Create a Hurricane Plan for Your Boat | BoatUSOn August 20, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Hurricanes are dangerous events, and as
boat owners, we have some special considerations. Hi folks. I’m Lenny Rudow for BoatUS Magazine, and I’d like to welcome you to our hurricane preparation
series. Today we’re going to go over exactly what you need to do to prepare
your boat in case the hurricane is headed in your direction. And folks, if
you end up with any questions, please leave them in the comment box below this video. We will answer. Meet Mike McCook. Hey Mike!
Lenny, nice to see you.
Mike has been with the BoatUS Catastrophe Team since 1983?
1983. The very first one.
Nice! Well, Mike, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I’m a certified marine surveyor by the National Association of Marine Surveyors,
and I’ve been out running the CAT Team since 1983. That was our very
first storm, and it was a very significant in my life because it taught
me a lot of how to deal with people, not just storms.
And as I understand it, after a hurricane, BoatUS sends this CAT Team there straight off, right?
We’re usually there within 48 hours assuming we can get in. Whatever government officials or agencies may bar us at first, but eventually we’re allowed in as
soon as possible. We either drive, fly, helicopter … whatever it takes to get
there, we get there. And the whole idea is to get our salvage operations and the
members and insureds taken care of as quickly as possible.
So Mike, tell me, in case of a hurricane what is the first thing boat owners should do?
Well, first of all, it’s all about preparation. Three Ps: preparation, preparation, and
preparation. You start that preparation months before storms are predicted, when you first get the boat, when you first come to a marina. And you try to put
together a plan as to how to protect your boat and what you’re going to do.
Because day before the storm, it’s just too late. Those preparations should
include hauling the boat if possible, removing items that will decrease windage. If you can’t haul the boat, securing the boat more appropriately in its given slip with more lines or chafing gear, whatever. There’s a lot of things you can
do, but the key, the whole key to the whole thing, is be prepared. Have a plan and make sure that you follow that plan.
Is there anywhere our viewers can go to get more information? There is, and one of the best places is
the BoatUS Magazine, which is coming out with and has in the past, published
preparedness ideas and suggestions. They don’t answer every question necessarily,
but they give you a good guideline as to where you should go. Here’s a really important thing, too, is the marine insurance program that is
through BoatUS has coverages that will compensate you to certain levels
for hauling your boat out to prepare the boat for a storm. I think that’s a very
important feature because the best way to protect your boat, if at all possible,
is to haul it out.
So what are some of the things that a boat owner needs to do
when there’s an impending hurricane? I mean, it’s coming right at you.
Let’s go back to the plan and make sure you follow your plan. And part of the plan
should be to remove any canvases or sails or anything that create more
windage, which obviously can create more of a problem. Properly tie the boat or, if it’s
ashore, secure it. Hopefully the marina has tie-down points. If not, that the jack
stands are chained together and it’s blocked in accordance with normal
procedure for a storm by a marina. If you have electronics that are easily removable, take them off the boat. We’d want to do that anyway because you’re gonna remove all your isinglass or any enclosures on the flybridge or around
the cockpit or anything along those lines. You also want
to make sure that the marina knows where you are and how to get a hold of you just in case something happens and you need to
I can do all that stuff at the last minute right?
Lenny! Haven’t you been listening to me? Preparation, preparation, preparation! You don’t wait
till the last minute. That’ll be a real sad day when you do that.
So, Mike, a lot of what I’ve heard you talking about really is things that you need to do to
minimize wind damage, but every storm is different. Isn’t surge often a big
problem, too? Surge is a big problem, and it oftentime
is the biggest cause of damage for us, as the CAT Team, and makes it difficult because the boat gets washed up 200 yards up the beach or
something. It makes it more of a challenge. So it’s important that you choose a
marina that is protected as best possible from what you would anticipate
a surge tide would be. So if you’re in a fixed marina, fixed
docks, you have to make sure you have enough scope on your lines so the boat
can float up above it. If you’re in a floating marina, which seems to be the
trend today, which is one of the better places to be if you can’t haul out, you
have to make sure the pilings are tall enough to accommodate that surge tide.
