If you are just getting started preparing your boat for Hurricane Irma, time is running out. The most important thing to remember is that your boat is replaceable, you are not. Protect people (including yourself) over property. However, if you still have time to prepare your boat for this storm or a future one, here are some tips:
- Don't go to sea. While this is often a practice of large commercial and military boats, they are often leaving well before a storm to get ahead or around it. Their size also makes the ship better suited for poor sea conditions. Taking a recreational craft to sea during a hurricane or severe storm is a bad, bad idea. Don't forget the plight of the Bounty.
- Prepare early, plan for the worst, hope for the best. Even as she passes through the Caribbean, the tracking models for Irma are not decided; she hit South Florida and head up the coast or turn east out to sea. Either way, the best plan you can make is to prepare early. If you are further up the eastern seaboard, now is the time to be securing your vessel.
- Put her on dry ground. According to Boat US and their extensive study of insurance claims arising in the wake of hurricanes, strapping your boat down on land is the safest and most secure way to protect your vessel. The old mantra, "any port in a storm," should only be used metaphorically; move your boat ashore and work with a boatyard or professional to secure it properly. Check out this list of Hurricane Do's and Don'ts from Boat US.
- New lines, chafe gear, extra fenders. If you don't have time or there isn't a place for you to haul your boat out, the next best thing you can do is prepare your boat in the water. If you are on a floating dock, make sure the piers are tall enough to accept any predicted storm surge. Add extra lines to your boat and make sure they are new: used lines are much weaker due to previous UV and salt exposure. Think about chafe. Where will the lines rub on the boat? Add chafe protection to thwart this using bilge/water hose (not wire-reinforced hosing). Check out this line plan from PassageMaker contributor Jay Campbell on how he and his wife, Karen, tie their trawler up during a hurricane. Also ask your marina management team or staff for help, they have often prepared vessels for hurricanes before and may know good strategies for preparing boats inside their marinas.
- Keep your vessel insurance accessible. Make sure your vessel insurance is on hand before the storm strikes and know your policy. God forbid your boat up and washes away, having the insurance cards in the chart table will not do you any good. Additionally, your insurance may pay for hurricane prep such as hauling your boat out of the water. It is best to know how your insurance will work for you before a hurricane even begins to churn.
As Hurricane Irma takes aim at the U.S. mainland, make sure you are prepared. Making a plan and following these steps will help your vessel weather the storm the best she can. But at the end of the day, remember what matters most is your personal safety.
Check these sites for more hurricane tips:
West Marine - Top 10 Tips
Boat US - Do's and Don'ts of Hurricane Preparation
Boat US - Hurricane Worksheet for Boat Owners
Power and Motoryacht - How to Avoid a Hurricane
US Coast Guard - Storm Center