Were you PREPARED?
When a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy occurs, everyone left in its path is left wondering, “What could I have done to better prepare?” It’s hard to imagine that anything could prepare you for the destruction you’re left looking at, but there are a few things you can do to help. Your first priority should always be the safety of your family and self. Secure your home, your lawn, your vehicles etc… and create a plan of action for when the storm hits. There are many articles on how to do these such things. However securing your boat or watercraft is often overlooked and can result in a serious financial burden if consideration is not made ahead of time. This article will highlight things you can do in preparation for a storm, as well as linking to some very well done articles by some of our marine partners and sources.
As a boat owner NOAA’s National Hurricane Center should be a favorite site and monitored regularly, especially when the threat of a severe storm is looming. It’s extremely important that you do not underestimate the power of weather, as it can take a twist or turn and become an immediate threat when you are least prepared. In addition to monitoring the weather through NOAA and Marine VHF Radios, there are a few calls that should be made. First- contact your local marina and ask for advice, and if your boat is stored there- the storm policy and practice. Pay close attention to warning flags as they are an additional indicator of action that should be taken. Second- you will want to contact your insurance company and ensure that your policy is up to date while also finding out what you will need, should you need to submit a claim. This way you can ensure that that information is stored safely out of harm’s way and easily accessible after the storm.
Your next step will be to secure your boat. The best solution is to remove your boat via a trailer if your boat is small enough. Ensure that your trailer is in good working order and relocate your boat to a location well above the storm surge risk zone. If you are not able to secure your boat in a garage, there are few things that can be done to make it more safe. First, ensure that it is tied down and anchored on the trailer securely and tightly, and if possible that the trailer is anchored to the ground. Second, you may want to remove some air from the tires of the trailer and block in the wheels to ensure the trailer does not become mobile in the storm. BoatUS recommends leaving the drain plug in on boats without a stern drive to add additional weight to the boat, which can also be used as a fresh water source should it become necessary after the storm. Ensure that all items on the boat are fastened securely, and that your boat is stored away from power poles and trees that may fall during the storm. In a recent post in a popular boating forum, a member removed his boat from the water only to have a tree fall on it at his home.
If your boat is stored in a high rise storage rack, verify the building can withstand the expected winds. If not, do your best to have the boat relocated before the storm hits. Older storage racks have been known to crumble under the elements in severe weather.
If you are not able to get your boat out of the water, it should be secured in a snug, safe harbor with minimal harsh surroundings should you boat become loose in the storm. Additionally consider the storm surge, where a surge of 10ft or more is common and therefore may trump the protection of things normally adequate such as seawalls. Make sure to properly anchor your boat, taking into consideration the high winds and rough water as you make your preparations. If you are securing your boat to a dock, additional lines are needed in order to ensure your boat is not swamped or thrashed around. BoatUS does a great job of demonstrating how to properly secure a boat in a storm in their Hurricane Warning Brochure.
After the storm passes and you are able to get back to your boat, proceed with caution. Marinas and docks are extremely treacherous after a storm and should be navigated as such. Leaking fuel, broken and weakened docks, downed electrical lines, and many other obstacles can cause serious harm. Remember to bring safety or duct tape to seal cracks/holes and secure broken pieces as well as a notebook and camera to record damages. You may also want to bring cleaning supplies should you have the resources to tend to the boat in that respect. Make sure to contact your insurance agent immediately once assessing the damage to find out what they need to start the claim process. Looting is common after a storm so remove anything that could easily be stolen. If your boat is usable, first consider yourself extremely lucky and pat yourself on the back for adequate preparations. If you decide to take the boat out to help or assess other damage, be sure to navigate with care. Many large items and debris are submerged after the storm surge recedes, which could cause serious damage to your vessel as you navigate murky water. Also, carefully inspect the hull to ensure it did not suffer stress cracks or more serious punctures that aren’t immediately obvious. It would not be a bad idea to have a complete marine survey conducted on the boat as well to ensure that there is not any less obvious damage.
Although there is never a guarantee of complete safety, by taking proper precautions, you can minimize damage to not only your boat, but other boats and close by homes.