How tall is that? Really hard to predict, but I think as a rule of thumb, if you
are 8 to 10 feet above the normal high tide, you probably have a better
chance of surviving than if it were lower than that. Have you ever seen it where a dock
has actually come up over the pilings? Absolutely, more than once. Not every
storm, but almost every storm, that the whole floating dock will come off the
pilings and go up on the shore or get hung up. Or worse,
your boat gets sucked up on top of the pilings. So, yes, it’s not that uncommon
for that to happen.
So, Mike, it sounds to me like ideally you really want to get
your boat out of the water entirely if possible?
That’s correct. Hauling the boat out is important, and again, remember that insurance provision
on the BoatUS/ GEICO Marine Insurance policy has
provisions to compensate you for some of that cost, if not all of it.
Now, Mike, let’s say I got my boat on a lift. Then I don’t have to worry about this at
No, cause most lifts aren’t really set up to lift high enough to
take care of a surge. Plus, you know, you generally leave the
drain plug in on the boat on the lift. And if you do, you have rainwater. It
can sink on the lift. No, you have a lot to worry about, and it should be
taken off the lift, put on its trailer, or, again, taken to a facility that can
put it ashore.
What about if my boat’s out on a mooring? Well, moorings are not the
best place to have a boat. Obviously they’re very exposed. If you have to
leave it on a mooring, make sure the mooring has been recently inspected — that means from the anchor to the buoy, from the buoy to the boat. And that would
sometimes require a diver. Some people that rent moorings do those sort of inspections on an annual basis. But if you don’t know, find out and make
sure the condition is top-notch.
Mike I’ve got two questions bugging me here.
The first is, is it safe to just take my boat out and anchor it? And the second is,
why can’t I just stay on my boat to help protect it?
Well, I’ve been doing this for a long time, since 1983, and I don’t think I’ve ever
met anybody who opted to stay on their boat that would ever do it again. EVER do it again. As far as being on an anchor, very high probability of dragging.
Very high probability of striking another boat. Very high probability of
winding up on the beach someplace. You know, if you have to do it, make sure you
put out enough scope, make sure you have a kettle, make sure you do
everything you can to keep the boat where it is, and try to be in a very
protected area. But absolutely last choice.
Now let’s say there’s a hurricane
barreling up the coast. I’m looking at the TV, and I think, oh my gosh I’ve got a call my marina and have the boat hauled. How quickly can I expect them to do it?
Really, the most important thing is to call them as early as possible, as soon
as there’s a named storm that’s going to come in your area, or you think it’s going
to come into your area, or might come into your area, call the marina get on the
list. A lot of marinas now have what they call
“hurricane clubs,” and they automatically put you in a queue to get your boat out. But if that not the case, then make sure you call as soon as possible because, this marina we’re in today has hundreds of
boats, and they haul a lot of them. How soon can you haul 200 boats? So use your head, get to them as soon as possible, and get into the queue.
Now let’s say, for whatever reason, I get caught in a bind and I’ve got to leave my boat in a slip.
What about fenders, lines?
Well you want to do the best you can to get the boat
centered in the slip. You want to make sure you have enough scope on your
secondary line so kind of what we talked about — the surge tide. Fenders are always a good idea within reason. You don’t want to overfender the boat because they’re
just going to get in the way and foul lines. You want to try to the best
possible to make sure your lines are in good condition. They’re not lines from three years ago that you happen to have as
spares. No, you need good, new, fresh lines, full strength. You have to also check
your cleats, if possible, to make sure they’re properly secured to the boat. I
know it sounds a little late to do that, but remember we went back to preparation?
Well in preparation, maybe you ought to check your cleats and see they really
are attached to the boat properly. Now, folks, I know we’re talking about a lot of different things here, but go through our YouTube channel. The BoatUS
YouTube channel has a ton of videos on how to do all these different things
like fendering your boat, tying up your boat. Mike is there anything else?
Prepare, prepare, and prepare.