Boat Hurricane Preparation: The Dos And Don'ts

By Bob Adriance
Published: June/July 2011

We've analyzed insurance claims over the past 20 years, and discovered the best ways to help you prepare your boat to survive a hurricane.

There's an old adage that experience is the teacher that gives you the test first, and the lesson afterward. BoatUS Marine Insurance has been collecting evidence of lessons learned — what worked and didn't work when boats were prepared for hurricanes — since the first BoatUS Hurricane Catastrophe (CAT) Field Team was organized after Hurricane Gloria in the fall of 1983.

Photo of boats blown over by a hurricane

Most skippers know that boats need to be stripped of sails, Biminis, and anything else that's removable and creates windage. Adding extra lines when a boat is in the water is also critical. However, what follows are some lessons that may not be so obvious. It's a good idea to learn them now, before nature gives you the test.

BEST: Strap Down Boats Ashore
People who've watched boats that were stored ashore in hurricanes report that jackstands used to support the hulls can be rocked back and forth ever so slightly in sudden gusts. Over time, this movement can work the jackstands out of position, making it more likely that the boat will be blown over. While boats ashore tend to suffer less damage than boats left at docks, the extent of damage ashore can be significant — cracked hulls and broken bulkheads.

In the past few hurricanes, 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. The technique has proven to be so effective, even when storage lots have been flooded, that BoatUS Marine Insurance reduces its policy's hurricane deductible from five percent to three percent for boats that are hauled, anchored to the ground, and prepped to reduce windage.

BEST: 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.

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