Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

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Hurricane season is off to an early start this year. Tropical storm Elsa, the first tropical storm of the season to make U.S. landfall this season reminds us it’s never too early to have a plan in place.

If you lie in the hurricane belt, and haven’t given storm preparation a thought yet, a good start would be our 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.

Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

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.

Preparing Your Boat for a Tropical Storm

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.

There’s 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. Practical recently published a multi-volume Hurricane Preparedness Guide ebook exploring the methods to prepare your boat in port or on land for extreme winds — whether it’s a violent squall line, a ferocious Norther, or full-blown hurricane. Unlike other storm preparation guide, ours delves into the nitty gritty details including mooring pendants, snubbers, anchors, docklines, etc.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. 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.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I have been using the Davis Shockles to augment my three-strand nylon dock lines for six seasons. I am on Lake Erie. We have fixed steel docks at my yacht club and every season we are exposed to occasional storms with winds over 45 knots. For example, we had one last July with wind gusts over 55 knots according to NOAA. Our docks are open to the wind in all directions except from the south. Obviously we are not exposed to the hurricanes of the southeastern US coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but we still get surge and heavy windage. The Shockles seem to be similar to the products described in your article for mooring balls. I have been very satisfied with the Shockles. I have not had any broken dock lines or any damaged cleats.

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