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How To Prepare Your Boat For A Hurricane

hurricane from space

’Tis the Season

Having run marinas for the past 12 years along the Florida panhandle and the Texas Gulf Coast, with boats ranging from a 16-foot Boston Whaler to a 112-foot Westport, marina manager Steve Arndt has had his fair share of scrapes with nasty weather. With the closing month of what NOAA predicts will be the “most active hurricane season since 2012,” we sat down with Arndt for his insider advice on how we can all better handle a storm that we hope never comes.

What’s the most common mistake you’ve seen your customers make when prepping their boats for a major storm or hurricane?
I’ve had several brushes with hurricanes coming close to our facilities, and what always surprises me is how the boat owners I’ve worked with don’t pay attention to the storm surge. That’s the real killer. It’s not the wind blowing things around, especially when it comes to a boat that causes damage. It’s the storm surge and the waves atop that surge that cause the most problems, and people really don’t give that enough respect. 

What’s the most important thing for a boater to do when a storm is barreling down?

The most important things anyone can do occur even before the storm starts. Make sure you have all your insurance documents off your boat. Keep them at home, and keep them handy. The other thing people tend to forget is that you have a boat and a home, so it can be difficult to juggle all of that. 

Also, if you have a captain or someone you’re going to pay to move the boat, make sure you secure them early in the year and pay them a retainer so you know they’ll be there when you need them.

Let’s talk about working with your marina. What’s the best way to make sure you’re both on the same page?
Well, it pays to keep your boat at a facility that’s watching the weather for you. I start looking at the tropics in March and watching storm patterns almost year round. 

It’s kind of a hobby of mine. Before it’s even on our customer’s radar, I’ll start sending e-blasts and Facebook posts, letting our customers know that there’s something out there and that they might want to start thinking about hurricane prep. 

Another thing most boat owners tend to do is think that they can go down to the marina the day before a storm hits and get the staff to lend a hand. 

What most don’t realize is that by that time, the marina owner has told his folks to get the marina battened down. Their number-one priority is the safety of the employees and their structure. If they have time to help an owner, they will, but most of the time they won’t be available like they normally would on a nice summer day. 

Boaters need to realize: Hurricanes are big. It starts raining and the weather starts deteriorating three or four days out; that’s when you need to make your prep plans. 

What other advice do you have for someone getting their boat prepped?
If you’re on a floating dock, look at your pilings. If you have a 10-foot storm surge coming and only 6 feet of piling, then expect your boat to float away. 

What about if you’re on a fixed dock?
One trick I like is if you’ve got some old fire hose, use that at chafe points. A lot of folks like to use water hoses. Those don’t work at all. What happens is the line starts to rub on the hose and heat builds up and it can’t dissipate. It’ll actually end up melting the lines. 

That’s another thing, a lot of people save their old dock lines for use in a storm. And what I tell them is: Throw the old ones away. If it’s not good enough for marina use, you can’t count on them in a storm. 

Where I am in New England, a lot of people wait until the last second to decide if they should haul their boat, because we never know if a storm will turn out to sea. Any advice for them?
Don’t just think of it as: “Should I or shouldn’t I pull the boat?” Think of it as: “Can I get some work done and kill two birds with one stone?” 

Look into getting a bottom job or some other work done while you’re out of the water anyway. 

And if in doubt, haul it out. If you haul it out when you didn’t need to—what, will you be a little embarrassed? Better that than be the guy who waited till the last minute and lost his boat.

A Guide to Hurricane Preparedness

How To Avoid A Hurricane ▶

Know the Weather When You're Boating ▶

Lessons from the El Faro Tragedy ▶

15 Essential Tools For Your Boat ▶

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.