Hurricane Irma

Bracing for Impact – A Quick List of Hurricane Protection Reminders

By: Cruising Tips, Safety

There is a serious storm barreling along on its way to Florida right now, and while things can often change when it comes to storm tracking, sailboat owners need to be ready. It’s currently a Category 5, the highest there is on the hurricane scale – the New York Times said: “The eye of the storm was bigger than some Caribbean islands.”. Hurricane Irma has already ravaged the British Virgin Islands and some other Caribbean islands causing massive destruction and loss of life…

Here’s a short list of perhaps the more important and maybe commonly overlooked precautionary ideas to keep in mind in trying to protect the boat – of course once you’re done all you can do you should probably get out of dodge!

  1. Dramatic Tidal Shifts
    With these storms come severe tidal surges. If the boat is in the water (which could be a problem) it’s important to inspect the piling it’s tied to and assess if the tides could rise above its height. A short piling could be the reason your boat goes on a voyage without you or gets punctured by the piling itself. But for a major storm a boat tied in its slip is iffy. The slip and harbor location/setup have to be just right. Wide solidly built slips and heavy tall pilings stand a chance but anything else could be a serious crapshoot. We’ve all seen the pictures.
  1. Check those knots and lines
    No matter what you decide to do to protect the boat, a storm like this is going to require lots of line and knots. Spend a couple of bucks in increasing the size of the lines you’ll be using to lash everything down and make sure the chosen knot is something dependable. Also, diversify the attachment points whenever possible. You don’t want to tie every line to a scant few attachment points only to find out it’s that and not any of your knots of lines that fails. And beware of small cleats – the bigger the better and, if possible, inspect the backing plates.
  1. Chaffing
    Chaffing is one of those things, in a normal world, where sailor’s opinions differ. Some have chaffing protection all over the place and some have none at all. If you’re in the latter constituency you might want to switch teams for a minute, at least until this storm passes through. In the violence of a hurricane chaffing happens in a very accelerated and amplified way. The kind of turbulence the boat will experience can act like a saw for a poorly placed holding line with no chafe protection. So sacrifice that crappy old green garden hose that would never coil up right and give it a new life protecting your lines from chaffing.
  1. Minimize Windage
    Don’t be lazy when it comes to removing anything that can increase windage or just get blown away and destroyed. Remove dodgers/canvas (including frames), headsails, and antennas – stow anything loose (of course) remembering that little snaps will not be sufficient. Tape shut anything that could open up and remove any electronics that look precarious.
  1. Don’t forget about the inside
    If the boat is in the water, it’s going to be rocking around in an insane way so make sure there is nothing that can fly around and cause damage. Close all sink and head sea cocks and make sure that cockpit scuppers are completely clear.

If you’ve experienced a hurricane, feel free to share your experiences and suggestions below…