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Boat Safety - Hurricane checklist for boaters!

Hurricane season means we have to be prepared! Here is advance information on how you can protect yourself from the losses of a devastating storm. Please read the below information to assist you in making your plans:

Marine facilities, marine related service organizations and insurance companies consider it reasonable to expect boat owners to take the time and effort to plan actions needed to protect their vessel. The following should be considered in planning to protect your vessel in a hurricane.

Arrangements should be made in advance. If you will be out of town, a Captain or caretaker should be designated to carry out your plan.


1. Make sure your vessel is in good condition. This includes the hull, deck, hardware, rigging, ground tackle, machinery and electronics. Absentee owners should arrange for a boatyard haul out or a supervised inspection of the vessel prior to, and in preparation for the hurricane season. This includes charged batteries, operable bilge pumps, and all equipment


2. Enhance the watertight reliability of your boat, both above and below the water line. Seal windows, doors and hatches if necessary, with duct tape. Shut seacocks and cap-off or plug all above water fittings.

3. Inspect the vessel's deck hardware in light of planned mooring arrangements. Assess the size and structural attachments of the primary chocks, cleats, bitts, bollards, and winches. These high load/high stress points should have backing plates and be secured with the largest bolts they will accept.

4. Avoid chafing mooring lines. Double neoprene hose chafing gear works well.

5. Storm moorings, at the dock or otherwise, should have double or triple lines. The second set of lines should be a size larger than the normal lines, including spring lines at the dock. Purchase necessary materials in advance such as additional lengths of mooring lines, screw anchors, fenders, fender boards, chafing gear, and anchors. These items may not be readily available during the hurricane season or just before a hurricane.

7. If the vessel will be unattended during the hurricane season, it should be hauled to a storage yard, warehouse, or on its trailer, if trailerable. Arrangements for wet storage at a protected dock, mooring or marina is another alternative.

8. Develop an inventory list of all vessel equipment. Note items to be removed from vessel. Keep copies of the inventory list on board and ashore. Make a video of inventory and how vessel is secured.

9. For wet berthing locations, ensure that seawalls and docks are sound, mooring bitts and cleats are secure, dock pilings and dolphins are in good condition.

10. If you are using a storm mooring, have a diver inspect the chain, swivel, tackle and attachment points annually.

11. At private berthing and dock facilities in residential areas, check with neighbors, and other vessel owners in the area. Coordinate safety and mooring arrangements plans.

12. At marina facilities find out from the dock master or marina management personnel what their hurricane plans and/or procedures are for vessels left at the facilities.

13. Check with your local marine and law enforcement agencies such as city police and county sheriff departments, state marine patrols, the Coast Guard and its auxiliary power squadron for local plans. This is particularly important in areas with heavy concentrations of yachts. Due to early closure of bridges, it is best to plan well in advance to move your vessel. This is especially important in areas like South Florida where access to inland protected rivers and canals is limited by bridges that may be permanently closed for land evacuation routes when a hurricane warning is issued.

14. If your plan calls for moving your vessel from its current berthing location to an inland waterway location, know your route, vessel navigation requirements at different tides and the restrictions along the route such as bridges and channels. This is especially important for sailboats.

15. Practice your planned vessel movement, including an actual visit to the alternate dock or hurricane mooring/anchoring location. If rental of a protected dock or slip space is required, make arrangements well ahead of time.

16. Be sure that your family or key crew members know your hurricane plan or arrangements and that everyone who may be involved knows how to contact you, your designated representative or agent. Captain, crew members, caretakers, neighbors, and your insurance agent should be provided with your home and business addresses and phone numbers.

17. Key your plan on quick response. Moving a vessel, stripping sails, derigging, and anchoring in 35 mph winds is extremely difficult. It is impossible in 45 mph winds and sea conditions.

18. Prepare your hurricane plan in writing and make copies of it. Keep a copy on the vessel and one at home. Extra copies should also be made for marina or yacht club facility which may require you to have one on file with them.

19. Make sure your insurance policy is current. Read the policy thoroughly. There is quite a bit of helpful and advisory information in the policy relative to what the vessel owner should and should not do if there is a storm or hurricane related loss or damage to the vessel. Understand the coverages, exclusions and your duties as a vessel owner.

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