Hurricanes are incredibly violent storms that can bring intense winds, heavy rain, floods, storm surge, landslides, tornadoes, and coastal erosion. These storms are capable of causing incredible damage, and the key to protecting your boat is planning and preparation.
If a boat causes damage during a natural disaster, the owner/operator could be held responsible. Securing your boat from strong winds and storm conditions is possible, with the following recommendations from Florida Sea Grant, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Preparing Your Boat for an Incoming Hurricane
Every boat owner needs to have a plan that is designed to fit their boat type, the local boating environment, the severe weather conditions, and the characteristics of safe havens and/or plans for protection. After you have made anchoring or marooning preparations, it is important to remove all of the valuable equipment from your boat.
You should also remove all movable equipment, such as:
- Bimini tops
- Roller furling sails
Secure anything that cannot be removed such as tillers, wheels, or booms.
Make a list to keep track of the items that you have removed from the boat and those that you have left. Ensure that you have sealed all openings (using duct tape or other suitable tape) to make your boat as watertight as possible. The electrical system should be off unless you plan to leave the boat in the water.
Consolidate all documents including:
- insurance policies
- a recent photograph or videotape of your vessel (and a photo that includes the hull number)
- boat registration
- equipment inventory
- lease agreement with the marina or storage area
- telephone numbers of appropriate authorities, such as
- Marina, Harbor Master, or similar entity
- Coast Guard or local law enforcement
- insurance agent
- local emergency management or emergency services
You should keep these documents in your possession, inside of a locked water-proof box. This ensures the documents are accessible as you assess your boat after the hurricane.
Securing Your Boat on a Trailer
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the most effective way to secure your boat is by trailering it and pulling it to high, dry land.
Before moving your boat, you should be sure that your vehicle is capable of properly moving the boat. Check the condition of your trailer’s tires, bearings, and axle.
Once you have placed your boat in a safe location, lash your boat to the trailer and place blocks between the frame members and the axle inside each wheel.
If you own a lightweight boat, consider letting out approximately half of the air in the tires, then filling the boat one-third full of water to help hold it down. Be sure to consult your boat’s manufacturer for the best procedure.
Secure your boat in place by tying it down with heavy lines to fixed objects. Your boat can be tied down to screw anchors secured in the ground.
If possible, try to pick a location that allows you to secure your boat from four directions. This is because hurricane winds rotate and change directions.
Securing Your Boat on a Lift
According to BoatUS Marine Insurance, boats on lifts or davits should be stored ashore or moved to a safer location in the water whenever possible.
However, if your boat must remain on its lift:
- Remove the drain plug so that the accumulated water will drain and prevent the lift from collapsing
- Raise the boat as high in the lift as you can too prevent wave action from contacting the boat
- Tie the boat to its lifting machinery to prevent it from swinging or drifting away
- Plug the engine’s exhaust outlet and strip the boat of all movable items
- Check all drains to ensure they are clear of debris
Securing Your Boat in the Water
If you choose to leave your boat docked, consider the dock lines that you use to secure it. Approximately 50% of boats that have been damaged at fixed docks, during hurricanes, could have been saved by using better dock lines. Use dock lines that are long, large, arranged well, and protect against chafing.
For most boats, you should use:
- ½” line for boats up to 25 feet in length
- 5/8” line for boats 25 feet to 34 feet
- ¾” to 1” lines for larger boats
You should have chafe protectors on any portion of the line that could be chafed by chocks, pulpits, pilings, etc.
“If you need chafe protection quickly, use duct tape (a lot) to secure several layers of heavy canvas to the lines. It isn’t pretty, but works surprisingly well.” – BoatUS Marine Insurance
Secure your lines to strong, wooden pilings. These pilings can stand up to lateral stress and twisting, as opposed to concrete pilings that cannot.
In order to reduce windage, the bow of most boats should face the least protected direction. However, if your boat has swim platforms, especially those integral to the hull, this is not the case. If the swim platform cannot be kept safely away from the bulkhead, secure the boat with its stern towards the water. This helps prevents the boat from sinking due to the platforms being bashed against the bulkhead.
Watch this video from Florida Sea Grant, for a good summary of boat preparedness:
To learn more about how to secure your boat during a hurricane, visit Florida Sea Grant’s website. Or, browse the following web resources utilized in the writing of this blog post:
- University of Florida IFAS publication “Hurricane Preparedness for Boat Owners.”
This blog post was written by Natural Resources Extension Program Intern, Ms. Paxton Evans, under supervision by Natural Resources and Conservation Extension Agent, Mrs. Shannon Carnevale.
University of Florida IFAS Extension is committed to diversity of people, thought and opinion, to inclusiveness and to equal opportunity.
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
First published September 2017. Updated September 2022.