Protecting Your Boat

Wind Speed Considerations
Hurricane-force winds exert tremendous strains on a boat's hardware. Be sure to consider chafe, cleats and chocks, and windage.

Wind force and the damage it causes, increases exponentially. If wind speed doubles it increases the force on your boat four times. A 20-knot wind exerts of a force of 1.3 pounds per square foot; a 40-knot wind quadruples the pressure to 5.2 pounds per square foot.

Remove everything to reduce wind resistance and eliminate the probability of these items being blown away:
  • Biminis
  • Antennas
  • Deck-Stowed Anchors
  • Sails
  • Running Rigging
  • Booms
  • Life Rings
  • Dinghies
Remove furling head-sails which offer a sizable amount of resistance and additional load on the headstay. Arrange your halyards to reduce flogging and damage, both to the fittings on the halyard and objects in their path. One method is to tie all halyards off to a common messenger line and run the halyards to the top of the mast. This reduces the number of lines exposed to the wind from as many as 3 or 4 to only 1 . Tie the messenger off on a rail.

Chaffe Protection
Unprotected lines will chafe and sever within minutes under the rigorous conditions of a hurricane. Boats on a mooring are particularly vulnerable because the boat is usually held in place using only 2 pennants; the enormous forces generated are concentrated on only 2 lines.

Wave Surge & Water Damage
Wave surge may increase loading by as much as 1.5 times the values shown, depending on the size of your boat. The same forces are transmitted to the mooring. Make sure all eye splices have thimbles to reduce wear at the attachment point on the mooring.

Prevent water damage.
Rain during a hurricane flies in every direction, including up. Deck drains and pump discharges located near the waterlines can backflow when wind and waves put drains underwater.  
  • Remove cowl ventilators and replace with closure plates or tape off the vents using duct tape
  • Ensure Dorade box and cockpit drains are clear of debris
  • Close all seacocks except those used for draining
  • Put bung plugs in unused through-hulls
  • Put bung plugs in the exhaust to prevent water from flooding your engine
  • Use duct tape and precut plywood panels to cover exposed instruments
  • Examine all hatches, ports, coaming compartments, and sea lockers for leaks
Make sure all papers are high enough in the boat to prevent them from getting wet if the cabin floods. Wet paper creates a pulpy mush which clogs bilge pumps.

Prepare 2 lists: one of all items to be removed from the boat prior to a hurricane and another listing all equipment needed to prepare your boat for the storm.

Items to be removed from the boat include:
  • Electronics, which are particularly susceptible to water damage
  • Clothing and personal effects
  • Outboard engines
  • Portable fuel tanks
  • Propane tanks
  • Important ship's papers
  • Personal papers
  • Other essential personal effects