HURRICANE IRMA: Florida boaters without hurricane policy seek options

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Clint and Terry Boram of Miramar, Fla., knew they had to get their sailing catamaran, an Island Spirit 401 called Finding Balance, out of its mooring at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club in the event of a hurricane watch or above.

What they didn’t know was that in order to get the boat hauled they needed a hurricane policy with a marina paid in advance.

“Apparently we needed to make arrangements to be hauled prior to hurricane season. Who knew? Certainly not us,” Terry Boram told Trade Only Today on Tuesday. “We normally get hauled, but [the Coconut Grove Sailing Club has] been booked for prepaid hurricane insurance since March.”

“I looked at a website of one marina there on the Miami River. I want to say it was in excess of $4,000 for their hurricane policy,” Clint Boram said.

Because Coconut Grove Sailing Club had a mandatory evacuation in hurricane watch and above, their best option was to go take the boat to Miami Marine Stadium to anchor with everyone else. They had gotten the name of a marina and had excellent references, but the marina was full.

Miami Marine Stadium photo

Miami Marine Stadium — where some boaters were keeping their boats after being shut out of their marinas — was relatively quiet this morning.

The couple use Geico Marine insurance, which will pay half of the haulout fee, but, “it’s still a matter of space at the end,” Clint Boram said.

“It could take us two days to take care of our boat,” Terry Boram said. “And then we’ll take care of the house on Thursday, and by that time, we’ll be in a tropical storm warning. Friday’s too late to leave.”

Soundings Trade Only publisher Dean Waite said it was probably too late to have his 29-foot Sea Vee, First Light, hauled from the canal behind his house.

“It will be strung up in the middle of the canal on Thursday, if I can’t get it out and stored somewhere else — which is a long shot. At best,” Waite said.

The key is that boaters still have time to do things to help secure their boats, BoatUS public affairs vice president Scott Croft told Trade Only.

“The storm in Texas popped up real quick,” Croft said. “In this case, we have time, so we’re trying to tell people: Make an effort. Even if you can only get to your boat for a few hours — remove windage, pull off the electronics, add extra lines, make sure your chaff is in place — and then get back to taking care of your home.”

The boat insurer was already getting a lot of haulout claims, “which is a good sign,” Croft said. “We didn’t get a lot of haulout claims for Harvey.”

“For the average boater who has a 24-footer in a slip, you can make a difference if you take care of your boat,” Croft said. “It just takes one boat. In every storm, whether it breaks loose from a marina or breaks off the mooring ball, it starts floating away and goes through another series of vessels. Hurricane prevention is really only as good as the community of boaters around you.”

Croft urged people to go to boatus.com/hurricanes to track the storm and figure out what to do with their boats.

Separately, because many people in the Southeast and along the coast (the projected path of Irma) are boat owners and in an effort to help its boating community get ready, Boat Trader has put together a comprehensive post on "Hurricane Preparation for Boaters.”

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