It only takes one hurricane in our vicinity to wreak havoc with our lives. Sustained winds at a hundred knots, mountainous seas, six inches of rain in an hour with an eight-foot storm-surge—combine these with flying debris and you have a terrifying scene. For those of us who play roulette with our yachts by keeping them in the hurricane zone during hurricane season (many of us do), this is a serious matter!
Insurance aside, the main issue is to find a way to protect our yachts and find safety. If we actively sail our yacht during the Caribbean hurricane season, we run for the mangroves ahead of numbered and named storms to deal with the mania caused by our peers staking claim to contested mangrove habitat or, God-be-with-us, head to sea (as some have done) to navigate away from the path of a hurricane.
Many times I’ve faced fatigue, stress and sickness while keeping my boat in the water all year—been there, done that. I know one guy who got dengue fever while tied to a mangrove in Vieques, trying to ride out squalls on the fringe of a Category 1 storm. If we care about the safety of our boat-neighbors and our vessels, we face some responsibilities of profound impact to ourselves and our community.
Several years ago I gave-up the freedom of having access to my boat during Hurricane Season and hauled-out at Puerto Del Rey Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico—lashing her to high-ground for peace of mind. This also gave me the opportunity to do other things like comb the Atlantic-side beaches of our Caribbean isles, which shoal-up when the prevailing summer winds veer south, and take advantage of great snorkeling spots inaccessible during the Caribbean winter. I even go ‘off island’ with my wife to visit the ‘real’ world again.
Now I relish my new-found freedom to safely leave the boat at Puerto Del Rey and take a break from the stress of dodging hurricanes!
Hurricane tie-down storage is the best option to protect our yachts and our sanity. However, there are very few marinas which offer tie-down facilities, and I doubt any would offer complete protection during a direct CAT 5 strike. The key components to look for in a highly-secure hurricane tie-down facility are:
(1) boat yard regulations that encourage our storage neighbors to prep their yachts for extreme wind-speeds, (2) protection from hydraulic forces and erosion caused by storm surges that carry heavy surf ashore, also withstanding gushing rivers that swirl through the boat yard as they purge flood water, and (3) tie-down structures of heavy construction that remain un-earthed during periods of total saturation of the ground with sea and rain water.
Strap procedures for yachts in a tie-down facility are an important concern, too. Catamarans must use tie-down straps between the hulls, not just rely on straps extending outward, because these un-ballasted vessels become lift-generating aero-foils during a hurricane; they tend to break free, and may become airborne (see photo). This scenario is hard to imagine but really happens, and should certainly makes us think twice when talking about a good ole-fashioned ‘hull-flying contest’.
Puerto Del Rey Marina in Puerto Rico provides robust storage solutions for vessels seeking safety during hurricane season, and the recently expanded tie-down facility now offers more space for vessels seeking highly secure tie-down storage. PDR’s hurricane-proof steel and cement structure is buried in the earth, and the storage location is protected from the sea by 100,000 square meters of US NAVY controlled mangrove. The marina is committed to protecting vessels from hurricanes, and provides a block-and-jack-stand support system within a highly flexible network of strong tie-down points; they require adherence to prudent procedures which guard the community of boats against wind forces of exponential proportions. It’s well worth investigating the benefits that a quality tie-down facility like Puerto Del Rey Marina has to offer before a hurricane blows in!