Nothing quite compares to the feel of the cool spray hitting your face and arms on a hot summer day as you cruise in your boat. Unfortunately the hot summer months don’t just bring fun on the water, they also bring hurricanes and other powerful storms.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October, while the Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends Nov. 30. The following areas are in hurricane zones: all Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas and areas over 100 miles inland, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific.
Make sure your boat is hurricane-ready with these tips developed with help from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
What to do when your boat is docked, anchored, or in dry storage:
- Create a storm strategy and execute it well before the hurricane hits.
- Remove non-secure items, electronics, and excess gear.
- Take all important ownership documents and valuables off the boat.
- Ensure openings are watertight, and remove or stow non-essential canvas.
- Make sure that all self-bailing thru-hull fittings are clear of debris.
- Fully charge batteries.
- Cross-check that automatic bilge pump switches are operational.
- Remove the hull drain plug and ensure your boat’s bow is at a higher angle than the stern.
- Tie down and remove anything that could catch wind, including any canvas, bimini tops, or isinglass.
What to do when your boat is docked:
- Follow the same procedure as above to remove personal items, loose equipment, canvas, and isinglass windows. The only exception to this is if your boat doesn’t have a self-bailing cockpit—in that case, you’ll want to keep the canvas installed.
- Double up on chafe protection.
- Double all lines and attach them high on pilings to allow for a storm surge. Note that the longer the dock lines, the better a boat will be able to move with high and rough tides.
- Fully charge your batteries and ensure your bilge pump’s auto-float switch is in good working order.
- Inspect all dock lines, replace any that are undersized or show any wear and ensure lines are not rubbing anything sharp.
- Install additional spring lines and bumpers.
What to do when your boat is anchored:
- Do not tie your vessel parallel to the shore.
- Keep plenty of room between your boat and other boats.
- Allow enough line so the boat can adjust for a storm surge.
- Make sure all self-bailing cockpit drains are clear.
- Think about using several anchors.
What to do when your boat is in dry storage:
- Store it in an area higher than the expected storm surge.
- Use heavy lines to lash the boat to its cradle and consider adding water to the bilge to help hold it down. Don’t leave your boat on davits or on a hydro-lift.
- If your boat is on a trailer, take some air out of the tires and secure the wheels with blocks between the frame and the axles.
- Clear all debris from drains and remove the drain plugs.
Having a documented plan for your boat before a storm is predicated for your area can help you escape a hurricane’s trail of destruction. You can also find more marine safety information on The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center site.