With the number of tropical storms and hurricanes hitting the US coast every year, it’s important for boat owners to follow a thorough hurricane preparation checklist to protect their vessels during the storm season.
By taking these necessary precautions, you can ensure the safety of your boat and minimize the risk of costly repairs.
In this guide, you will find a number of different steps you can follow to secure your boat and find a safe harbor, to minimize the potential damage caused by hurricanes.
Table of Contents
A storm is coming, what to expect?
Hurricane season in the US typically runs during the second half of the year between June and November. Tropical storms will bring wind speeds between 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots), while a hurricane will bring winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.
A major hurricane is when wind speeds exceed 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Hurricanes can bring a large rainfall in a short period of time, 6 to 12 inches of rainfall in 24 hours is common. This amount of rain can sink boats if the cockpit deck is not watertight and the bilge pump and batteries fail.
Water levels can raise 10-20 feet above normal high tide as a result of winds, swells, and low pressure. This can cause flooding, road closures, evacuations, and damage to boats and infrastructure. Have dock lines with extra length and tie the boat from different angles to avoid surge damage.
Hurricanes can create waves of up to 3 to 6 feet high in otherwise peaceful bays. Waves and storm surges will augment the area available for the wind to create waves (fetch), increasing the risk of damage to boats.
Hurricane preparation checklist for boat owners
Now that we have covered what you can expect from storm and hurricane conditions. Let’s start preparing with the following hurricane preparation checklist.
You should prepare your boat well before the hurricane season.
Remember to ALWAYS follow the advice from local authorities. You can replace the boat, but you can’t replace yourself.
☐ Check weather forecasts and alerts. Stay up to date on any official warnings or alerts. Use websites and apps, tune in to local news stations, or subscribe to weather alert services.
☐ Check your insurance cover before the hurricane season. Understand what’s covered and what’s not. Make the necessary changes according to your requirements.
☐ Check your marina policies and hurricane-handling procedures. Marinas may ask boat owners to have a hurricane plan of their own. Other marinas may coordinate hauling, and some others may need all boats to move to another location.
☐ Learn about the surge history in the area. Check with locals and understand what surge level you can expect. This will help you plan if you intend to keep your boat in the water.
☐ List all the equipment on your boat. Keeping a video record of this could be useful later on. Define what equipment you will remove from the boat.
☐ Take legal documents to another location if possible. Including registration, insurance policies, radio license, etc.
☐ Take pictures of the document and uploaded them to a digital storage location.
☐ If the boat can move to a dry location, plan how and when it must happen.
If the boat needs to stay in the water, keep reading to plan the next steps.
Moving your boat out of the water before a Tropical storm or Hurricane
According to BoatU.S. moving a boat to a safe location on land provides the best chance of protecting it from a hurricane.
Here are some key recommendations you should consider implementing before the storm arrives.
☐ Plan to move your boat well before the anticipated storm, don’t leave it to the last minute.
☐ Check your Insurance as they may already offer some cover for hauling a boat before a hurricane.
☐ Store your boat well above the anticipated surge level. Make sure to use proper supports and straps to prevent shifting caused by the strong winds.
☐ Use extra jack stands, smaller boats up to 30 feet should aim for three or four jack stands per side. Place jack stands on plywood and chain them together to avoid spreading during the storm.
☐ For trailer boats, inspect the trailer carefully before the storm. Ensure it is in good condition and can safely transport the boat to higher ground or a designated shelter area.
☐ Check the trailer tires, brakes, lights, and hitch. Ensure the boat is strapped and balanced on the trailer.
☐ Park the trailer where the boat is most protected from wind, falling branches, and flying debris. Prevent movement by flattening the tires and blocking the wheels.
☐ You can increase the weight of an outboard boat by leaving the drain plug in and adding water with a hose. For extra support add wood blocks between the trailer’s frame and springs. Don’t try this with an inboard or sterndrive boat as your motor may get damaged with the water in the hull.
☐ Where possible, secure the boat and trailer to heavy structures. Concrete runners can provide extra stability and prevent the boat from being tossed around during a storm.
☐ Polyester straps are often preferred over nylon to secure boats from storms out of water. Polyester offers strength and less stretch. Note, if the boat is in the water you may want more stretch, and nylon may be preferred in this case, see below.
