Hurricane info

Hurricane covering entire Bahamas Contact me.

This page updated: October 2012

General Info
Preparing Boat
Storing boat on the hard for hurricane season

General Info

How Stuff Works's "How Hurricanes Work"
SailNet - Ralph Doolin's "Hurricane Warning"
Eric Holweg's "Mariner's Guide for Hurricane Awareness in the North Atlantic Basin" (1.3 MB PDF file)
SailNet - Michael Carr's "The Science of Hurricanes"
StormCarib's "A practical guide to hurricane tracking and plotting"

NOAA's "Historical Hurricane Tracks"
(slow and hard to use, but has the potential to be interesting. Try setting "Ocean Basin" to "Caribbean Sea", and in "Advanced Filters" un-check all but Cat 4+5 and use Shift key to select maybe 10 years then click Apply button)

Stay south and/or west of Grenada to miss all hurricanes ?

Mel Neale says it is best to stay in USA during hurricane season, because the USA has the best support system (EMS, FEMA, etc) if you get clobbered.

Seems first Atlantic hurricane activity each year usually occurs about August 1.
But anything can happen: in mid-May 2005, hurricane Adriane came from the Pacific, across Honduras, and was predicted to go to the Bahamas (but it dissipated after Honduras). Then we had two Atlantic hurricanes in mid-July.

Locus of hurricane formation changes during the season. May/June: near Mexico or in Gulf of Mexico. Main part of season: off west Africa. By late October or so: in SW Caribbean.

Preparing Boat

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Hurricane Dockside Preparation"
David Pascoe's "Safe Harbor (Lessons learned from recent hurricanes ...)"
Charles E. Kanter's "How to create an instant hurricane mooring"
SailNet - Joy Smith's "Hurricane Watch"
BoatSafe's "Hurricane Preparation Checklist"
Chris Caswell's "Hurricane Prep"
Nevada Lane's "Hurricane preparation plans crucial"
Don Street's "Hurricane Preparations"
SailNet - Gene J. Parola's "Hurricane Anchoring"
SailNet - Gene J. Parola's "Hurricane Anchoring, Part Two"
Buyrope's "How to Protect Your Boat During a Hurricane - Ultimate List of Resources"
City of Corpus Christi's "Hurricane Checklist for Boaters"
Callipygia's "Hurricane Preparedness"
Two small articles in 9/2005 issue of Sail magazine
See "Before/after anchoring through heavy weather" part of Specific Situations section of my Lists for Operating a Boat page

Ways to deal with a hurricane:
  • Sail out of the way (but hurricanes are huge and move fast and unpredictably; what if engine fails or sails rip; if you're caught in open water, you will disappear from the face of the Earth).

  • Haul out in a boatyard (but everyone may want to haul out at the same time, false alarms can be expensive, may be lots of flying debris, one boat falling over can cause domino effect, jack stands may cause too much pressure on few areas of hull, and you might get stuck there after the storm by other boats or damage to yard facilities).

  • Tie up in a marina (but marina may require insurance, spaces may be taken, your boat may be damaged by pilings and docks, boat won't lie bow to wind, most marinas want boats out to protect the marina from the boats, you could get damaged by other boats, and you could get stuck there after the storm by sunken boats or docks).

  • Moor or anchor in a sheltered harbor (but may be crowded, or your boat may be damaged by others).

  • Tie up in a mangrove swamp or creek or something (but help is far away, your boat may be damaged by debris, boat may not lie bow to wind).

Stay on the boat, or leave it:
Staying aboard is bad:
  • You could die.

Leaving is bad:
  • You'd have to find somewhere safe to stow the dinghy ashore.

  • You'd have to find somewhere to stay ashore, and shelters are bare-bones.

  • You'd be at the mercy of local authorities to let you out of the shelter and back to your boat.

  • If you stayed aboard, you could fix some problems during the hurricane (chafing, snagged anchor rodes, loose lashings, putting out fenders if another boat is dragging onto you, etc.

  • If you stayed aboard, you could prevent theft after the storm.

From Michael Toledano:
I've had sailboats for the past twenty years in Florida and been scared a few times but so far been pretty lucky - no hurricane experiences yet. When i first had my boat in key largo i was threatened by a hurricane - floyd i think - and I took my boat up into the mangroves as far up as I dared. I had plenty of company from other boaters doing the same thing. All around south Florida, including the west coast, there are a number of canals and rivers you can go up into to get away from the ocean. I don't know how safe they would be in an actual hurricane strike but I'm sure I would be better off than staying in an open roadstead or a marina. And with the amount of advance warning you get today I think you would have plenty of time to do this if you kept your boat within sailing/motoring distance of a convenient canal.

The fact is that south Florida has only been hit once in the twenty years I've been here with a hurricane. U know that doesn't mean it won't happen tomorrow but ...

