How to prepare for hurricanes and lesser evils

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How to prepare for hurricanes and lesser evils

Postby Georgs » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:09 pm

T&T: Heavy weather preparation
Rudy and Jill rudysechez at
Sun Feb 28 10:44:37 EST 2010

> I am hoping for a polite, but meaningful
> discussion about what worked, and what did not, and maybe
> even why. I would much prefer to learn while sitting on the
> sofa, as I am now, than later, while the "catastrophe" is
> brewing.

Lee, I agree with you. Choices available are often wide and varied. Whether the choice made turns out to be adequate often turns on the vagaries of Mother Nature, but we view it as our job to help her to our advantage as much as possible.

In a well protected marina, staying put may be a good choice, but in addition to the wind, the storm surge needs included in any evaluation as to whether to keep the boat there or move it.

If the marina, or at least the location in the marina where our boat is berthed, does not have protection from the wind and seas, we've come to the conclusion that anchoring out is best for us, when the forecast is for winds that approach or exceed 50 knots. We may not do it, but we sure consider if we should.

For those who haven't picked up on it yet, it is not the wind, so much, that concerns us, it is the storm surge, waves and seas that concern us.

We used to think that hauling out was the best option for severe weather, but having gone through so many hurricanes, and seeing the results, we now view that option with a jaundiced eye.

We've seen much damage that occurred in boatyards due to severe winds, even storm surge. Many yards, here in Florida, are essentially at sea level, allowing a 12-15 foot storm surge, a reasonable expectation in a Cat 3 storm, to wreck havoc.

If hauling out, the usually offered recommendations apply: get the boat as high as possible in the yard; get it away from other boats, and if not possible, try to position it up wind of other boats; keep the boat away from trees; place large pads under the stand's feet; chain the stands together in pairs; strip the boat's exterior, placing as many of the items as possible below; if items cannot be placed below, tie them down securely; get the mast down, and if not possible, get the sails off, especially roller furling sails, and if not possible, wrap them in such a way that the wind cannot unfurl them; when wrapping sails, wrap the entire length of the sail, not just the portions that can be easily reached.

The advantage to hauling the boat out for a severe storm, is not that it won't get damaged, but instead that it won't sink. Keep in mind that many other boats want hauled also, so get yours there days ahead of time.

Here is an eye-opener, at least it was to us. I had one fella explain to me why his boat toppled. As he stood there and watched, the screws on the pads unwound as the wind vibrated the boat. They loosened enough to allow a cascading series of events to occur, which ultimately ended with his boat being severely damaged.

This got me wondering how many other boats topple because the screws back off?

Probably will never know, as very few folks are allowed, or are willing to wander a yard during severe storms. But, to deal with this possibility, some manner of keeping the screw pads from backing-off should be employed, if hauled during severe winds.

We choose to anchor.

To do so, I cannot over-emphasize enough, the need for big, hefty gear, all sized and suited for the conditions and to the size of the boat. For severe conditions, "too big", or "too hefty" does not exist in our vocabulary, and we think it shouldn't for others either. This includes every item from the anchor, all the way up to and including the belaying points.

Since the size of gear needed for severe conditions is seldom carried in stock, particuarly if your boat is 30' or longer, it needs to be ordered to be received well before it is needed... not just anchors, but rope, shackles, anti-chafe gear, and all of the other paraphernalia that may be needed for it to be used.

This gear should be assembled and deployed ahead of time, making sure everything that is needed is present, and that its assembly and deployment, even retrieval, works as planned.

Big enough and hefty enough gear is not as expensive as is gear bought that proves to be too small, or too light. Inadequate gear, in addition to costing money to buy, also then costs more money, money that needs to be spent on repairs, not only to the boat, but if it broke loose, for the damage it probably caused to other property too. In the long run, it is probably cheaper to get "more than big enough" gear and get plenty of it, not to mention the peace-of-mind that it gives.

We do not place getting to a "protected" anchorage at the top of our list; at least not as most think of it.

The farther away and the more protected from the winds and seas the better, but we found that there are more pressing concerns when picking an anchorage, than "protection" from the wind and seas (though that can't hurt).

If well founded, properly outfitted and well anchored or moored, most boats can handle the wind, and even the seas that are produced by severe weather. Usually it is the other boats that are "making due", that create the problems.

So we first look for an anchorage that, if it has other boats in it, we can get up-wind of them. If a choice is given, we'll chose up-wind in the second half of the storm, not the first.

We've vetoed many anchorage because of boats being there, or more likely, because of the manner in which some of the boats, and in one case barges, were moored. This we do even though we usually end up subjecting ourselves to winds or seas that we may have otherwise avoided.

In one storm, we veto a well protected cove and, instead, anchored in a area that had over 10 miles of fetch. This storm had over 24 hours of hurricane force winds, more than six of those over 120 knots.

We did okay, but when we went back to check on the places we vetoed, many boats were damaged by other "anchored" boats, several by the barges that were spudded there, which by the way, disappeared during the storm.

So when it is all over and done with, the discomfort that we subject ourselves to is far outweighed by the greater safety we get from staying away from poorly anchored/moored boats.

We've seen so many variations on weather that precedes hurricanes, that we've come to the conclusion that there is no predictable pattern to expect prior to the hurricane showing up. Therefore, we always plan to arrive at our anchorage at least two days ahead of time, which also allows us to prepare at a more leisurely pace.

For the tornado that we went through, nothing could have been done, as its quick appearance negated any time for preparation. However, since we are in the habit of using hefty lines routinely, this wasn't too big of a deal.

For the flood, we picked a place where we were out of the flow, the boat could rise with the water, and the lines could be adequately adjusted. We also made sure that we picked a location that had a grocery store within reach, for we knew that we'd be stuck there for awhile, and we were. Arrangements to get on our storm anchor, if needed, were made, but fortunately never had to be carried out. My, oh my, the size of trees that flowed by at 8 knots!

Well, this didn't address heavy snow falls, since we haven't, nor do we wish to have any experience with them.

To date, no Catagory 4 or 5 hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis; and, Jill says she'd prefer not to add them to our resume; me too!

Hopefully there may be a few gems that can be gleaned from this.

Rudy and Jill
Briney Bug
Panama City, Florida

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