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May 03, 2007

Boaters can learn from hurricane preparation symposium

Boaters can learn from hurricane preparation symposium

With hurricane season approaching, over 150 marina, boatyard, and yacht club managers recently gathered in Orlando, Florida for the first Marina Hurricane Preparation Symposium. Organized by BoatU.S. in conjunction with the Marine Industries Association of Florida and the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the group shared tactics, tips and experiences with the goal of successfully managing another year of potentially increased storm activity.

Towards those efforts, the following storm preparation tips may help boaters reduce the chances of damage to their own vessels as well as improve the odds that their boating facility will quickly recover:

  • The most important task is to make a hurricane plan now and put it in writing; speakers at the Symposium continually stressed the need for facilities and individuals to have well thought out, written plans. A plan should include where your boat will best survive a storm, what supplies you'll need, and who will be doing that work if you are out of town when the storm approaches.
  • If possible, arrange with the marina now to get your boat out of the water and onto high ground - it is the single best thing you can do to take care of your boat when a storm is approaching. Check to see if your boat's insurance policy offers "hurricane haul-out" coverage to help foot the bill.
  • Does your marina tie-down boats? Boats that have been brought ashore and secured to the ground tend to experience much less damage. Some facilities strap boats down to large metal eyes imbedded in concrete or secure lines to earth augers. It's extra work, and it's worth it.
  • Don't count on the marina adding extra lines and stripping the boat unless you've made prior arrangements. Once hurricane warnings are posted, marina operators will be far too busy to accommodate last minute requests. Begin by reviewing your dock contract now to see if it requires you to take certain steps when a hurricane threatens and talk to your marina operator now to coordinate plans.
  • Regardless of where you leave your boat, anything that creates windage must be removed. Bimini tops, dodgers, outriggers, antennas, portable davits should be taken home or stowed below. Ventilators should be taken out and the openings sealed. Don't tie dinghies on deck - take them ashore.
  • If possible, sailboats should have their masts unstepped. This will require that you maintain your rigging, with well-lubed turnbuckles and cotter pins, so that pulling the pins doesn't take forever. If the mast is left up, all sails and covers must be removed.
  • If the boat will be secured at a dock, add extra dock lines and chafe protection. Look carefully at potential chafe areas - chocks, pilings, pulpits, and dock edges. Replace older dock lines that are weakened by salt, dirt and UV exposure. Using a fender board with at least three large fenders is also worth considering.
  • Begin tracking storms as soon as they are identified. While forecasting has dramatically improved, hurricanes can still change direction and intensity very quickly. For the latest hurricane activity and to view "spaghetti" models visit the BoatU.S. Hurricane Resource Center at

For more on hurricanes or to download a free copy of The Boater's Guide to Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes, go to