The warm and dry summer that much of the country enjoyed lured many boaters — novices and the experienced alike — to the water and encouraged them to extend the season. Now Hurricane Joaquin is churning in the Atlantic and threatening the East Coast, potentially putting thousands of boats at risk.
“Weatherwise, the month of September was spectacular in the Northeast — and that means many boats are still in the water,” Todd Shasha, managing director of personal insurance at Travelers, said in a statement.
“In light of the potential turn that the weather is taking, there are things that boat owners can do to help protect their vessel. We want to help ensure that boats stay afloat no matter the conditions.”
Travelers’ tips include:
- If possible, haul the vessel from the water on its own trailer or in collaboration with your marina; when in doubt, haul her out
- Never stay aboard a vessel during a storm
- If the vessel is staying on its mooring, add chafe gear to the anchor rode and extra fenders to prevent damage
- Double up all lines and check that they are long enough to accommodate the expected storm surge
- Secure all loose gear and any item that may clog scuppers and deck drains
- Secure and lock all hatches and port lights. Double-check for leaks and seal, as necessary, if a leak is found
- Reduce wind damage by removing sails, dodgers, dinghies, bridge enclosures and eisenglass
- If the vessel sustains damage from a storm, report the claim in a timely fashion
- Check your battery and bilge pump to ensure it is working properly
- Dust off your insurance policy; review your coverages and determine whether haulout coverage is applicable to the circumstances of the event.
BoatUS says an MIT study that followed 1985’s Hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were much more likely to be saved than those in the water.
“There are some types of boats that must be pulled if they are to have any chance of surviving,” BoatUS said in its online guide to preparing boats and marinas for hurricanes. “Smaller, open boats and high-performance powerboats with low freeboard, to use two examples, will almost always be overcome by waves, spray and rain. Fortunately, most of these boats can be placed on trailers and transported inland.”
“Boats ashore should be stored well above the anticipated storm surge, but even when boats are tipped off jackstands and cradles by rising water, the damage they sustain in a storm tends to be less severe than the damage to boats left in the water,” BoatUS added.
BoatUS also said vessels left in the water should be secured in a snug harbor.
“The trick is deciding which harbors will still be snug if a hurricane comes ashore, and which will be vulnerable,” the organization said. “Storm surge — high water — is a major consideration. A storm surge of 10 feet or more is common in a hurricane, so a seawall or sandy spit that normally protects a harbor may not offer any protection in a hurricane. Crowded, rock-strewn harbors are picturesque, but they may not be the best place to keep your boat in a storm.”
BoatUS also urged owners to “prepare or move your boat when a hurricane is a substantial possibility, even before a watch is issued. If you wait longer and your plan includes relocating the boat, bridges may be locked down and the hurricane hole you chose may be inaccessible.”
Like Travelers, BoatUS strongly advises never remaining aboard during a hurricane.
“Several accounts given in claim files indicate that there is little, if anything, a skipper can do to save a boat when winds are blowing 100 mph, tides are surging and visibility is only a few feet,” BoatUS said.