Inspect Your Vessel
Absentee owners should arrange for a haul out or supervised inspection. Make sure all equipment is secured and check out the:
- Bilge Pumps
- Deck Hardware
- Ground Tackle
Look at the primary cleats, chocks, winches, bits, and bollards. Be sure there are substantial backplates and adequately sized stainless steel bolts.
Have an Emergency Plan
Assemble emergency equipment and supplies. Do you need extra mooring lines, fenders, fender boards, chafing gear, and anchors? Identify hurricane holes and safe harbors. Have a refuge plan. Practice implementation to know how long it takes to prepare and note what revisions your plan may need.
Be sure your policy is current and read it to understand coverage, exclusions, and your responsibilities as a vessel owner. Have phone numbers for your local harbor master, Coast Guard, National Weather Service, and insurance agent with you. Keep the following items in a secure area off the boat:
- Boat Registration
- Gear Inventory
- Insurance Policies
- Marina / Storage Lease Agreement
- Recent Photo of Your Vessel
Know the Rules
Know what you are responsible / liable for and what your marina or storage facility is. Know your marina's policy on handling, launching, and recovery of boats. Wind speed may affect these policies.
Inventory items and note whether they were left on or off the boat; keep copies on board and ashore. Mark valuable items for identification.
When a hurricane watch is issued, have written copies of your hurricane plan aboard and with associates on shore. Be sure family members and crew read the plan and understand it.
You should also monitor marine radio weather reports continuously so you can move your boat to the safest reachable haven 48-hours before the hurricane is expected to strike your area.
Ensure that your fuel tanks are full, fuel filters are clean, batteries are charged, bilges are clean, and cockpit drains are clear. Check that firefighting equipment works and lifesaving equipment is in good condition and readily accessible.
Be sure to check the condition of mooring hardware and lines. Also, you should ensure water tightness above and below the waterline by sealing hatches, windows, and doors with duct tape if necessary, shutting sea-cocks and capping off un-valved through-hull fittings.
Don't forget to remove as much equipment off the deck as possible, including roller furling sails. Lash down everything you cannot move, such as tillers, wheels, and booms.
Be sure to double all lines. The second set of lines should be a size larger than the regular ones and you'll need to rig crossing spring lines fore and aft. If strong pilings are available, you should attach lines high on them to allow for surge and install preventers so they can't slip off the top. To prevent chafing, you can use double neoprene hose or wrap lines at rough points with tape, rags, or other protective materials.
Put out fenders and fender boards to protect from rubbing against pilings, pier, and other vessels. Also, be sure to recheck the attachment of primary cleats, winches, and chocks.
Ensure that your batteries are fully charged to operate automatic bilge pumps for the duration of the storm. Consider stocking backup batteries. Disconnect all devices that use electricity except bilge pumps.
When a hurricane warning is issued, be sure to:
- Monitor marine radio reports continuously
- Prepare to have all aboard leave the vessel
- Weigh the desire to stay aboard carefully
Of 8 confirmed deaths in Hurricane Marilyn (1995), at least 7 were individuals who remained aboard boats during the storm.
After the Hurricane
Check the vessel's condition and security as soon as it's safe to do so. If your boat has been damaged:
- Immediate action must be taken to save the vessel, and / or its' equipment and prevent further loss or damage, as required by all marine insurance policies
- Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible
- Obtain a copy of the incident report or the report number
- Pickle the engine immediately
- Purge the boat of marine life and saltwater
- Report theft, vandalism, or damage to law-enforcement
If salvage removal is necessary and you must make arrangements yourself:
- Determine if security is provided
- Find out where your vessel is being taken
- Read the contract