HURRICANE GUIDE - Best and Worst for Hurricane Boat Prep


Strap Down Boats Ashore

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

Marinas that are devastated by hurricanes most often choose to rebuild with floating docks and tall pilings, typically 16 to 18 feet tall. Floating docks allow boats to rise and fall with surge without stretching and stressing lines. There have been instances where boats at floating docks have been largely unaffected by hurricanes, while some boats at nearby marinas with fixed docks were badly damaged. If your marina is well sheltered and has floating docks with tall pilings, your hurricane plan may be to strip anything that creates windage and add extra lines.

Storing Boats Ashore on High Ground

A study by MIT after Hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were far more likely to have survived unscathed than boats stored in the water. 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.

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. As some 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.


Boats on Davits and Lifts

Damage to boats on lifts has been high and includes boats being blown off, bunk boards breaking and spilling the boats, boats grinding against motors and pilings, boats being overcome by the storm surge, and boats filling with rainwater and collapsing the lift. Whenever possible, boats on lifts should be stored ashore or moved to a safer location in the water.

Cramped, Fixed Docks

Newer boats have been built with increasingly wider beams. The width of marina slips, however, has remained largely the same. If your boat's slip is tight, securing dock lines to accommodate the surge will be much more difficult. Too much slack and the boat will be slammed into pilings; too little slack and the boat won't be able to rise with the surge. True, a nylon line's ability to stretch can help; but the higher the surge, the greater the likelihood the lines will be stressed and broken. There are devices available that can be added to the lines or pilings that can help the boat rise up and down with the surge. Another technique is to use longer lines tied to more distant pilings. The best alternatives, however, would be to move your boat to a wider slip, move it to a hurricane hole, or, even better, have it hauled (and strapped down) ashore.