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Prepping Your Boat For a Storm

Well, here we are again.  It’s the middle of summer and hurricane season is ramping up.  This is the time of year when we start to wonder what this year’s storm season will bring.  If you have a boat within a couple hundred miles of the coast, it’s always in the back of your mind.  The high winds and large waves that come along with these storms can damage your boat.  If your boat is on the coast, the storm surge can capsize it or smash it into docks, other boats or the shore.  So what should you do if one of these storms starts heading towards your boat?  Here are some suggestions on how you can make your boat storm ready.

1.        Check Your Insurance – After you have suffered a loss is not the time to discover that you did not have adequate insurance.  Make sure you review your insurance policy to see what it does and does not cover.  If it is lacking, make the changes now.  Don’t forget that if a named storm is already headed your way, most insurance companies will not allow you to add or change a policy.  

2.       Have a Relocation Plan – Should a storm start heading toward your boat, is it possible to move the boat?  If you can put your boat on a trailer, this is much easier.  If your boat is larger and can’t be easily trailered, do you have an escape route to move the boat inland?  Keep in mind that, moving the boat by water requires you to have a safe route, provisions, fuel and a destination (hurricane hole) to keep the boat until the storm passes.  You will also have to have the time to transport the boat to and from the destination.  If your boat is on the coast, check with some of the marinas in the area.  Some of them may offer “hurricane club” memberships where they can guarantee you a safe place to keep your boat during a storm.

3.       Have the Boat Hauled Out – If you cannot move the boat, you can have it hauled out of the water.  Depending on your marina’s facilities, this can at a minimum, reduce the chance of damage due to storm surge and large waves.  If your marina has a storm worthy indoor storage facility, your odds are better.  Don’t forget to check with your insurance company about haul out assistance.  Some will help with the cost of hauling your boat in preparation for a named storm.

4.       Remove Anything that Can Blow in the Wind – If your boat is going to stay outside, sails, dodgers, biminis and camper tops all need to be removed.  If you do not remove them, there is a good chance that you will find them shredded when you return to your boat after the storm.

Sails, biminis and dodgers need to be removed before the storm arrives

5.       Check Your Bilge Pumps and Batteries – Hurricanes and tropical storms bring a lot of rain.  Faulty bilge pumps or old weak batteries can result with your boat being underwater when all is said and done.  Make sure the bilge pumps are operational and your bilge is free of debris that can clog them up.  Make sure your batteries are in good shape and are fully charged.  If not buy new ones.  Do not rely on shore power to help your batteries out during a storm.  Even if the power grid survives, many marinas turn off power during storms to avoid issues.  

Make sure bilge pumps are operational and bilge is free of debris.

6.       Extra Lines and Fenders – If your boat is going to stay in the water, it is going to get bounced around a lot.  Be sure to use extra lines and fenders.  Make sure the lines are thick enough to handle the stress that they will be subject to and long enough to tie the boat in a manner that will allow vertical travel with the waves (see diagram).  You can never have too many fenders in a storm.  If you have them, use them.  Be sure that both sides of the boat (as well as the stern if possible) are protected.  This will help prevent dock rash or damage from nearby boats.

Always use extra lines and fenders. Avoid short lengths of line to allow for changes in water levels.

7.       Turn all Power Consuming Devices Off – Some of us leave refrigerators, air conditioning or interior lights on when we leave our boats.  If there is a storm approaching, it is a good idea to turn everything off except the battery charger.  The battery charger will help keep the batteries topped off for as long as there is shore power.  If and when the power does fail, many refrigerators will continue running on DC power which reduces the amount of battery life available for the bilge pumps.  Many lights and accessories also run on DC power which will do the same. 

8.       Do Not Leave Your Boat on a Lift – If your boat is normally on a boat lift at the dock, do not leave it there.  Statistics show that boats left on a lift at the dock are more likely to get damaged versus a boat afloat that is tied properly or a boat that is hauled out.  High winds can blow a boat off of the lift bunks; Storm surge can smash the boat up against the lift structure and extra weight of water in the boat can cause the lift to collapse.  

Win a $50 West Marine Gift Card
Win a $50 West Marine Gift Card

9.       Your Boat Can Be Replaced; You Can’t – Finally, please do not forget that your boat can be replaced and you can’t.  Don’t ever put yourself in unnecessary danger to try and save your boat.  Whatever your plan is, make sure it allows for you and your family to get to a safe location before the storm hits.

Hopefully, you will not have to deal with prepping your boat for a storm this season, but if you do, don’t forget these tips. 

Happy Boating

Captain Frank
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