Prepare your boat

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For boat owners, Southwest Florida is a wonderland thanks to the sparkling blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, inland waterways, and pristine beaches. But, in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, those same attributes make boats especially vulnerable to damage.

The type of boat, the local boating environment, and locally available storage options may vary, but every boat owner needs a plan of action designed specifically to protect their craft. For an overview of the planning, safeguards, and preparation needed to protect your boat before a storm arrives, use these precautions and checklists as general guidelines.


  • Check your boat thoroughly to ensure it is in sound condition. Be sure to inspect the hull, deck hardware, rigging, ground tackle, machinery, and electronics.
  • Check and double-check to ensure sure batteries are charged, bilge pumps are working, 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 readily accessible and in good shape.
  • Augment and reinforce 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.
  • Put together a hurricane action plan specific to your vessel. If you plan to move your boat to a safer location, and you have sufficient warning, do it 72 hours, and at least 48 hours, before the storm is due to hit the area. Rehearse your planned boat movement, including actually visiting the alternate dock or hurricane mooring/anchoring site, to get a feel for how long the trip will take and any obstacles you may encounter along the way.
  • Inspect your boat’s deck hardware to be sure it is compatible with your mooring arrangements. Check the size and structural attachment of the primary chocks, cleats, bitts, bollards, and winches. These are high-load/high-stress points, so they should have substantial backing plates secured with bolts of commensurate size.
  • Be careful to avoid chafing of mooring lines. A double neoprene hose arrangement has proven to be effective, successful chafing gear.
  • Make sure storm moorings 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.
  • Create 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.
  • Buy 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.
  • Assemble an inventory of all boat equipment. Know the items that need to be removed from your boat and keep copies of your equipment inventory aboard the vessel and onshore. Take

• 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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