Tips for Riding Out the Storm in Your Marina


Practical Sailor has covered storm preparation on several occasions. The two most extensive articles appeared in July 2008 Gear for Battening Down Ahead of Storms, and Tropical Storms Dos and Donts, from November 2011. We also have an online article How to Help Your Boat Survive a Major Storm. What follows are just a few tips relevant to securing your boat in a marina when you have exhausted all other safer alternatives.

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If you do not yet have mid-ships cleats, add them. These should be sized and backed in the same manner as bow cleats, since loads are the same or greater.

Dock line size varies both with boat size and expected wind speed. Boats docked in hurricane or other severe weather areas should consider going up a size from common recommendations. However, your deck cleats may not accommodate what is really required. New cleats and backing plates may be in order.

Loads on the cleat of a 35- to 40-foot boat during an actually hurricane can exceed one ton. While boatbuilding standards (the American Boat and Yacht Council in the U.S.) specify load carrying ability, some older dock cleats are not up to snuff. Do you trust the dock cleats and pilings at the anticipated loads (1-2 tons for 35- to 40-foot boats)? If not, find alternate anchor points.

Remember the chafing gear. Preferably something water can permeate for cooling and lubrication. For a round-up of effective chafe gear see Round 2: Chafe Gear for Mooring and Dock Lines, October 2012.

Removing canvas and sails reduces windage. Specifically, remove the furling jib, one of the most common storm casualties. Dodgers and other canvas will also suffer if left up during the storm.

Dont leave anything on deck. Even dense objects can be blown across the deck and do damage, or be lost overboard.

Check your neighbors lines. If the boat appears to pose a threat to your own, try to contact the owner, and notify the marina staff if that is not possible. Failing these, deciding whether to take action yourself is a personal decision. What would you want someone to do if the boat was yours?

Any marina facing significant storm surge is not safe, but those protected from a long fetch by a low wave barrier are particularly vulnerable. Boat owners on the Chesapeake got an expensive lesson in this during Hurricane Isabel.

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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