As sailors, Hurricane season is always in the back of our minds. There is no escaping the threat that we all feel both personally and tangentially when our friends and associates are in the path of these massive storms. No amount of words can describe how we felt after watching the images from the Bahamas and from some of our schools.
Hurricanes repeatedly affect our friends and family in the ASA community. As the peak of hurricane season is upon us, we felt this was an excellent time to share some critical information about hurricane preparedness and how best to manage through these difficult times.
The more information you have, the better.
Hurricane Preparedness Resources
Hurricane Preparedness at Ready.gov
Ready is a National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to promote preparedness through public involvement.
Safety Tips From The National Weather Service
The Nationa Weather service provides information on hurricane watches and warnings, planning for a hurricane and how to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane. Their website is chockful of resources to help prepare for a hurricane.
ASA has brought on Marine Conservationist, Lauren Coiro, to help with advocacy and education when it comes to how sailors interact with the environment that they call home. “Ask Lauren” will be a regular feature where our questions on the environment will be asked and answered.
Sailing in Key West after the Hurricane A Perspective By Bob Solliday, USCG Captain and ASA Instructor
Many have heard the tales of destruction that hurricane Irma left in her wake. The worst of the damage occurred in the middle keys near Marathon and Isla Morada where the eye of the storm hit. The deaths, the flooding, and the wind damage were unbelievable. And the storm surge seemed to obliterate everything in its path. Homes and businesses were destroyed, boats and marinas wiped out, and, in some cases, entire keys defoliated.
Key West got hit hard, but it did not get the worst of it. Certainly, homes were damaged and the roads covered with debris, but thanks to a lot of hard work Duval Street was functioning and open for business at the end of October. Many of the boats on weak moorings were lost and can be seen aground in the mangroves or up in the shallow areas. But most of the boats in the marinas survived, and the fishing boats, SCUBA boats, and sunset boats are open for business.
Kimber Tracy, the owner of Key West Sailing Academy (keywestsailingacademy.com), had booked a 103, 104, and 114 combined private course for two weeks after the hurricane and that definitely was not going to work. The school boats which had been tied securely in the Key West Harbour Marina had some minor damage to repair, but the entire Key West area was not ready for tourists. She rescheduled the couple for the end of October and I flew down to teach them.
Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria. These six North Atlantic Ocean hurricanes formed within 31 days in August and September of 2017. After a comparatively quiescent decade of Atlantic hurricane activity, nature returned in vengeance with some of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded that have caused a diluvial disaster, a mass migration, and an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.
Some of the hardest hit areas are among the most popular sailing destinations in the world. Some ASA affiliates were entirely destroyed. To assist the recovery effort, the American Sailing Association has built a charity fund that has raised almost $30,000 for affiliates in need of resources for recovery – see asa.com/donate. Financial grants, boxes of textbooks, logbooks, certification materials, and other forms of support have already been distributed to several schools within the region. Sometimes, however, delivery of these resources has been a problem due to the loss of infrastructure.
ASA Schools Want You To Know – They Are “Open For Business”.
If you have been thinking about a sailing vacation but putting it off, or if you were planning one but now think the recent hurricane damage in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean make that unlikely, you might be surprised to learn that many ASA schools are open and ready for your business even in the aftermath of the numerous hurricanes.
ASA schools and instructors from Texas to Florida and the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean have been hit by the two devastating recent hurricanes. Schools have lost their buildings and many or all of their boats. Sailing Instructors, school owners and their employees have lost their homes and their ability to make a living.
To sailors the ocean has always been the ultimate playground with beautiful scenic Islands, trade winds and people. There are thousands of people that rely on the marine industry for their livelihood. All of those sailing schools, charter companies and, mom and pop businesses that made the US coasts and the Caribbean a comfortable friendly place to go have been deeply affected.
We must help our friends and fellow sailors. First we must help them get the necessities; then we need to help them reestablish their businesses so that they can put their lives back together. We set up a relief fund in response to the overwhelming outreach we have received from ASA’s members, instructors and certified sailors who want to help. All donations will help support the employees of our affiliated sailing schools and charter companies and help them rebuild and reopen. We at ASA are heartbroken that our friends and their families in the Gulf and the Caribbean have lost so much.
Visit asa.com/donate to make a donation today. 100% of your tax-free donation will go to help.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Many of you have been lucky enough to learn to sail, cruise or charter in the British Virgin Islands. Here is an update from Pat Nolan who owns and operates Sistership Sailing School on Tortola after recently weathering hurricane Earl:
Location, location, location. That real estate mantra also applies to hurricane survival (followed closely by preparation, preparation, preparation). Having just come through the very large, very powerful category 4 hurricane Earl in the BVI, I can say that both location and preparation are key to minimizing damage. Lucky for us the eye of the storm passed about 30 miles north of Anegada so we on Tortola, roughly 27 miles southeast of Anegada were spared the worst. We still experienced sustained winds of 100+ mph; winds strong enough to sink boats, blow boats ashore, smash boats into docks and. Those who took the time to move boats to a well protected hurricane anchorage, secure the deck and all gear topside, in addition to properly anchor riding out the storm, sustained minimal damage if any.
One must remember that the wind often comes from every direction during a hurricane, so your choice of anchorage must be protected 360 degrees. For those of you familiar with the harbors in the BVI, Road Town, Soper’s Hole and Anegada proved places NOT to be. In those harbors numerous boats were sunk, piled on top of one another or beached. In Trellis Bay, Nanny Cay, Paraquita Bay and inner Sea Cow’s Bay boats did fine. Boats in virtually landlocked Paraquita Bay are packed in like sardines, lying to hurricane gear installed by the government. Trellis Bay hosts a large community of live-aboards lying to their own private moorings. Those folks are old hands at hurricane preparation and it showed – no damage reported there. Nanny Cay, the marina we operate from, is completely land locked save for the very small entrance. All the boats are moored to floating docks. Even though well protected, the high winds and tidal surge still put a huge strain on the docks. Several times during the beginning of the storm we needed to jury rig finger piers that sheared off from the main dock. Struggling in 80 knot gusts to secure a bucking bronco of a finger pier with two big boats attached to it is not my idea of a good time. It took a team of us to do it, but it worked.
Luckily that work was done in the daylight. When the worst of the storm hit after dark, the dock was not the place to be. Safely shuttered in our concrete block of a house we crossed our fingers that the docks would hold through the night. They did.
Many snowbirds keep their boats in the BVI. Unless you have hired a good management company to oversee your boat in your absence you would not want to leave it in the water; rather on the hard, in the yard is the place to be. Boatyards here are experienced at storing and securing boats to minimize storm damage. It is imperative that owners take the time to make their boats are ‘hurricane ready’ after their last cruise just prior to hauling out. Not sure exactly what that entails? Many great articles have been written on this subject. Just Google “How to prepare my boat for a hurricane” and take your pick. And don’t wait till the last minute – it all takes time.