Contributed by Pete Huebner
Everest Marina; www.everestmarina.com
While you are thinking about preparing your home for hurricane season, don't forget about your boat! With a bit of preparation and planning, you can greatly increase the probability that your boat will weather the storm safely.
For boats on trailers: The two biggest threats to boats on trailers are wind and flying debris. Short of putting your boat in a building, there's not much you can do about pieces of your neighbor's homes flying around impacting everything in the area. Bimini tops and loose items should be removed, but if you have a tight fitting storage cover, with lots of lines keeping it secured, you may wish to keep your boat covered. Hurricane force winds are more than capable of blowing boats on trailers around. During hurricane Charlie, several boats on trailers here at the marina were rolled 15-20 feet by the winds. Luckily, no damage occurred, but wheel chocks alone were not able to keep trailer boats from moving. A way to keep the boat from taking flight is to use LARGE wheel chocks, disable the automatic bilge pump, install the drain plug, and add a few inches of water to the inside of the boat. The added weight will help keep the boat in place but be sure to support the frame of the trailer with blocks or stands. This will help prevent damage to the trailer springs should the storm dump lots of rain, adding even more weight to the boat.
Boats on lifts: In addition to the threats from wind and flying debris, boats on lifts are also more susceptible to storm surge. While it may seem logical to avoid the surge by raising the boat, this is a trade off. Raising the boat exposes it to greater wind force, increasing the risk to both boat and dock structure due to the increased leverage and decreased protection from surrounding buildings. To protect your boat and waterfront as much as possible, start by removing all loose items including canvas that cannot be secured. Next, tie all four corners of the lift cradle to adjacent pilings. you may have to go back and forth a few times to make sure all four lines are tight and the cradle is centered. Next, secure the boat to the cradle with your dock lines. Boats that fit tightly in the slip may benefit from large fenders placed between the closest pilings and the hull. Now comes the weird part... Remove the drain plug, unplug all shore power cords, disconnect the batteries, and disable the automatic bilge pump(s). The logic here is that if the storm surge is higher than your boat, it will not try to float away, taking important parts of your dock with it. Yes, the inside of the boat will fill with salt water but as long as all electrical is disconnected, expensive damage is unlikely and your boat will still be there after the storm. A thorough fresh water rinse followed by a spray of Corrosion-X should save metal and electrical parts. A rinse and de-humidifier in the cabin will dry that out.
Boats in the water: These boat are probably the most susceptible to storm damage. Not only are they in danger from wind, debris, and storm surge, these boats can also be damaged by floating debris, including other unsecured boats. Some captains are able to move their boats up river to a secure location, but for the rest of us the best advice is lines, lines, and more lines. The "spider web" approach if you will. Remove all loose items and install chaffing gear on the lines that will rub on pilings of the boat and be sure to leave enough slack for storm surge.
While we all hope that we are not affected by a serious storm, if it happens, these tips should help your "pride and joy" survive with minimum damage.