Preparing your boat for a hurricane

 With two months into the hurricane season so far, Caribbean storms have been fairly quiet. But anyone who has worked with boats for a long time can tell you, a storm can gather strength and become a hurricane in a matter of hours.

Even with all the best preparations, there is no guarantee that your boat will come out damage free. Depending on the size and type of boat recommendations vary, but there are a few basic things that can be done that will put the odds in your favour, explains Harbour House Marina manager Jonathan Cuff.

“We usually know a hurricane is coming a few days before it hits,” says Cuff. “So if you are going to move your boat or get it out of the water it is better to start as early as possible and not leave it to the last minute.”

Motor boat (up to 35 ft)

Motor boats 35 ft or under should be taken out of the water and secured on to a boat trailer says Cuff. Generally, the bow sits on the trailer post securely so boat owners should remember to strap down the stern to the trailer to keep the wind from lifting the back up. Strapping down the middle of the boat and around the trailer will also give it more security.

Bimini tops, clear vinyl windows, cushions and anything that can be removed should be taken off the boat and stored indoors.

It is also important to remember to remove the drain bung when taking the boat out of the water. A drain bung is like a bathtub stopper, so if it isn’t removed, the boat could fill up with rain water, flooding the engine, batteries, wiring and electrical equipment and that is not good says Cuff.

Figuring out where to put the boat outside of the water can be a bit tricky. Boat owners should check hurricane updates, to find out what direction it is approaching and the wind. If it is approaching the island on one side than consider finding a location in another area that may get weaker wind gusts.

It is a good idea to put the boat in a location where it is least likely to be hit by flying debris. So not putting it near a tree with coconuts is always a good idea. Tall thick hedges stand up pretty well from debris, so an ideal place would be next to hedges says Cuff.

“Even with all the boat preparations, it doesn’t account for the good luck-bad luck factor. You can have two boats side-by-side and one will get destroyed and the other will be just fine,” says Cuff.

Sailboat (up to 25 ft)

Sailboats up to 25 ft should be taken out of the water and put on trailers and strapped down says Cuff. The sails, booms, mast and anything that can be removed should be taken down and stored in an enclosed place. One of the most common mistakes that owners make is to not take the time to remove the masts and sails, which can easily be stored in a safe place.

Like motor boats, many small sailboats also have drain bungs so those should be removed to prevent flooding from too much rainfall.

Like small motor boats, sailboats should be moved to a place where it is least likely to be hit by flying debris.

Large motor boats & sailboats

Generally, motor boats, 35 ft or bigger, and sailboats bigger than 25 feet should be kept in a canal says Cuff.

The deep keels on large sailboats make it more difficult to secure safely out of the water from hurricane gusts. Wind gusts can topple boats with deep keels much more easily outside of the water. It is much better to secure sailboats in a canal.

While there are no hard and fast rules, boat owners should pick a canal with deep enough water to keep the boat from hitting the bottom.

Whether you own a motor or sailboat, it should be moored in the middle of the canal, tied securely to the walls at four points. This is not the time to use old rope that is half rotten out of the cupboard says Cuff. It is important to use good strong rope, preferably nylon, because it has some give in it, which can help hold the weight of the boat.

There is a fine balance to tying down the boat. The rope should have enough slack to allow the boat to rise with the tidal surge, but not so loose that the boat will slam against the canal wall.

“If a hurricane is coming and you are not sure what to do, it is better to call us so we can help you get the best advice for the type of boat you have,” says Cuff.