Hurricane Irma: Securing Your Boat

September 7th, 2017

Most boaters know their vessels should stripped of sails and anything else that’s removable and creates windage. Adding extra lines when a boat is in the water is also critical. Of course, there are several other things that boaters should prepare for that may not be quite as obvious. Our team at Shcrader Mattress is preparing for the worst, and you should too.

Here are some hurricane boat tips:

Strap Down Boats

Most people have seen in person, or images, of boats that were ashore during hurricanes. In many cases, jackstands used to support the hulls are rocked back and forth in sudden gusts. Over the course of a hurricane, and in the case of a stronger hurricane such as Irma, this heavy movement can literally move the jackstands out of position, making it more likely that the boat will be tipped over. While boats ashore tend to suffer less damage than boats left at docks, the extent of damage ashore can be just as significant.

In the past few hurricanes, a technique has emerged that promises to greatly reduce damage to boats stored ashore: Strap them down securely to some sort of secure anchor, such as eyes set in concrete or helical anchors drilled into the ground. With either type of anchor, straps with little or no stretch work best; ordinary nylon line stretches, which can buckle the leeward jackstands.

Marinas With Floating Docks And Tall Pilings

Often times, when marinas are ruined by a hurricane, they are rebuilt with floating docks that raise and fall during tides and storm surges. This allows for less stress on vessels and other elements. Many times, these floating docks can go unaffected during hurricanes, while other marinas with fixed docks see significant damages. If your marina has floating docks with tall pilings, it would be wise to strip your boat of all sails or anything that could create windage.

Storing Boats Ashore On High Ground

According to a study by MIT following Hurricane Gloria, boats stored ashore were far more likely to survive than boats stored in the water. Of course, some boats are especially vulnerable, especially small open boats with low freeboard that are likely to be swamped by heavy rains. Note, however, that “ashore” in some low-lying areas might be under five or six feet of water during a hurricane. It’s important that boats be stored on high ground — the higher the better — above the anticipated surge.

Helical Moorings

One of the more interesting innovations to come out of Hurricanes Bob and Gloria, which clobbered the New England coast 20 years ago, has been the development of the helical anchor, which is screwed into the bottom using specialized equipment and offers tremendous holding power, even when scope is reduced.

Dry-Stack Storage Facilities Built After Hurricane Andrew

Port Marina, a dry-stack facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has received a lot of publicity for its ability to stand up to winds of more than 140 miles per hour. So, too, have River Forest Yacht Centers in Stuart and LaBelle, Florida, whose dry-stack storage buildings are billed as offering boat owners “safe harbor during hurricane conditions.” At the same time these dry-stacks are being touted as one of the best solutions to reducing hurricane damage, other dry-stacks have been among the most visible hurricane casualties. In Hurricane Wilma alone, three large steel storage racks with thousands of boats were collapsed by the storm’s 115-mph winds. In Hurricane Ike, a dry-stack facility in Galveston, Texas, collapsed and burned. How old is old? In Florida, construction standards in most counties were upgraded after Hurricane Andrew, which means that newer racks — those built after 1992 — are far more likely to have been built with more (and heavier) structural supports.

Smaller Boat Hurricane Preparation

For smaller boats, especially lightweight boats, remove the boat from the trailer and partially fill it with water. This will make it less likely to become a projectile in hurricane force winds.You can also fill your canoe or kayak with water if the vessel can’t be stored inside.

Make Plans Before A Hurricane Warning Is Posted

If you pick up anything from this article, it is most important to make plans prior to the hurricane warning being posted. If you own a boat in a hurricane-prone area, such as here in South Florida, the first step in creating a plan is to review your dock contract for legal language that may require you to take certain steps or to leave the marina when a hurricane becomes evident. Ask your marina manager if they have a hurricane plan.

Most of all, we encourage everyone to evacuate or seek shelter during this monstrous storm heading our way.