When and where the next hurricane will hit is anyone’s guess, but we hope all boaters educate themselves and get prepared well in advance, starting by reading our feature on this subject: Hurricane Preparation for Boaters. But when it comes to such an important topic we want to go the extra mile, so we spoke with the experts at Sea Tow to get more tips and info on what we boaters need to know.
When a hurricane is approaching your neck of the woods, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not to pull your boat out of the water and store it on dry land. Statistically, this is far safer than keeping it in a slip. “The rule of thumb is to pull a boat when there is any named storm,” explains Captain Joseph Frohnhoefer, CEO of Sea Tow Services International. “If a boater is properly insured, insurance may cover a storm haul out. For example, Sea Insure provides up to $1,000 coverage per occurrence, for haul-out services. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
What about finding a hurricane hole? “Some (larger) boats are designed to ride out the storm,” Frohnhoefer says, and in this case if there’s damage “it’s normally an impact with an object that sinks them in a storm, or whatever they are tied to breaking lose. A mistake we’ve seen over the years is when a boater doesn’t fully understand the importance of knowing how much ground tackle a boat needs to be secured properly before a hurricane.”
Captain John Ward, of Sea Tow Pensacola/Destin, adds that “Boat owners need to account for the size of their boat, the depth of the water where it is being kept during the hurricane, expected winds, and the rise of the tides or storm surge.” Boaters should also plan to affix or anchor the boat in multiple places, to prepare for shifting wind directions as the storm passes.
“There was one hurricane,” Ward explained, “where a boat owner used the same anchor he typically used to secure his boat temporarily when fishing—for securing his boat in a hurricane hole. That gentleman’s boat ended up in an in-ground swimming pool.”
Prepping for a hurricane also means brushing up on exactly what your insurance does and does not cover, and what preparations may be necessary according to your policy. “Boaters forget to read their insurance policy or their slip agreement, to see what they need to do to ensure coverage,” Frohnhoefer said. “And you also have to consider what you will do post-storm. For example, what if the storm takes out your dock? Where will you place your boat after a storm in that situation? And the Coast Guard typically closes some waterways for days after a big storm to check aids to navigation, and other risks like floating debris and sunk boats, which can affect your post-storm plan.”
Part of what you do post-storm, unfortunately, may include recovering and repairing your boat if it ends up damaged. “Sea Tow will come and recover the vessel” Frohnhoefer said. “We work for many insurance companies for pre-negotiated rates after storms, so the boat owner will not need to worry about paying for the recovery. Additionally, Sea Tow can typically arrange a storage yard for recovered boats in conjunction with the insurance companies so the boats can be assessed.”
The best post-storm scenario is, of course, to celebrate the success of your pre-storm preparations. But that’s not how it played out for many boaters last October, after massive Hurricane Matthew damage. Make sure you don’t end up in a similar situation, by listening to Sea Tow’s words of wisdom on this topic.
Looking for additional tips from Sea Tow?
- Water Problems in Boat Fuel: Sponsored by Sea Tow
- Top Mistakes that Lead to Tow
- Smoothing the Waters: Safe Boating Tips from the Sea Tow Foundation
Editor's Note: Promotional consideration for this article was paid by Sea Tow.