time to replace your worn dock lines. According to Practical Sailor Tests, old lines lose 49-75 percent of their strength. Lines should be nylon, either two or three strand and in many cases larger than what you normally use. Reduce the possibility of your dock lines breaking due to chafe by installing chafing gear, which is inexpensive and easy to install. You can also switch to dock lines with a thimble spliced to the end, through which a short length of chain is run that is shackled to the dock cleat. To reduce stress on your dock lines, mooring compensators, or snubbers can also be used.

  1. Reduce Windage

You can do this by removing all canvas, including dodgers and biminis. Furling genoas should be removed, halyards should be attached to a small line and run to the top of the mast. Mainsail covers and mainsails should be removed. Cockpit covers for powerboats should be removed. Even if the storm does not damage your boat, it is likely that your canvas will be damaged or destroyed by wind or debris in the air.

  1. Keep Up to Date

Be an educated storm tracker. Watch the Weather Channel with an eye on the tropics. Download the top weather apps for your phone. We like Weather Underground, Storm Radar and Windy.

Having a good plan in place and the right boating equipment will get you ready for any serious weather event. Don’t get caught scrambling around the week before the storm arrives or you’ll run the risk of stores selling out of vital supplies.

Feel free to give us a call here at Salty Sam’s Marina if you have any questions about your boat or storing it on the hard during this time of year or leading up to a hurricane. 239-463-7333

Thank you, from the team at Salty Sam’s Marina.

2500 Main Street

Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931