Keeping your boat in the water during a Hurricane
If you have no other choice but to leave your boat in the water during a hurricane, there are multiple options you can explore to increase the chances of minimizing damage. Here is a hurricane preparation checklist for this scenario.
☐ Secure the boat in a safe location protected from open fetch and unrestricted storm surge. Consider the storm surge of the area, the location of rocks, and the holding ability of the bottom when selecting the location.
☐ If staying at a fixed dock, use longer and larger diameter dock lines than what you use for your regular docking. Tie the boat from different angles to avoid surge damage.
☐ Look for pilings, dock cleats, trees, or anything sturdy to secure dock lines.
☐ Position the boat bow towards open water, or to the least protected position. This reduces windage and keeps the strongest part of the boat facing the storm.
☐ Use chafe protectors to prevent chafing from chocks, pilings, and other potential breaking points.
☐ Reduce the boat’s windage as much as possible to reduce the wind force exerted on the boat:
☐ Remove awnings, bimini tops, cockpit dodgers, and spray covers.
☐ Remove and stow furling headsails, mainsail, and mainsail covers.
☐ Remove cockpit cushions, cowls vents, and valuable electronics. Also, remove instrumentation and anything that is not bolted down to the boat.
☐ Tie halyards to a small line and let them roll to the top of the mast. Use the single line to retrieve the halyards after the storm.
☐ Have the boat’s bow face the anticipated wind direction.
☐ Canals, rivers, and other waterways can serve as hurricane holes. Use them as an alternative to crowded harbors and marinas during a storm.
☐ Secure the boat in the center of narrow canals. Facing the canal entrance and as far back from open water as possible. Use several sturdy lines ashore.
☐ Mooring allows the boat to reduce windage by swinging and facing the wind. The boat has a low chance of hitting the structure unless mooring or anchor drags
☐ Helix mooring provides higher holding power than other mooring options.
☐ Inspect your mooring chain for any signs of damage and address them early.
☐ Use multiple anchors with scope of at least 10:1 to increase the holding power. Use heavy and oversized chains with them.
☐ Using two large anchors set 90 degrees apart increases a boat’s chances of staying put. Using two anchors in tandem also increases their individual holding power
☐ Use chafe protectors on the mooring and anchor lines. These lines face large loads and chafing can happen quickly if lines are not protected.
☐ Tape hatch openings to avoid water getting in.
☐ Plug the boat from the shore power source. Make sure batteries and bilge pump are operating correctly, unplug all other electrical equipment.
☐ Close seacocks, except those that drain the cockpit and any open areas.
☐ Remove any debris from cockpit drains and scuppers.
Next steps after the storm
- Don’t risk it coming before the storm has passed. Stay in a well-protected area until the authorities allow travel.
- After that, return to your boat as soon as possible and inspect it for damages
- Contact your insurance company. Notify them of the boat location and coordinate the next steps with them.
- Be cautious when navigating through storm debris.
- Take steps to prevent further damage and make any necessary repairs.
Here you have it, this checklist should provide you with options for protecting your boat in a hurricane.
Taking these simple but crucial steps can go a long way in safeguarding your boat and giving you peace of mind during a hurricane.
Let us know if you have any additional tips or steps that should be listed here, just drop us a line here.
Check out our other guides and articles to ensure that you’re ready to make this upcoming boating season your best one yet!
Remember to always take necessary precautions and follow the advice of local authorities in the event of a hurricane.
What is a Hurricane Hole?
A hurricane hole is a location where boats can be docked and protected from hurricanes.
Shallow water areas such as bays and lagoons, and the presence of trees, mountains, and other natural barriers help to diminish the impact of the winds and reduce the risk of damage caused by hurricanes.
Because these natural barriers usually surround the area on multiple sides, hurricane holes are considered an ideal place to seek refuge and ride out a heavy storm.
How can I track a hurricane?
There are a number of different ways you can track a hurricane:
Visit the National Hurricane Center’s website for the latest updates on hurricanes and tropical storms.
– Smartphone Apps: download free hurricane tracking apps for your smartphone, which provide real-time tracking, alerts, and other useful features.
– Local News and Weather Channels: Your local news and weather channels will provide updates on the hurricane’s path, projected landfall, and potential impact on your area.
– Social Media: Follow the official social media accounts of the National Hurricane Center, local news channels, and emergency management agencies for the latest updates on the hurricane.