Sailboats & Hurricanes – Its All About The Prep
I was raised in the plains of West Texas where dust storms, tornadoes and hail the size of softballs were all pretty common.
Growing up I remember the tornado drills at school. We would line up in the hallways with our butts perched in the air and our textbooks covering our heads. At home if we heard the town siren go off, we would head for the eerie, cobweb filled storm cellar.
Tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes are all words I know of…but until recently, I’ve never experienced them.
Hurricanes, much like any natural disaster, aren’t very predictable. They vary their intensity and direction so often that it’s nearly impossible to know what they’ll do…until they’re on top of you.
When hurricane Hermine threatened to head our way during our shakedown cruise, we played it safe and went back to our safe harbor in Ft. Lauderdale. It was a week delay and the hurricane ended up the opposite direction of us. We lucked out and decided to sail south to the Keys.
Fast forward a couple of months and here comes hurricane Matthew. It worked out well in the fact that we were already back at Just Catamarans for the last of our boat projects, but Matthew rudely interrupted our forward momentum. None of our work would matter if our sailboat and everything else were wiped out, so we put the projects on hold and began our hurricane preparations. Mother Nature is serious and she is on no one’s schedule but her own.
We dodged a major bullet. Matthew was a big hurricane and devastated portions of Haiti, Florida, North Carolina and the Bahamas. I’m not a big believer in luck but I was feeling mighty lucky to be left untouched after this one. It could have ended very differently for us.
We spent a solid two days preparing the boat for the hurricane and it was exhausting both mentally and physically. It took another two days to undo all the preparations. A quick glance at the news headlines and we were super happy to be dealing with nothing more than undoing.
The Big Takeaway
We learned a ton! There is no way we could have learned as much about properly securing our boat for severe weather than this experience.
Not only did we learn to secure our boat but once we were good, we tried to help Just Catamarans with double checking and adding additional lines to the other boats in their care. Then there were the other boat owners and captains working away too. Some very thorough and others far too relaxed. We witnessed the whole gamut.
Granted, all of this was at a marina and not out at anchor but the lessons learned transfer. We feel so much more confident in our “how to prepare” knowledge and if we find ourselves in a good blow or worse…at least we now have a little real practice under our belts.
Sailboat Hurricane Preparations
I could try to regurgitate all the information I learned but I feel there are much more experienced sources out there for education. I will link to some of the articles and videos I have found helpful and share some thoughts from our experience.
- Lines, lots and lots of lines of all sorts of sizes.
- Do the tasks most affected by wind first (like taking down sails). We use Predict Wind to stay current on wind, waves and swell, which helps us to know when the winds will start to pick up.
- Make the longest spring lines possible and make them as tight as you can.
- Double up on fenders (one high, one low) and tie them up to stantions, not lifelines.
- Secure the boat from all directions. Forward, back, side to side. We used anchors to keep our bow steady where there wasn’t anything to tie up to.
- Shore power. If anything blows or surges during a storm, you don’t want to be plugged into shore power. This is where having our lithium battery bank is super handy. We could conservatively keep everything running a week before needing to kick on a generator.
- Know when to evacuate. Only you know your comfort level but if there is a mandatory evacuation…go.
- Shrink wrap tape – This stuff is amazing. It sticks and holds well but comes off clean. We used this around our hatches (because despite what we try, some of them still leak) and we used it to secure our windows that hadn’t been caulked back into place.
- Distant Shores, these guys have been loved in the boating community for a long time and it doesn’t take long to see why. We find ourselves poking around their videos and posts often for helpful info. Definitely check out their YouTube channel. – http://www.distantshores.ca/boatblog_files/category-hurricane-preparedness.php
- The Boat Galley, another blogger that has a great collection of experiential information. – https://theboatgalley.com/hurricane-preparation/
Share Your Two Cents
Have you ridden out a big storm that left you with some new-found wisdom? Maybe there is a book, video or article that completely changed your tactics. Whatever is on your mind, share it below in the comments. I know we’ve learned a lot through all of you and it helps other newbies reading the comments too. Thanks for being a part of our community!
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Ok, just two more photos, these are of what not to leave out during a hurricane. Can you say projectiles?! Yikes!