Mailboat Letters

Published: July 2013

The Last Of Sandy?

Photo of a boat on land that floated off its cradle and almost fell onto my transom

I keep my boat (46 Viking) in Seaway Marina in Rockaway, NY. Everything I have ever read on storm preparedness says to take it out of the water and cover it, and tie down the straps and cradle. Because of the height of the surge with Sandy, the boats on the hard got lifted off their cradles and flooded with salt water (plus drain plugs were out). My boat (after I storm-prepped it) went up and down with the tide with nary a scratch. In this photo, taken from my cockpit, you can see a boat on land that floated off its cradle and almost fell onto my transom. Sometimes even the experts get it wrong (go figure). Of course the severity of Sandy surprised nearly everyone.


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I have seen many pictures from Sandy where sailboats stored on land ended up piled up like dominoes. I don't understand why people insist on storing sailboats with the rig up. Even in normal winter storage situations I have seen boats topple on their stands because their rig was up. Some folks just roll the jib and cover the main on the boom. Just stand back and look at the potential hazard one has created. I'll bet the resulting damage from Sandy would have been much less had those masts been horizontal.


Editor: You are, of course, correct that the forces on a sailboat will be much less in high winds with the rig out of the boat and stored on the ground. Unfortunately, there is the reality of time and logistics when a storm is approaching. There is a real limit to how many boats can be hauled and blocked per day, and most marinas have far more boats than they can get out of the water in three or four days. If you add the step of taking down the rig, you add the need for a crane for larger boats and for a great deal more time per boat. You also increase the logistical complexity, the challenge of moving additional equipment around in a small area, and the potential for damage to the rig caused by mishandling due to haste. For this reason, the Florida marinas have developed techniques for tying sailboats down to the ground, and those have proven remarkably effective at preventing sailboats from being blown over in high-wind storms even with the rig still in the boat.

Interestingly, our debrief of the CAT team and analysis of the claims files shows that having the masts out in Sandy would not have made that much difference because this was a surge event, not a wind event. Sandy did not discriminate between sail and powerboats, sweeping both away in the high water of the storm surge. This was not the case in storms with hurricane-force winds like Charley, Frances and Jeanne in Florida in 2004. These blew many sailboats over because of the windage of the mast while leaving powerboats nearby completely unscathed.

Not taking canvas off a boat before a storm is another matter entirely — see Alert for more.

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The online newsletter I received this morning with the extensive articles and photos about Sandy is a combination of real sadness for all of the folks whose boats were damaged or destroyed and also puzzlement at first about the occasional boats that were unscathed. In the case of Huff n Puff with the boat's weight supported on the chines rather than simply on the keel, I imagine that 1) the boat was setting up a little higher, (the article mentioned that the owner requested the keel be up 14 inches off the ground), which would make the boat's flotation a little higher up, and 2) the jackstands under the chines widened the base of support so that the inflow of storm water wouldn't be able to "topple" or "wobble" the boat off of its stands.

This article about Huff n Puff was helpful in substantiating careful consideration of one's boat design in setting up storage supports on land.


Editor: To see if you agree with this assessment, check out the online story about Huff n Puff at and click on "Survival Story."

More Spring Snafus

Out for my first Spring Fling and I thought I was stranded at the dock — the engine would not turn over. After sitting for five minutes or so trying to get her started, a fellow boater happened to ask me if the power switch on the tiller arm was on or off ... Sure as heck, I had turned it off when I laid the boat up for the winter.

Once I turned it on, the engine fired right up. I was a bit red-faced, but was quickly told by my fellow boaters, "Hey, we've all done that." Lesson learned ... I'll not make that mistake again.


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Good article. I would also recommend that you ask your marina techs to inspect your boat themselves, even after you did. Ask them to leave the boat in the sling for a few minutes as it sits in the water. Start the engine as they do the inspection. Lift the engine hatch and have a close look. Make sure water is coming out the exhaust pipes. Make sure they check the "drip" on the drive shaft and the rudder stuffing box or bearing. When this is completed, buy the marina guys a case of beer and a pizza. And happy boating.


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Thanks for point number 8 of the Spring checklist regarding dated gear (expired flares). However, this article, as well as every other one I have read, seems to omit an explanation of what to do with flares after they age out. Toss them in the trash? Keep them just in case they'll work? Save them for the Fourth of July?

I have a collection from my 20-plus years of membership in BoatUS, and I would love to know how to dispose of them properly.


Editor: BoatUS has been working with the Coast Guard and the flare manufacturers to come up with a solution for well over a decade. It gets complicated as many federal, state and local agencies are involved including Department of Transportation and the EPA.

As with many hazardous waste disposal issues, flare disposal is handled differently county by county. Check with your local public works department to see if they will accept them at household hazardous waste collections days. Another option is to give them to the local fire department, Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadrons. I am aware of a few boating safety groups who have succeeded in getting one time permits to discharge expired flares for educational purposes. It isn't a bad idea to keep a few of your most recently expired flares onboard, in a separate container marked expired. Unfortunately, the 4th of July solution is not a legal one — setting off a flare on or near the water can only be done in an emergency.

The Coast Guard has been exploring laser flares as an alternative, but there are issues with these as well — see Alert.

Has Justice Been Done?

A write-up on the aftermath of the events described in the Bismark Dinius "A Strange Case of Justice" article would be of great interest to many (BoatUS) members/Seaworthy readers ...


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According to documents listed from December 3, 2012 on, the case has been dismissed voluntarily by Dinius and his attorney. Does anybody at Seaworthy know what happened?


Editor: Check out Small Stuff for an update.

Staying Hitched

Photo of a truck hitch

Once you get your hitch stolen, it wakes you up. Whether the problem is thieves or a loose pin, the solution to keeping the hitch on your truck where it belongs is to buy a pin that will just fit into the holes cut into the hitch sides, with a drilled out hole in one end and a bend in the other. These are available everywhere. Insert a padlock into the hole and lock it. Keep the key in your truck's center console. It's not perfect, but most thieves don't come outfitted with bolt cutters and it will never come out on its own.


Editor: A simple solution ... For more ideas on theft prevention, see the article "From Locks to Lockdown" in this issue.

Still More Stability

I took four passengers to see the Detroit/Windsor International Freedom Festival fireworks in June 1994 aboard my 21-foot Cruisers Incorporated Bonanza. After the show ended, the mad rush home was the worst display of "me first" I have ever encountered. I vowed that night never to take the boat to see the fireworks again. The combination of boats, drinking, darkness, and no lights on some vessels made this simply too dangerous. To this day, I have kept that vow.


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We have a 26-footer with a flybridge. Multiple people on the bridge in calm water conditions is one thing; in rough water it is quite another! I know this from experience — thankfully we did not take on water as we rolled over to a very dangerous angle; but it was close ... very close!

When we captain a vessel, those "souls" on board are in our care, and we must behave prudently and responsibly. That includes staying sober and using appropriate caution when operating the boat.


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