It’s that time of year when the air temperature cools down and the warm temperatures of the water cause a slurry of tropical storms and hurricanes. Since we are staring into the face of some big hurricanes and tropical storms on both coasts this month, we thought now would be a great time to go over some things you’ll need to know about what to do with your sailboat during a hurricane.
What to do with your sailboat during a hurricane if it is on land
The best and most preferable option for most sailboat owners is to get your boat out of the water, on land and into a protected environment.
- Sailboat on its Trailer – Inspect the boat and trailer and make sure everything is working properly. Check all the tires, spare tire, lights and signals, wheel bearings and tow hitch. If possible, keep it as far away from the coast as possible and put it in a garage or under sturdy protection. You’ll also want to weigh down your boat. Leave the drain plug in and fill it with fresh water if you have an outboard motor. If you have an inboard motor you can place wood blocks in between the trailer and the springboards to help weigh down the boat.
What to Do if Your Sailboat Has to Stay in the Water
- Sailboat At the Dock – If possible berth your boat at a dock that has some sort of shelter and isn’t located in the low lands. Make sure to pull out all the bumpers, fenders and fender boards and place them in crucial places were your boat might bump or wear. Double up on the mooring lines but leave enough slack so that boat can rise with the surges.
- Sailboat at Anchor – If your boat has to be in the water, anchoring or mooring your boat tends to be safer than at the dock since ideally, there is less chance that your boat will run into anything. Dig out your strongest anchor for the storm. In fact, you should probably place a few anchors and face your boat into the wind. The ratio you are looking for on each line attached to each anchor is 10:1.
- Sailboat in a Hurricane Hole – This is the most ideal place for your boat during a storm. When trying to locate a good hurricane hole, you’ll want one that has several good sturdy trees to attach your boat to. You are also looking for one more upland and inland. Generally, the farther away from the coast you are, the safer your boat will be. If possible, look for a cove or inlet designated as a hurricane hole that generally blocks wind coming from the direction of the hurricane. For example, most hurricanes on the East coast tend to come from the southeast, so finding a hurricane hole that blocks a southeast wind is best. For Virginia boaters, read this article by Tom Hale and Sail Magazine for the best hurricane holes.
Sailboat Safety First
- It NOT a good idea to stay with your boat. Make sure you have taken down and put away anything that is not directly attached to your boat.
- Check the weather forecast before setting out. Hurricanes should not be taken lightly and your safety and the safety of those on board comes first.
- Keep a radio on board and know what frequency you can use to transmit a distress call with the coast guard or lake patrol and hear the weather forecast.
- Always wear a life jacket and make sure you have enough jackets for each person on board.
Hopefully this will help you have a better idea of what to do with your sailboat during a hurricane. Let us know if you have tips or tricks to keeping your sailboat safe during a hurricane. Stay safe sailors!
If you are an inland and lake sailor see our article on what to do on sailboat during a storm.
Chesapeake Bay Hurricane Holes by Tom Hale, Sailfeed from Sail Magazine