We’ve all read the forecasts and predictions for the forthcoming hurricane season and view them with a degree of trepidation, as we do every year. We have to accept some of what we experience with a slightly fatalistic attitude – there is nothing we can do to influence the track the storms take, or their intensity. However, there are things that we can do to mitigate the damage we sustain.
The events of last year’s hurricane season demonstrated that the latitudes generally considered to be “hurricane free” aren’t guaranteed.
So, even if your insurance coverage dictates that you move your boat outside of the hurricane belt, you should still make preparations, just in case. Number one on your list of preparations for the hurricane season should be to ensure that your policy is up-to-date and that you’ve read the fine print carefully. The last thing you want is to have shelled out a significant chunk of money to take care of your pride and joy/source of income only to discover too late that you had failed to do something, thereby voiding your insurance.
If you’ve a dedicated hurricane mooring, this is the time of year to be checking it carefully to ascertain that the ground tackle and lines are in good condition.
If you’re planning on going into one of the many “hurricane holes” scattered through the region you need to make sure not only can you get into the area (draft, beam etc.), but also that you have permission to use it and that you are properly set-up to sit with the rest of the boats.
A good example is Tortola’s Paraquita Bay (use of this Marine protected area is thanks to the BVI Government and the Conservation and Fisheries Department), where the following rules apply:
- The annual maintenance fee for each Marine Association mooring used is $125.
- Based on availability moorings for first time users may be applied for at a cost of $350 per mooring plus $100 Marine Association membership.
- Each vessel using Paraquita Bay is required to have removed all sails and canvas, the boom dropped and secured on the port side of the cockpit, have five tyres properly secured on the port side and other fenders and tyres deployed appropriately.
- There is a definite system of attaching to the moorings so that everyone sits securely together: all lines must be doubled up to the port & starboard stern pennants and into the mangrove or bow pennant.
- Additional lines for mutual support to the boats immediately adjacent to your boat (breast & springs) are also required.
- All deck tackle (life-raft, life-rings, cushions etc.) must be removed and stowed below decks, instrument covers need to be taped over.
- The Marine Association employs a warden for Paraquita Bay during hurricane season; the warden’s duties are primarily to ensure that boats are stored in the anchorage as per the above requirements.
- You can obtain more information at [email protected].
If you’re not lucky enough to have access to such an area, then you need to ensure that when you do choose your safe haven you secure your boat in a manner similar to the other vessels around you. Just as when overnight anchoring, you want to make sure that you are going to swing in an arc that mirrors the other boats’ motion. Setting anchors with good chafe gear is essential, as is thinking about “sacrificial” lines to relieve the pressure on your main lines and rode.
Before you take the boat to its hurricane spot, it’s a good idea to check that fuel, propane and water tanks are topped off and that you have laid in a reasonable supply of drinking water and non-perishable food stocks that can take you through 10 days – 2 weeks after you return to the boat.
Staying on board during a storm while at anchor is not recommended.
Once you’ve done everything that you can to prepare thoroughly check everything one last time, lock up and go and stay on shore. There is little or nothing that you can do to protect the boat in a storm. We’ve all heard of the folks who have battled valiantly up on deck wearing mask and snorkel in the height of the storm to re-set lines where they are chafing through or fend off other boats that have broken loose. Moving or fending off a boat can be challenging under calm conditions, doing it in 60 – 90 knots of wind and low visibility is hell. Yes you can emerge with some wonderful “war stories” of how you fought the storm and won, but what if you don’t?
All too frequently we hear stories of people (normally men) who have decided to put their families ashore and stay with the boat. Most of the time they come to no harm and dine out on trading their experiences with others who did the same. We seldom hear of the folks who stayed on board and were badly injured, leaving their dependents to worry about how they were going to cope with the primary breadwinner out of action. The boat’s insured. Do your best. Photograph your efforts so that you’ve a record of what you did, and walk away.
So what if your boat isn’t insured? Still do your best, take your photos and walk away from it. Your life is infinitely more valuable than the boat, and the boat is replaceable, while your health and well-being isn’t.
Post is thanks to VISAR