Have you ever had the experience of sitting out a hurricane on your boat? Have you had to leave your boat and wait out a storm, wondering if it would survive? We have done both and neither are experiences we want to go through again. Sitting on board, listening to the wind howling in the rigging and climbing on deck during pelting rain just to adjust dock lines and anchor rode is not our idea of cruising fun, and the anxiety factor is off the charts. Sitting in a hotel room hundreds of miles away, not knowing if the boat made it through or if your next contact is the insurance company. June is just the beginning of the hurricane season, but it is also a good time to get yourself and your boat prepared. With our former boat Sea Trek, we have been through fifteen named storms, twelve of them hurricanes. So we do have some first hand knowledge for preparing and we thought this a good time to share our experiences.
Given a choice, our preferred place to have the boat ride out a storm would be in a well protected, open anchorage, shielded from wind and wave action. In our opinion, the place you would most likely expect to have the boat damaged is in a slip. It is almost impossible to adjust dock lines to compensate for storm surge and not have lines so long that the boat could be slammed against the dock and pilings. During hurricane Georges, in the Florida Keys, we tied the boat up in the middle of the basin of the marina, with an anchor out at the bow and several long lines ashore. After the storm passed, we were the only boat in the marina undamaged to some extent. We rode out hurricane Floyd anchored in the Wye River in the Chesapeake and the wind howled for two days. We were at the head of the river so there was very little wave action and since we are always confident of our ground tackle, we were never concerned about the anchor dragging. We did have two anchors set, and having the proper anchors and rode are very important to your success and the boats safety. One of our biggest concerns is other boats dragging or breaking loose and fouling our anchor. We look for safe harbor in the most remote spot we can find, far away from where the other crowds gather. In Belhaven, NC we rode out hurricane Irene in a large creek with just two other boats while another smaller and narrower creek just north of us had twenty or more boats sheltered there.
- You need to have a plan.Where will you go, and will your family need to meet you there? Be sure you have phone number handy for friends, family members, doctors, and any others you feel will be important, and possible contacts you might need for up to a week after the storm. If your phone will allow you to send text messages, they sometimes will get out when a call will not. Be sure you know your evacuation routes if needed and cars are fuel up and stocked for emergencies. Is your emergency kit accessable to you in a hurry? Make sure family members understand what circumstances determine whether you stay for a storm or evacuate. The local authorities might require a mandatory evacuation.
- Prepare an emergency kit. You can easily buy everything you need at your local storms, but the shelves might be empty just prior to the storm. So put your kit together NOW.
Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
- Cash or traveler's checks and change
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Fire Extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
- Stay informed through as many sources as possible. Have online sources for weather and hurricane tracking and forecasts bookmarked on your computer. Stay tuned to local weather broadcasts and national information like The Weather Channel. Power failures will be common so battery operated devices will help, just be sure you have lots and lots of batteries. Cell phones will work if land lines go down, but you will need to keep the batteries charged. A small portable generator will make a considerable difference in the days to come if there are major power outages for long periods of time. Have enough fuel for the generator to last a week and store it safely. A WORD OF CAUTION, never run one of these generators inside or in any enclosed, confined area. You could survive the storm to loose your life from carbon monoxide poisoning. We have a portable Honda 2000 Generator that has been invaluable during these storm conditions on many occasions.
We have posted on our Sea Trek site, a few occasion where we prepared the boat for less serious storms. These preparations can be used in many cases, but for major storms, additional care will be needed. You can read those posts here;