Preparing Your Boat During Hurricane Season

Updated 9:29 AM ET, Mon September 14, 2015

Article highlights

  • Depending on hurricane intensity, you should move your boat at least 10 - 15 miles away (or further) from the coast.
  • Marinas without boatyards often offer Hurricane Clubs, which allow you to safely store your boat in the event a hurricane approaches.
  • If your boat is at a marina, you may be required to vacate your slip in the event of a named storm.
Are you prepared for hurricane season? Preparing for hurricane season means different things depending on where you boat, the size of your boat and what your insurance company may dictate. The typical hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and ends November 30. Hurricane season for the Eastern Pacific Ocean begins May 15 and ends November 30. Obviously, these dates are not absolute, but they do encompass 97% of all tropical activity, with September being the peak month.

Preparing Your Boat During Hurricane Season

What To Do If Your Boat Is On A Trailer

If your boat is on a trailer, preparations for a hurricane are simplified by storing your boat in a garage or other covered facility away from the coastline. For larger boats, that are permanently in a slip at a marina, your insurance company will typically have a provision regarding your responsibilities during hurricane season. For local boaters, this may mean hauling your boat out of the water and securing it on land or simply paying a higher premium during the June to November time frame. Many marinas with boatyards offer "Hurricane Clubs" where you pay a set amount in advance of hurricane season for your boat to be hauled out and securely strapped when a pending hurricane is headed your way.

What If Your Marina Doesn't Have A Boatyard?

Marinas without boatyards " and without significant land space" to store boats will offer a service of moving your boat along an inland waterway to a "hurricane hole". These hurricane holes are typically many miles inland from the coast where surge from the storm would be abated. The boats are then secured with two or more anchors and tied off with long lines to nearby trees or other land structures securing the boat.

What If You Are Traveling?

For the boater that travels or cruises along the Atlantic or Caribbean waters, your insurance company will offer varying levels of premiums with appropriate deductibles for named storms. The deductibles typically will be 4% or higher. If you are in the Caribbean Sea and you are not between 12 degrees, 40 minutes N LAT (south of Grenada) to 23 degrees, 30 minutes N LAT (Bahamas, approximately) while between 55 degrees, W LON and 85 degrees, W LON, July 1 to November 1, most insurance companies will offer a discount. Some insurance companies offer discounts if you do not travel south of 31 degrees N LAT (Florida - Georgia border) from June 1 through November 1.

Where Do I Move My Boat?

So what should you do specifically for your type of boat, to best protect it from hurricane force winds and rain? If your boat is on a trailer, take your boat inland out of the predicted path of the hurricane track. Depending on the predicted intensity of the hurricane, you should move your boat at least 10 - 15 miles away, or as far as 3- 4 hours away (if you live on the coast). You also do not want to leave your boat at home if you live near the coastline. A storm surge from hurricanes can bring 3 - 6 feet or more of water inland, which could cause your boat and trailer to float away.

If you keep your boat on a lift in a covered boat dock, the storm surge could damage your boat and boat dock. So pay close attention to your local marine weather forecasts and be prepared to move your boat to a safe harbor.

What If Your Boat Is Not On A Trailer?

If your boat does not have a trailer and your marina has a boatyard, the marina will haul your boat out of the water and place it on land, where it will be secured. To keep it safely in place, they will use straps attached to anchors in a concrete pad or to the ground with helical screws. As previously mentioned, some marinas and boatyards offer Hurricane Club memberships but you need to decide early to join, as space is often limited for this service. You will pay for this service up front, prior to hurricane season and you may or may not receive a refund or discount if the service is not utilized.

What Is A Hurricane Club?

Hurricane Clubs will typically offer wet or dry storage options. For wet storage, the locations are typically on an inland waterway, protected by locks which prevent the storm surge from reaching your boat. If you decide to go with dry storage, your boat will be anchored in the ground with straps (some clubs have state of the art buildings with indoor storage). These Hurricane Clubs will usually meet your insurance company requirements for having a hurricane plan. Many insurance policies will reimburse you up to 50% of the reasonable cost to a.) have vessel hauled out of the water, stored until the watch or warning has ended and then launched in the same general area or b.) have the insured vessel moved to a safe harbor including docking or mooring fees.

Can I Leave My Boat In A Boat Slip?

Thinking about leaving your boat in a slip during the threat of a hurricane? You better check your lease agreement, as many marinas have a provision regarding boat owners responsibilities when a named storm is approaching. Some marinas will require you to vacate your slip, while others will have specific requirements regarding additional dock lines to be used to secure your boat, along with the removal of any biminis, canvas, sails and any other items external to your boat.

If you choose not to secure your boat, most marinas have a provision stating that the marina staff will secure or remove your boat without your permission and charge you for these services.

What If You Live Aboard?

If you live aboard your boat, most marinas will not allow you to stay on board if a named storm is predicted to hit your area. With proper preparation, you can just move to an area out of harm's way. You need to be careful though, as the path of hurricanes can change quickly, sometimes shifting 75 - 100 miles in either direction. Choosing to stay in an inland waterway is your best option. Several inland waterways in Florida are protected by a system of locks which protect you from storm surges. By moving your boat inland, you have the protection of being surrounded by land which reduces the hurricane force winds.

For The Cruisers

If you enjoy the cruising lifestyle, staying out of the hurricane zone becomes a part of your annual planning when choosing your next destination.

For those cruisers enjoying the Bahamas or Caribbean, they need to make a choice to head north above Georgia or south towards Grenada to comply with their insurance requirements. Once your boat is safely outside the hurricane zone, it's a great time for planned maintenance and some general upkeep of your boat.

How Do I Stay Informed?

There are many useful resources for staying on top of pending tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes. The National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center have excellent resources and websites to help you prepare for tropical activity of any kind. Boat U.S. has an excellent guide for hurricane preparedness that discusses locations, where to store your boat ashore, and the ultimate hurricane holes.

With all the resources available to boaters today, you should always be able to protect your boat and yourself with proper planning and preparation.

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