TAMPA, Fla. — Less than a week before the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference was set to kick off, a special session on how to deal with hurricanes was announced for yesterday at noon.
Twelve of the industry’s best-known experts in their fields donated their time to speak on topics that included insurance, electrical systems and marina and boat repair.
Because the 12 presenters had only an hour to get out their message, moderator Margaret Podlich, former president of BoatUS and now a consultant, asked them to give the assembled audience important items in bullet points.
That streamlined the process and provided valuable information quickly. For others interested in the information, video footage will be posted to YouTube.
Countless boats were damaged during Hurricane Irma, and JB Currell Jr., of JNJ Composites & Coatings LLC, gave his top points when it comes to repairing fiberglass.
“When you are recovering the boat, photograph it, video it,” he said.
Currell also said a repair facility needs to know what a boat was made of.
“You need to know whether it was carbon fiber, E-glass, biaxial fabric or mat involved in the damage,” he explained. “You want to use the same resin systems or something stronger. Polyester isn’t great, vinylester is better and epoxy is great.”
His last tip was that yards that contract out fiberglass work should be extra-cautious about the provider they hire.
From the insurance side, Lori Sousa, of Sealand Insurance, and Jay Frechette, of Starkweather & Shepley, encouraged boat and marina owners to take photos of all boats and equipment after a storm.
For marina owners, Sousa said an action plan is the best place to start, including getting employees back to work and talking to owners of boats that were kept at the facility.
“Don’t be afraid to file a claim,” Sousa said. “This is not going to be a 10-day event. This is going to be six months to years.”
Frechette said marina owners should determine whether their insurance covers the cost of work done to prepare for a storm. “You may have a way to recoup some of the monies spent up front,” he said.
When insuring a dock system, Sousa reminded marina owners that they must also name electrical, water and utilities equipment and any part of the location’s infrastructure for the docks.
Two of the best-known experts in electrical systems for boats and marinas, Nigel Calder and James Cote, respectively, spoke on the effects a storm can have.
“We’re going to have trapped salt crystals in places where they’ve never been before, especially the electrical system,” Calder said of boats in a storm.
Even if the boats weren’t submerged, 100-mph winds and spray will force salt into places that may not show problems for months. Calder and Cote said that if a boat is submerged, it’s virtually automatic that all of the wiring needs replaced.
In regard to marina electrical systems, Cote said that just because a pedestal looks fine from the outside or wind did not topple it, owners should not assume that it’s in working order. Each one needs to be inspected before it is re-energized.
Steve D’Antonio, president of Steve D’Antonio Marine Consulting, managed a boatyard for 12 years and dealt with multiple nor’easters and hurricanes.
“Everything worked after the storm, but two months later, six months later, we had fires, etc.,” he said. Latent damage done to docks and marina facilities, including electrical junctions on docks or adjacent to them, may remain dormant for undetermined lengths of time.
Additionally, potable water systems can get contaminated, so the entire facility needs to be checked out. For cleanup of grease or oil, D’Antonio recommends a hot-water pressure washer because it does not use solvents.
Carl Wolf, of Robson Forensics in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., visited marinas on the east coast of Florida right after Irma hit. Those that had a pre-emptive plan in place for a pending hurricane fared much better than those that did not. Even something as simple as tying down loose items or storing them indoors makes a difference in post-hurricane cleanup.
Marine surveyor Ron Reisner, of Reisner & Associates, cautioned that “if you’re a marina owner or boat owner, you and your underwriter don’t have the same goals.”
“You cannot be thorough enough in documenting your damage,” he said, re-emphasizing what other presenters said.
Reisner also encouraged surveyors to identify the salvage companies available in a given area as quickly as possible. Their schedule is going to fill up quickly.
Lastly, Robert Smith, a safety program administrator at MYMIC Training Technologies in Norfolk, Va., explained that after a hurricane or other storm there are significant hazards that must be acknowledged.
“We’re dealing with chemicals and raw sewage in water,” he said, explaining that proper protective equipment is essential. He also said a business might have employees taking on cleanup tasks with which they have little experience, such as a laborer used to painting boat bottoms suddenly having to run a chainsaw.
“We have to recognize that there are significant hazards,” Smith said. “The best thing you can do as a business owner — please don’t take a shortcut.”