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Preparing Your Sailboat for a Hurricane

Guidelines for Precautions Against Wind and Water


Tropical Storm Danny

If your area is threatened by a hurricane or tropical storm winds, you need to make advance preparations to reduce the risk of damage. Get frequent updates from the National Hurricane Center and don’t wait until winds are rising before taking steps. Note that if you do not take reasonable steps to secure your boat and it breaks free, you could be legally liable for damage it causes to other boats. You may also have difficulty with an insurance claim.

Take these steps to protect your boat and everything aboard it:

  1. Pull the boat or have your boatyard haul it out if possible and if it can be secured well on land. With lighter winds, in some cases a boat in the water may actually be safer than a boat simply placed on jack stands. But with very strong hurricane winds, falling off jack stands will cause less damage than being torn from a dock or mooring and smashed onto shore.
  2. Remove everything above-board that causes windage or may be damaged. Remove sails, dodger, bimini, wind generator, seat cushions, life ring, removable electronics, etc. If you’re tempted to leave the sails on and simply lash them securely, remember that they greatly increase windage and the strain on mooring lines and equipment; it’s always better to remove them completely.
  3. Things not easily removed, such as dodger and bimini frames and halyards, should be securely lashed.
  4. If your boat is on a mooring, double up the mooring lines. Spread the load over multiple deck cleats. If your cleats are small or may not be backed adequately, you can even run lines from the bow chocks back to the mast. Then apply chafe gear at the chocks. Use segments of plastic garden hose, canvas or leather wraps, or even plastic grocery bags well secured with duct tape. Make sure the chafing gear covers a good length of the lines on both sides of the chocks.
  5. If your boat is in a slip or on a dock, use as many fenders and lines as you have to secure it. Chafe will likely be severe—don’t skimp on chafing gear. Take additional precautions for boats on a dock.
  6. Close the seacocks on all through-hulls except cockpit and deck drains. The vibration of storm battering may loosen worn hoses or fittings.
  7. Make sure your bilge pump is on automatic and your batteries well charged.
  8. Clean anything from the cockpit that could block the drains or scuppers.
  9. Secure items in the cabin. Check cabinets and drawers for items that may spill, break, or cause damage if thrown about.
  10. Photograph all installed boat equipment above and below deck. You may need proof for a later insurance claim.
  11. Use duct tape to seal hatches and any points where the wind could drive water into the boat. Cap ventilators and dorades.
  12. When everything is secure, get off the boat and stay off! No amount of damage to the boat is worth the risks to life or limbs.

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