Help Your Boat Survive a Major Storm
Simple tips that everyone can use to protect their investment
Weather is the cause of much destruction. Fortunately, modern day weather tracking systems provide a warning several days in advance, so boat owners can prepare their vessel to survive even a major storm unscathed.
If you’ve received a bad weather warning, and you have time to safely get to your boat, take the following steps to prepare your boat for a storm.
Windage is a fancy word for the air resistance of a moving object, such as a vessel or a rotating machine part, or the force of the wind on a stationary object. In the case of your boat, you want to reduce windage by removing anything from the topside of your vessel that could catch the wind.
Remove Bimini tops, cockpit dodgers, spray curtains and awnings. Sails should be removed, not simply rolled up. In strong winds, even the best rolled sail can unfurl, causing a major windage problem. Stow the man overboard gear, cockpit cushions, cowl vents, antennas, and halyards if possible. Internal halyards can be run to the masthead, preventing them from adding to the windage.
Get it Off the Boat
When in doubt, remove anything that’s not bolted down. If your vessel does suffer damage, the last thing you want is for custom electronics, personal belongings, and navigation gear to get ruined, especially if the items are uninsured.
Know Your Ground Tackle
If you’re unsure of the condition of any part of your mooring system- replace it. After storms, insurance adjusters look for worn mooring components, and inadequate scope for mooring pennants to avoid approving claims of loss.
At the Dock
In a major storm, a floating dock can float right off the pilings, taking your boat with it. If your boat is docked, tie the lines high up on the pilings themselves. Use multiple clove hitches, or a clove hitch and two half hitches so the lines will tighten on the pilings.
Choppy water means a scraped hull if you are tied down at the dock. Paint protection films are a simple and effective way to protect your boat’s paint from even the most severe weather. It is a fraction of the price of hull repair and can be completed easily and effectively. Click here to learn more about paint protection options.
Even the most secure permanent mooring should be backed up with your own anchors during a storm. Deploy your heaviest anchor in the expected direction of the strongest winds, and your second anchor 180 ’ from that. Make sure your anchors are appropriate for the type of bottom, and are deployed as far from your boat as possible. The more horizontal line the anchors have, the better they’ll hold.
In a storm lasting several hours, most metal fittings will chafe away your lines. Chafing gear can be made from almost any sacrificial material, like a pair of old denim jeans cut in strips.
Chafing gear has to stay in place or it won’t work. It’s not pretty, but you should duct tape your chafing gear, making sure to cover more of the line than you think is necessary to accommodate lines shifting and stretching.
Whenever possible, key dock lines should be doubled or lead heavily loaded lines to winches before belaying them on cleats. Don’t carry more than one heavily loaded line to a single cleat because if the cleat goes, the boat goes. Ideally, the time to test the strength of your deck hardware is well before a storm. Check for proper backing plates, bolts, and strength of the deck and the fitting itself.
Hauling is a good idea if you can stow the mast, and get it to high ground. Don’t park under a tree.
On or Off the Boat?
The question of whether to remain on or off your boat in a major storm is case by case. Sure, you may increase its chances of survival by fending or adjusting lines. At the same time, you also increase your chances of getting killed or injured. No vessel is worth that.
We suggest taking photos of all your storm prep. In the event your insurance company questions the loss of your boat, it helps to have pictures to prove your loss.
Careful preparation of your boat will give you peace of mind, minimize the damage in a storm and ensure your insurance company steps up with a minimum of negotiations.