Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

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With Hurricane Dorian threatening Florida and possibly the Carolinas, it is time to start activating your hurricane response plan.

You might want to start with our July 2008 report, Lines, Snubbers, and Other Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms. Safety expert Ralph Naranjo’s first-hand account of his storm preparations Tropical Storm Dos and Donts and How to Help Your Boat Survive A Major Storm should also be required reading. These articles all discuss the first line of defense against a hurricane: secure your boat in a boatyard or hurricane hole.

But what if you have no option but to stay on a municipal mooring? Will these hold? Although we’ve never put much faith in mooring systems that we didn’t have a hand in designing and installing, there are some mooring systems that deserve a closer look.

One class of product that has been gaining more attention in the wake of Hurricane Irma is the elastic mooring systems being used in Florida’s municipal mooring fields as well as throughout the Caribbean. Florida’s mooring systems were installed as part of a statewide pilot project to regulate anchorages and to minimize environmental damage to the bottom. As Practical Sailor’s report on mooring systems revealed, all but one of the moorings in Marathon, Florida were still intact after the storm. Irma tore dozens of boats free from their moorings, but most these failures were linked to the owner-supplied pennants.

Three manufacturers offer products in this class. Eco-mooring System is effectively a super, heavy-duty bungy cord. It operates on the same principle as others like it, including the Seaflex Mooring Systemand the Hazelett Mooring System. These mooring rodes incorporate an elastic rode that allows mooring fields to pack more boats into smaller spaces. The elasticity also helps reduce shock on boat hardware.

We haven't yet tested these systems, but we have taken a close look at how these moorings fared in Hurricane Irma. Prior to that report, the second most recent discussion of mooring holding power was published in 2009.

A couple other mooring-related products on our radar are the new helix-type mooring anchors offered by the same company that sells the Spade anchor in the U.S. These also held very well in Hurricane Irma. We should mention that similar screws installed by a professional contractor here in Sarasota, Fla., initially failed to meet specified pull tests, so it is important to carry out post-installation load testing.

As marine surveyor Jonathan Klopman pointed out in response to our discussion of elasticity in anchor rodes, the topic of how much stretch is a good thing is a hot topic so to speak. Heat-induced friction in nylon rode, it seems is on everybody’s mind.

Because of this, we are also interested in evaluating England ropes approach to storm moorings. In the New England Ropes system, the cyclone mooring pendant (set between the mooring ball and the boat) is made of two components-a length of low-stretch Endura 12 to handle abrasion on the boat and a high-grade nylon mooring pendant that goes from it to the mooring ball. New England Ropes has also launched a new line of chafe protectors, which we will be pitting against the best chafe protection from our last chafe-guard test.

Theres plenty to say about this topic, but the most important thing is this: The time to plan your hurricane strategy is long before the storm hits.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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