Boat-Specific Hurricane Concerns
Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. As a boater, one of the biggest threats is storm surge, which can cause significant damage to boats and marinas. A hurricane’s high winds, heavy rains, and flying debris also affect boats differently.
When planning your hurricane preparedness, take into consideration the specific characteristics of your boat. The size, weight, and construction materials can all impact how it will fare in a storm. Consult with professionals, such as marine surveyors or boat manufacturers, to assess your boat’s vulnerability and make any necessary improvements.
Things To Do at the Start of the Hurricane Season
- Review boat insurance coverage. Make sure your boat’s insurance coverage is up-to-date and adequate for potential hurricane-related damages, including both hull and liability coverage. Review your policy to understand the extent of coverage for storms and consult with your insurance agent if any adjustments are needed.
- Develop a communication plan with your boating partners or family members. Establish a reliable method of communication during a hurricane and designate a point person who will be responsible for relaying critical information and instructions. Consider investing in a portable marine VHF radio or satellite phone.A written plan should Include evacuation routes, designated safe havens, and contact information for emergency services.
- Take a comprehensive inventory of your boat and its equipment. Take photographs or videos of the vessel from various angles to document its pre-storm condition. Store this information in a safe, easily accessible location or upload it to a cloud storage service.This will be invaluable for insurance purposes and can help speed up the recovery process after a hurricane.
- Service the engine and ensure it is in good working condition before any storm arrives.
- Check your boat’s safety equipment, such as life jackets, flares, fire extinguishers, and distress signals, ensuring they are in good condition and readily accessible.
Essential Boating Supplies and Equipment for Hurricane Preparedness
Some things to have on hand:
- Emergency kit — Prepare a well-stocked emergency kit that includes first aid supplies, medications, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, and a manual can opener. Include any necessary items specific to your boat, such as spare parts or tools.
- Anchor and lines — Ensure you have a reliable anchor and sufficient lines to secure your boat during a hurricane. Consider investing in storm-rated anchors and heavy-duty lines for added security.
- Fenders and dock lines — Protect your boat from potential damage and make sure you can properly secure it to the dock or other mooring points.
- Extra fuel and oil — Always keep extra fuel and oil on board. During a hurricane, fuel shortages may occur, so having a reserve supply can be a lifeline.
- Protective coverings — Consider investing in hurricane-rated protective coverings for vulnerable areas of your boat, such as windows, hatches, and electronics. These coverings can help minimize potential damage from high winds and flying debris.
What to Do as a Hurricane Approaches
The earlier you react to a hurricane watch or warning, the better your chances of escaping injury or damage.
If possible, move your boat.
Get your boat out of harm’s way. Many marinas in Florida have hurricane services, such as hauling boats out of water and into hurricane-rated dry storage or similar. Contact your marina and inquire about their hurricane preparedness procedures. If not your marina, consider other storage facilities that offer hurricane protection, either in-water in a protected harbor or canal with minimal exposure to storm surge and storm tides, or in a secure location out of the water.
Otherwise, secure your boat.
Follow these guidelines for securing your boat if relocating your boat isn’t an option:
- Remove any valuable or irreplaceable items from your boat, such as electronics, personal documents, and sentimental belongings. Store them in a safe, dry place away from the potential impact of the storm.
- Inspect all mooring lines and fenders, ensuring they are in good condition and properly secured. Use extra lines to help your boat withstand storm surge and strong winds.
- Remove any loose items from the deck, cockpit, or cabin and stow them securely below deck. These items can become dangerous projectiles during high winds.
- Close and secure all hatches, windows, and doors to prevent water from entering the boat. Use additional securing measures, such as duct tape or hurricane shutters, if available.
- Fill up your fuel tanks to capacity to reduce the risk of water intrusion. Add a fuel stabilizer to prevent degradation.
- Lower or remove antennas, outriggers, and other protruding equipment that could be damaged by high winds.
- Disconnect shore power to avoid potential electrical damage from power surges or flooding.
- Ensure the bilge pumps are operational and have a backup power source.
Remember, each boat is unique, so adapt these steps to your specific vessel and consult with professionals if needed.
What to Do If You Need to Evacuate
In some cases, evacuation may be the safest option, or authorities may issue evacuation orders for your area. Follow these safety protocols:
- Plan early — Plan your evacuation route and destination well in advance. Take into consideration potential traffic congestion and limited fuel availability during an evacuation.
- Secure your boat — If time allows, follow the steps outlined earlier to secure your boat as best as possible before leaving. Remove all valuables and ensure lines, fenders, and hatches are properly secured.
- Notify authorities — Inform the marina, local authorities, or the Coast Guard of your evacuation plans. Provide them with your contact information and the location where you plan to evacuate your boat.
- Monitor weather conditions — Stay informed about the storm’s progress and potential impacts on your planned evacuation route. Adjust your plans if necessary to ensure your safety.
- Follow local guidelines — Adhere to all evacuation orders and guidelines provided by local authorities. They have the necessary knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions regarding your safety.
Post-Hurricane Actions and Boat Recovery
- Assess damage. Inspect your boat for any visible damage or signs of water intrusion. Document the damage with photographs and notes to assist in insurance claims.
- Inspect fuel and oil tanks for leaks. If any leaks are detected, take immediate action to prevent further contamination and potential hazards.
- Check the bilge pump and ensure it is functioning properly. Remove any excess water from the bilge to prevent further damage or sinking.
- Assess the condition of the engine and electrical systems. If there is any doubt about their integrity, have them inspected by a qualified professional before attempting to start them.
- Notify your insurance provider of the damage and initiate the claims process. Provide them with all the necessary documentation, including photographs, inventory lists, and any other supporting evidence.
Final Thoughts on Hurricane Preparedness for Boaters in Florida
As a Florida boater, being prepared for hurricane season is non-negotiable. By understanding the potential risks, creating a comprehensive hurricane preparedness plan, and having the necessary supplies and equipment on hand, you can safeguard your boat and loved ones from the fury of a hurricane.
Remember, preparation is key. Stay informed, make a plan, and take action early. Always prioritize your safety and the safety of others when making decisions related to hurricanes.
Stay safe, stay prepared, and may calm seas be on your horizon.