The latest weather forecasts has Irma impacting Great Harbour Cay, where Joe and I keep our sailboat at, but it will no longer be a direct hit unless the path changes. Please note that the visual shown above was from earlier today, so if you are impacted by this storm, please see the National Hurricane Center for the latest information. At the time of this writing, it looks like Florida is in for a rough time, as is the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispanola and other locations.
Hurricane Irma is scheduled to hit on Friday night or Saturday. This will allow Joe two days to get ready once he flies to GHC. I am often asked what we do to prepare our boat for a hurricane? This will be the second major hurricane we have had in the last 11 months, so we needed to learn hurricane preparation.
Remove Sails, Bimini or Full Enclosure (Canvas) and everything on the deck– this we did back in June before flying home to California for the summer. The reason behind it to to remove anything that can cause added windage. You also do not want things to fly off your boat and injure another boat or person.
With roller furling for our genoa and staysail, they are removed for several reasons. During a large storm, no matter how good you tie up your head sail, it has the potential for becoming unfurled, which in turn puts your boat and others at risk. At the very least, you can kiss your sail goodbye. If you leave your sails on, flying debris can damage your sails, too. The cost to replace sails can be pricey.
Same goes for your bimini or full enclosure, which is what we have on MAHI. You remove the canvas to reduce windage and to protect it from flying off and damaging another boat. Yet another pricey add-on boat feature you do not want to replace, so you remove it off the boat.
Strap Dinghy to Foredeck– Our inflatable dinghy has an aluminum hard bottom, so this means we strap it to our foredeck just like we did during Hurricane Matthew. Joe will use old fire hoses (Thank you to the Diamond Springs, CA Fire Department for this donation) as chafe guards and will use redundant lines to keep it in place. The dinghy motor is locked on the stern rail, and will remain during this hurricane as well.
Before Matthew, I received some messages recommending that we remove our Yamaha 15 outboard motor prior to the storm. There are several reasons why this is not going to happen, namely the weight is rather prohibitive and where would we store it if we could lift it to shore? Locked in place will keep it on the stern rail.
Tip! If you have a non-hard bottom RIB dinghy, you can un-inflate and stow safely below.
Unplug Boat From Shore Power– We unplug and stow our power cord away in our aft lazerette.
Move MAHI to Center of Double Slip and Spiderweb Tie to Fixed Dock- Using at least 18 lines, we spiderweb our boat between the concrete finger piers. We first learned this technique from Jay Campbell on MY Largo in the slip next to us. Here is a picture showing our hurricane tie up plan.
We actually tie to a variety of pilings and use chafe guard around the pilings, too. If the wind is going to blow MAHI towards the main dock, we will position the boat further out.
There is an art to tying up with just the right amount of slack to allow for tidal surge, without allowing the boat near the finger piers. You will also not see any fenders in this arrangement as the wind is blowing so hard that they will not do any good.
Tip! Remember to set up your lines for adjusting from the dock. This is important as the boat will be too far away to board and adjust the lines from the deck. Also too dangerous.
Seal Up Openings– We use shrink wrap tape to seal any openings to avoid water intrusion. This includes the companionway opening, hatches, ports, windows and our dorade vents. We remove the dorado covers and stow below.
Remove Any Flags or Pennants– We learned this lesson the hard way the first time we left our Bahamian courtesy flag up and it shredded. Remove and stow below.
Inside the Boat- Stow everything as if you will have a rough passage. At a dock set up like ours, we saw video footage of MAHI during Hurricane Matthew and the side to side roll was very extreme. Anything that can fly open you should tape shut.
Document Your Storm Prep! Remember to photograph or video document your vessel inside and out for insurance purposes. You want to especially show that your preparation adhered to your named storm plan. This evidence will become important if you later need to file a claim.
Hope this is helpful to newer boaters and cruisers. If you are in the path of the storm, prepare early! It always takes twice as long as you think it does. Stay Safe!