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How to Increase the Chances That Your Boat Will Survive This Season's Hurricanes

by Wayne Spivak, National Press Corps, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

"The season" is almost upon us. No, we're not talking Christmas, where our children can make the room where you keep your tree look like a hurricane hit it - we're talking the real deal.

That's right, hurricanes. In 2004, Florida was hit by four major hurricanes within as many weeks (the first, Charley began 8 August; the last Jeanne struck 13 September). Property damage was estimated at $44 billon.

Unfortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) hurricane forecast for 2005 indicates there is a 70 percent chance of an above normal hurricane season. The outlook calls for 12-15 tropical storms, with 7-9 becoming hurricanes, and 3-5 of these becoming major hurricanes.

Included in 2004's horrendous damage number were numerous boats. BOATU.S. reported in just one marina, the Ft. Piece City Marina, some 69 boats were sunk or destroyed after Hurricane Frances. Could damage like this have been prevented?  And if the answer is yes, then how can you protect your boat.

Preventing Damage

Here are just some of the steps you should undertake in order to prepare for a potential hurricane.

  • Prepare hurricane moorings way in advance, in an inland area.

  • Check the moorings. Make sure they will be able to maintain their hold in a strong wind.

  • Remember, storm surge and associated tides can be 10 to 20 feet above normal. Prepare accordingly.

  • Wind directions change constantly in a hurricane. Make sure your boat is secured from all points of the compass.

  • Remove all items from the boat that could go airborne and become a missile. Lash down everything else.

  • Seal all openings. Protect portholes and other window-like structures.

  • When your local authorities issue a Warning, heed it and move your vessel to its hurricane mooring.

  • Make sure your vessel is not blocking movement in the area in which it is moored. In other words, be courteous to other boaters.

  • Remember chafing gear for your lines (however, make sure you get carried away with chafing gear, as winds and movement will be extreme and you don't want a line to be cut by a sharp edge).

  • Do not stay with your vessel. Get to a protected area or emergency shelter.

Again, these are just some of the items you should be thinking about. Even if you were to follow every item on every list made by every pundit, your vessel could still suffer minor to severe damage.

Hurricanes are not 100% predictable, and as we learned in 2004, they all seem to have minds of their own, and choose their own paths in their short and destructive lives. All we boat owners can do is our best in protecting our boats from the fury which is a hurricane.

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