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Hurricane Season Tips for Boat Owners

Hurricane season kicked off June 1 so there is no better time than now to prepare your boat!

Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th, with peak activity typically in August and September. While we’ve been fortunate to avoid a direct hit in South Florida over the past three years, our neighbors to the north and south have not been as lucky. We saw the utter destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the Upper Keys in 2017, and the catastrophic damage Hurricane Michael caused last year as it came ashore in the Florida Panhandle as the fourth-strongest windstorm on record to make landfall on the continental United States.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near-average 2019 season, with 9-15 named storms, 4-8 of which may become hurricanes and 2-4 that may become major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. One named storm, Andrea, formed prior to the start of the season. NOAA’s hurricane outlook is similar to Colorado State University’s, which calls for 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.

Officials underscore the fact that an average season is still “a
lot of storms.” Unfortunately, many of us know from experience that it only
takes one storm to cause complete destruction so now is the best time to
prepare your boat for a potential hurricane.

HURRICANE
SEASON BOAT PREPARATION TIPS

The first step in preparing for hurricane season is to create a
hurricane plan well before a storm approaches. When formulating a hurricane
plan, always keep in mind that life comes before property. Customers are our
key priority at North Beach Marina, so to ensure your safety we strongly
encourage that you heed all evacuation notices issued by your local county
emergency management office regardless of the vulnerability of your boat.

Components of your hurricane plan should include:

Know Your Insurance Policy

Secure all of your important boat documents in an easily accessible
location on dry land and make sure your insurance policy is up-to-date. Become
familiar with your policy and contact your provider prior to a storm if you
have any questions. To help with claims, take photos and video of your boat
before and after to show proof of damages, and inventory all equipment on your boat. 

Get on Dry Land 

If you have a smaller boat under 35-feet, it is safest for the boat (and for your mental well-being) to be on land rather than in the water. Whether the boat is on a trailer, next to your house, or at a dry storage marina, boats that are stored dry typically see less damage than those left in the water during a hurricane. Be sure to store the boat on high ground to avoid flooding and place additional jack stands along with areas of the hull that are reinforced by bulkheads. Place pieces of plywood under the stands to prevent them from sinking into the ground, and chain together jack stands to prevent them from spreading apart.

Securing Your Boat on a Trailer

Tying your boat to its trailer helps prevent it from floating away in
the storm surge or flooding a hurricane brings. If you’re keeping it on a
trailer outside, choose a location away from trees and electricity poles,
preferably next to a building or other structure that provides a shield from
the wind. Place blocks beneath the frame on either side of the wheels, and deflate
the tires. Tie the boat to the trailer and secure the boat to ground the best
you can.

Remove and Secure Items to Reduce Windage  

If you leave the boat outside during a storm, remove anything that
has the potential to fly off, like covers, especially if they are expensive or
custom-made. Even if the storm does not damage your boat, it is likely that
your canvas will be damaged or destroyed by wind, the strain from rain collecting,
or by flying debris. Boats are made to get wet, so leave it uncovered during a
storm.

We also recommend that you take anything above and below deck off
the boat if it is not waterproof, or if it is light enough to fly away in a
heavy wind. This includes (but is not limited to) cushions, dock lines, flags,
Bimini tops, and GPS/radios. Make sure to secure anything else that cannot be
removed from the boat. To prevent chafing, wrap protective covering around your
lines wherever the ropes touch the boat. Fully charge batteries in case the
bilge pump has to work overtime, and shut off fuel lines.

Seal Openings

Seal all openings (hatches, cabinets, doors, etc.) on the boat to
keep it watertight. To help keep things secure during a storm, use duct tape
for an easy remedy.

Remove Drain Plugs

If you are storing your boat on dry land, remove the drain plugs. Marinas
typically do this when storing. If the boat fills up with water, the added
weight can negatively affect the way it sits on your trailer or dry-rack. Just
remember to put the plug back in before using the boat.

Inspect the Bilge Pumps & Float Switches

Make sure your bilge pumps and bilge float switches are working and are hard-wired to your batteries. If your boat is on a lift, make sure the lift is in good working order and lift your boat higher than normal.

SECURING YOUR BOAT TO A
LIFT

Boats on lifts are more susceptible to damage in a serious storm
due to collapsing lifts, flooding, being blown off cradles, etc. If you must
leave your boat on a lift, raise your boat as high as the lift allows but do
not secure the boat to the lift. Secure long ropes to anchor points (do not
secure to floating docks, use pilings) in case the surge lifts the boat off the
lift.

STORING YOUR BOAT IN THE WATER DURING A HURRICANE

Find a Safe Harbor

If you have no choice but to leave your boat in the water during a
hurricane, try to find a safe harbor to anchor, preferably off of the deep
water. Once you find a safe place, look around. Are there rocks? Are you near a
seawall? Is your boat anchored on a sandy bottom or a rocky ledge? What
obstacles can the boat come into contact with during violent winds, storm
surges, or if the boat breaks loose from its anchor? A well-protected area with
the least amount of fetch is best.

Securing to a Dock

Boats tied to docks are at greater risk than boats kept at moorings
or on anchors since they suffer more windage. If you have no other option but
to dock your boat, make sure your dock is in good shape and make any necessary
improvements to ensure it holds up during the storm. As crunch time approaches,
double or triple tie your boat to the dock. Adjust all lines to account for tide
surges, the wind, and rain, and ensure each line has adequate chafe protection
on the boat and at the dock cleats. Also, use buoys and fenders to protect from
impact against floating debris, the dock, and seawall.

FINAL TIPS FOR HURRICANE SEASON

Don’t Wait

Evidence shows that boats stored on land fare better on average in a hurricane compared to boats kept in the water. If you plan on hauling your boat, coordinate in advance with your marina. Don’t wait until three days before the storm to make your hurricane plan. Call your local marinas and Happy Trailer Storage today to see how we can help before a storm hits.

You can take all the precautions in the world to secure your boat,
but Mother Nature sometimes gets the best of us. Be prepared and stay safe. Should you need assistance preparing your boat for hurricane
season, call us at (786) 728-9988.

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