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Top 5 Hurricane Tips for Boat Owners

How to Prepare Your Vessel for a Hurricane

Hurricane season has officially arrived. The North Atlantic hurricane season in 2017 was one of the most active in decades, with 17 named storms, ten hurricanes, six of them being major hurricanes.  Three of the major hurricanes impacted the U.S directly – Harvey, Irma, and Maria – causing approximately $265 billion in damages. The Marine Advisory Committee, in coordination with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, has prepared some important strategy tips on determining where your boat/yacht can ride out the storms.

Though most of our native Floridians have already established some kind of watercraft strategy when a hurricane is approaching, the Marine Advisory Committee recommends that you evaluate your individual plan yearly. Here are our top five hurricane tips to think about before the storm.

  1. Fixed Docks – Are you keeping your vessel tied to a fixed dock? If you are, we recommend you take a few things into consideration. Because fixed docks do not move, it is the boat owner’s responsibility to have a proper tie down plan in place prior to the storm. Understand that this will look far different than your normal docking arrangement. Your vessel should resemble a spider, suspended in the center of a web, allowing the boat to rise and fall on the surge. For most boats, you will want to arrange the bow towards open water (the least protected direction), as this will help reduce windage.
  2. Floating Docks – Does your marina have floating docks? This comes with an advantage. A floating dock will allow your vessel to rise and fall with the storm surge, putting less stress on the lines. But that doesn’t mean you’re perfectly safe. Take into consideration the height of the pilings. Some marinas were built with pilings that are too low (under 10 feet) and they will not be able to handle an incoming surge from a major hurricane. The taller the pilings, the more “storm proof” the docks will be.
  3.  Ashore – This is by far the most popular hurricane plan for boaters, and it’s also proven to be the safest in many studies. We recommend that you use straps and anchors when moving your vessel ashore. Position your vessel above any anticipated storm surge; also keep in mind the optimum direction for handling any potential wind gusts. Use straps with as little stretch as possible and anchor (if possible) into concrete or the most stable ground available.
  4.  Wind – It is imperative that you reduce wind damage as much as possible. This is not only for the potential damage wind can cause to your vessel, but also limiting items that can be blown away and cause damage or injury to others. During preparation, remove biminis, canvas, antennas, deck-stowed anchors, sails, running rigging, booms, life rings, dinghies and any other objects that could catch wind and cause damage. This safety measure is a must and should be addressed first even prior to setting the lines.
  5.  Staying Aboard – Never stay on board a watercraft during a hurricane! Every year we hear stories of boat owners who stayed. Do everything you can to protect your property, but riding out a storm on a boat can have deadly consequences during a major hurricane. If your storm preparation plan is solid and all safety and protection measures have been taken, leave the boat and head inland. Your own personal safety should always come first. A boat can be replaced, you can’t.

The Marine Advisory Committee and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce would like thank everyone for reading. Stay safe this hurricane season!

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