June 01, 2022
Maybe this isn't your first rodeo, but if it is… welcome to hurricane season.
As a boat-owner, getting in front of the situation early will take a load of stress off of your shoulders.
The first thing to consider is where will your boat be safest riding out a storm. If you keep it in your garage at home, you're probably in good shape to begin with, but if that is not an option, consider a safe place away from the coast. Ideally, inside of a well-protected windproof storage building is best but not always available. If you must store it outside, a location away from (large) trees is wise to prevent a falling tree from damaging your craft. A stand of (short) trees or the exterior lee side of a well-built structure can offer some relief from the wind from certain directions.
If the boat is left outside on a trailer, plan to anchor/tie down both the boat and trailer as best you can to multiple fixed points on the ground. A fixed structure or small trees can be a useful anchor point. Helical anchors screwed into the ground also offer location flexibility. The important thing is to find a suitable location, obtain all of the necessary hardware, ratchet straps and heavy duty lines in advance. Tie-down straps can be used to connect the boat directly to the trailer forming a single unit. Keep your hurricane kit together in one place and whenever possible execute a dry run in the off season to avoid any surprises at the last minute.
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
If you're forced to execute your storm plan, secure the boat in anticipation of a worst-case scenario. After you're tied down, remove any loose items from the boat. That includes anything inside storage compartments. All cushions, curtains, and isinglass should be removed including soft canvas from your T-top. As much as a nuisance it might be to lace up a shade top after the storm passes, it beats paying for a new one. Be sure the plug is out of the boat to avoid “sinking on the trailer.” You might be tempted to leave it in and let the boat fill with water to add weight—but don't do it. Boats hulls aren't meant to be filled with water up to the deck and water will likely penetrate areas it's not intended to, creating potential issues down the road. Before you walk away from the boat take a number of good photos from different angles to document the effort you made to secure the boat for your insurance should it come to that.
GOOD INSURANCE IS YOUR BEST ASSURANCE
As much as I hate to admit it, there is no better peace of mind in this scenario than having good insurance. I recommend investing in the best policy that you can afford and keeping it current. A few things to keep in mind: Know how your insurer will handle a windstorm claim, and be sure to comply with any provisions they place on your policy beforehand to assure you are actually covered.
For example: Your policy may require you to move your boat away from the coast or to a secure interior location. You might be required to provide proof of compliance. Some windstorm claims come with a much higher deductible while others won't cover a “named” storm at all. Be sure you know exactly what your policy will pay for in advance. Maintain an inventory and photographic evidence of items that must be left on board. Also be sure to consolidate all of your paperwork. Current photos of the boat and gear, your registration and title, and all insurance documents should be stored in a secure location, preferably a safe at home, where you can easily access them after the storm.
As much as we hate dealing with them, hurricanes come with the territory. Having personally been here long enough to ride out countless storms, the most important factor I've found to make storm season more tolerable is reducing the amount of worry in anticipation of an approaching storm. A little preparedness will surely alleviate some of that worry. FS
Published Florida Sportsman Magazine August/September 2020