|Taking care of your boat during a hurricane|
When preparing your boat for an approaching hurricane, the first question to ask is, where is it safest?
Secure a boat ashore
According to a study by MIT conducted after hurricane Gloria, boats stored ashore were far more likely to be saved than boats stored in the water.
Although boats are built to keep water out, hurricane winds, water surge and rainfall can all be potentially catastrophic for a boat in the water.
There are some types of boats that must be pulled ashore if they are to have any chance of surviving. Smaller, open boats and high performance powerboats with low freeboard, to use two examples, will almost always be overcome by waves, spray and rain. Fortunately, most of these boats can be placed on trailers and transported inland.
When possible, a boat should be placed on a trailer and moved to high land well above the anticipated storm surge level. The best place to store a trailered boat during a hurricane is inside a garage or another sturdy structure. However, if this is not an option, the next best option is to tie the boat and trailer down.
Plan to anchor the trailer into the ground, by driving steel rebar into the ground and connecting them to the trailer with heavy duty tie straps. While it might seem logical to tie your boat trailer to a sturdy tree, hurricane-force winds can bring even the mightiest trees down. Experts recommend anchoring your boat trailer to the ground well away from trees, power lines, or other objects that may fall on it.
Use heavy ties to strap the boat down to the trailer. Be sure to place blocks inside of the trailer wheels between the frame and the axle, and let air out of the tires. Strap the boat to the trailer and add weight. You can set the drain plug and partially fill the boat with fresh water to add extra weight.
Do not fill the boat with water if you have an inboard motor. Instead, be certain that the drain plug is removed.
If your boat has an outboard motor, remove it along with your batteries, and store both in a dry, secure place. Remove all canvas, plastic, electronics, deck gear, antennas, and any loose objects.
Windage is also a consideration. If nothing else, reduce windage as much as possible and make sure your boat has extra jack stands, at least three or four on each side for boats under 30 feet and five or six for larger boats. The jack stands must be supported by plywood and chained together.
Tieing up loose ends
If taking your boat out of the water is not an option, the rule for tying up a boat for a hurricane is: There is no such thing as too many lines, or too many attachment points on the boat.
Use lines on both sides as well as double bow and stern lines. Use spring lines fore and aft, and don’t tie up too close to a sea wall. Keep in mind that the water level could rise 10-20 feet above normal.
If your boat is docked in a canal or waterway, run at least eight lines to the shore. Set them so the lines form an X. Wrap the line several times around cleats or pilings before tying off on the ground anchor. Your boat should look like a spider in a web, using oversized lines, as large as cleats can handle.
As a rule of thumb, secure no more than two lines per cleat to spread the tension as much as possible. Anchor only to pilings and deep-rooted trees (as low as possible on trees to avoid the rope slipping off if the top of tree snaps off.)
Also remember to install fenders or even tires to protect the boat from collisions with other boats or the dock. Drain the fuel and leave just enough fuel in your boat to get it back to its normal berth after the storm to avoid spillage.
Also remember to set the bilge pump on automatic, leave the cockpit drains open, close all intake valves below the water line and seal hatches, ports, windows, doors and vents with additional duct tape. This will reduce the chances that your boat will sink due to too much water intake.
Remove all gear affected by wind. Also disconnect shore power to your boat to avoid any damage to the electrical system, as this can be difficult to repair.