Boat here today, gone tomorrow? Hurricane season begins June 1

ELLSWORTH — It may seem like only yesterday that the snow shovel got put up in the barn and the ice cleats tucked away in the cellar but in just a few days it will be hurricane season.

That’s right. The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and boats that only recently came out from under winter covers and into the water are already faced with the oncoming threat of storms.

As of last week, forecasters were predicting a “normal” hurricane season, with a chance that it could be slightly more active than usual.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are anticipating between 12 and 14 tropical cyclones this season. Of those, five to seven are predicted to become hurricanes and two to four could become major storms that could affect the United States.

If an early start is any predictor of what’s to come, the first subtropical storm of the year formed southwest of Bermuda last Monday. Named Andrea, the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression by Tuesday morning.

For boat owners, forewarned is, or should be, fore armed. According to the Boat Owners Association of the U.S. there are several key steps boat owners should take to prepare for a hurricane. Many of the suggestions are the result of studies of the damage to boats after Hurricane Florence came ashore near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., last Sept. 14 causing enormous damage.

So do the experts recommend?

If at all possible, get your boat out of the water. The No. 1 way to reduce the potential for boat damage is to remove it from the water and store ashore on the highest ground possible. If you own a boat trailer, ensure it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice. If you don’t trailer, make early arrangements with your boatyard to be hauled out if a storm is forecast. Don’t wait until the “day of” to ask. You may well find your boat at the end of a list to long to accomplish before the hurricane hits. Many boat insurance policies help to pay for the haul-out, so it’s an easy decision to make.

Once ashore, removing windage, such as canvass tops, sails and sail furlers, and anchoring the boat to the ground has proven to reduce damage from high winds.

If the boat is going to ride out the storm afloat, plan ahead.

Marinas with good surge protection that have floating docks affixed to tall pilings fare better than marinas with low seawalls and fixed docks or floating docks with short pilings.

If the boat is on a mooring, or at anchor, get everything that can blow away, tear loose or add to windage off the boat or secured below. Make sure there is adequate chafing gear on the mooring pennant or anchor rode, and let out extra scope, if possible, at anchor.

Get supplies, such as extra docklines, fenders and chafe protection now, and have them ready to go in an easy-to-find location.

If the worst happens, have a good insurance backstop for when all else fails. Your last line of hurricane defense is your boat’s insurance policy.

Make sure that it includes full salvage coverage that is equal to the policy’s hull coverage. Lesser policies may subtract salvage costs from the insured value of the boat, reducing the funds available to repair the boat or the amount paid if the boat’s declared a total loss.

Additionally, be aware of boat insurance named storm deductibles. In the eventuality there ever is a storm claim, some insurers may lower the deductible and reward boat owners who show that they have taken additional measures to prepare for the storm, such as hauling, lashing down, removing windage or other protective measures.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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