How to prepare your boat for a hurricane ahead of the 2023 season

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Abundant beaches, inland waterways and the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico are what make Southwest Florida a boater’s paradise. However, those features also mean boats are especially vulnerable to damage during tropical storms and hurricanes.

While the type of vessel, local boating environment and available storage options may vary, all boat owners need a plan specifically designed to protect their craft. To get an understanding of the planning and preparation needed to protect your boat before the storm hits, use these precautions and checklists as general guidelines.


• Inspect your boat to ensure it is in sound condition. Be sure to check the hull, deck hardware, rigging, ground tackle, machinery and electronics.

• Double check to make sure batteries are charged, bilge pumps are operable, fuel tanks are full, fuel filters are clean, cockpit drains are free and clear, firefighting equipment is in good working condition and lifesaving equipment is easily accessible and in good shape.

• Enhance and increase the watertight integrity of your boat by sealing all doors, windows and hatches with waterproof duct tape.

• Secure every item on your boat. Remove and/or secure any and all deck gear, portable gear, radio antennas, outriggers, chairs, deck boxes, cushions, bimini tops and side/canvas curtains, sails, boom, canister rafts and dinghies.

• Establish a hurricane action plan specific to your vessel. If you intend to move your boat to a safer location, and you have sufficient notice, do it at least 48 to 72 hours before the storm is due to hit the area. To understand how long the trip will take and any obstacles you may encounter, rehearse your planned boat movement, including actually visiting the alternate dock or hurricane mooring/anchoring site.

• Inspect your boat’s deck hardware to ensure it is suitable for your mooring arrangements. Check the size and structural attachment of the primary chocks, cleats, bitts, bollards and winches. As these are high-load/high-stress points, they should have substantial backing plates secured with bolts of commensurate size.

• Pay close attention to avoid chafing of mooring lines. A double neoprene hose arrangement has proven to be effective, successful chafing gear.

• Storm moorings should have doubled lines, whether they’re located dockside or elsewhere. For the second set of lines, use a size larger than the normal lines, including spring lines at a dock.

• Compile a list of important phone numbers in your phone’s contacts, and keep a hard copy just in case. The list should include contact numbers for your insurance agent, harbor master and marina facility, plus the United States Coast Guard and National Weather Service.

• Purchase all the materials you’ll need ahead of time. That includes additional lengths of mooring lines, screw anchors, fenders, fender boards, chafing gear and anchors.

• Put together an inventory of all boat equipment. Note the items to be removed from your boat and keep copies of your equipment inventory aboard the vessel and onshore. Take photos to document the current condition of your boat—inside and out—and keep them along with all your other records.

• Make sure your insurance policy is up-to-date. Read and review the policy thoroughly before the beginning of hurricane season. Most boat insurance policies include a great deal of helpful and advisory information about what boat owners should—and should not—do if they incur loss or damage to their vessel due to a hurricane or tropical storm.

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