Southwest Florida, with its inland waterways and profusion of land slightly above sea-level, presents a particular vulnerability for boats during tropical storms and hurricanes.
The geography here simply offers little protection. The keys to protecting your boat from hurricanes or any severe weather are planning, preparation and timely action.
The following precautions and checklists are meant as guidelines only. Each boat owner needs a plan unique to the type of boat, the local boating environment and the characteristics of safe havens and/or plans for protections.
General precautions and damage prevention
- Make sure your boat is in sound condition. This includes the hull, deck hardware, rigging, ground tackle, machinery and electronics. Make sure that the batteries are charged, bilge pumps are operable, fuel tanks are full, fuel filters are clean, cockpit drains are free and clear, fire-fighting equipment is in good order and lifesaving equipment is accessible and in good condition.
- Enhance the watertight integrity of your boat, both above and below the water line. Seal windows, doors and hatches with duct tape.
- Secure all items on your boat. Remove and/or secure all deck gear, portable gear, radio antennas, outriggers, chairs, deck boxes, cushions, bimini tops and side canvas/curtains, sails, boom, canister rafts and dinghies.
- Know your hurricane action plan for your vessel. If you plan to move your vessel, and you have sufficient notice, do it at least 48 to 72 hours before the hurricane is estimated to strike the area. Rehearse your planned boat movement, including an actual visit to the alternate dock or hurricane mooring/anchoring location.
- Inspect the boat’s deck hardware in light of planned mooring arrangements. Assess the size and structural attachment of the primary chocks, cleats, bitts, bollards and winches. These high-load/high-stress points should have substantial backing plates and be secured with bolts of adequate size.
- Provide special attention to avoid chafing of mooring lines. Chafing gear that has been proven successful is a double neoprene hose arrangement.
- Storm moorings, whether at dockside or otherwise, should have doubled lines. The second set of lines should be a size larger than the normal lines including spring lines at a dock.
- Make a list of important phone numbers. These numbers include your insurance agent, harbour master, marina facility, Coast Guard and National Weather Service.
- Purchase necessary materials ahead of time such as additional lengths of mooring lines, screw anchors, fenders, fender boards, chafing gear and anchors.
- Make sure your insurance policy is current. Read the policy thoroughly. There is quite a bit of helpful and advisory information in the policy relative to what the boat owner should do and should not do if there is a storm or hurricane-related loss or damage to the vessel.
- Make up an inventory list of all boat equipment. Note items to be removed from vessel. Keep a copy of equipment inventory both on board and ashore. Take a recent photo of your boat to keep with all records.
Make a list
Make up an inventory list of all boat equipment. Note items to be removed from vessel. Keep a copy of equipment inventory both on board and ashore. Take a recent photo of your boat to keep with all records.