I'm now at a dock on a canal near fort lauderdale only a mile from the ocean. I think if it got hit by a direct strike I would probably lose the boat. Fortunately its an old day-sailer of little value which I only intend to keep for another year or so and the loss of it would not affect me in any way financially. But if it were my cruising home I think I would always be alert during hurricane season and make sure I was never more than a day or two sail/motor from a hurricane hole.

From Gary Elder:
Considering that I lived almost my entire life in earthquake country, I am very safety conscious and like to plan ahead for these kinds of events. My wife and I were one of the few couples in the Bay Area who actually had an earthquake plan in effect when the Loma Prieta quake happened ... It was a good plan that did what it was intended to do. We try to be prepared here, as well.

My take on most of the hurricane articles that I've read is that many of them seem to have been written with 20-20 hindsight.

Sailing out of harm's way might work if you are in the middle of the ocean, many miles from the storm, and know what course it will take. Additionally, a fast boat and some good luck would help. Consider the geometry of two vessels at sea, their course and speed, closing rates and such. One vessel is your boat doing 5 or 6 knots, the other vessel is the storm doing anything from 0 to 15 knots on an erratic course that no one can predict. Can you really dodge it safely?

The first day after hurricane Andrew that the Miami airport was open I flew there, and on the way to the car rental area I passed by several boat yards where there were quite a few boats perched nicely on their jack stands. Only a few had been blown over. Realistically, it may be very difficult to find a boat yard with any interest in hauling out a boat in the face of an oncoming hurricane. It is also expensive.

If you tie up in a marina, which is what most people do, the chances of serious damage, even sinking are great. Docklines break, docks break, someone's boat gets blown onto yours ... It goes on and on. You have probably seen photos of this sort of thing.

I'm not sure what a "sheltered harbor" is unless it is a marina.

Tying to the mangroves is a good plan, almost always damages the boat (gelcoat scratches and such), but at least you don't lose the boat. Sometimes getting a boat out of the mangroves after a hurricane is a major project. The act of securing a boat in the mangroves can be very demanding physically, and requires lots of line. Additionally, it needs to be done early, because you will need to dinghy ashore to a safe haven in relatively quiet conditions.

My thoughts on this go something like this: NEVER EVER consider staying on your boat if it looks like a hurricane is coming. Most sailors have no idea how powerful high winds really are. The next time you are a passenger in a car traveling at 75mph, put your head and shoulders out the window and you will get a hint of what a baby hurricane feels like. You wouldn't do it, would you ? You probably think it is foolish, even dangerous. Of course it is dangerous ... Just like a hurricane.

What that all means is simple. Pay the insurance premiums and evacuate to a safe location.

The issue of timing when to secure the boat for a hurricane is a problem. It's easy to say that you will just take the boat to the mangroves or the boat yard or wherever. It's a different matter to actually do it, because if you do it too soon the storm may turn towards you, or it may go away. If you wait until you KNOW it's coming, it is probably too late.

In my case, for my 30,000 lb boat, I stay at the dock for winds up to about 50mph. We had one of those last summer, and getting the anchors up afterwards was a real chore. If the forecast is for winds from about 45-60mph, I consider anchoring out, in a very small bay. For that, I have five anchors, one of them is two sizes oversize. If it looks like a hurricane is really coming, I'm planning to head for the mangroves. I have not had to do that yet, but if it happens timing will be a problem because if the weather is already kicking up, it is probably too late to return in the dinghy, and I will not stay on the boat.

The bottom line is difficult for some to accept, but very simple. Pay the insurance premiums and evacuate to a safe location. After all, the boat is just stuff.

More from Gary Elder:
Here is some unsolicited Hurricane info that you can have some fun with. Because the information source may change each year, it may not be suitable for your web page. It can be an interesting exercise, if you play fair and don't cheat.

You can 'pretend' that you are located anywhere you choose with a hurricane approaching, and you need to watch it's progress so that you can plan what, if anything you need to do to protect your boat and your life. All this is done in real time. Using hind sight is cheating. Once you pick a starting point or get 'underway', you can't go back and say "Oh, but if I would have done that instead, it would have been ok."

Pick a location; the majority seem to think that Marathon is the best place for you to start. So for this exercise consider Marathon your home anchorage. In real time (8/6/2000) Hurricane Alberto is approaching from the east, and will be here (or somewhere) in several days.

You need to decide, in real time with information available now, what to do, if anything. Your boat will probably sail at about 4 - 6 knots average, and you know that the Keys get hammered when a hurricane passes close-by.

So here you sit, in the anchorage at Marathon, watching Alberto approaching. If, on Tuesday you decide to get underway, you must use information that is available on Tuesday. Don't cheat and use information that is not available until Wednesday. So, on Tuesday plot your course and go for it, if you choose to. Then on Wednesday plot your new position along with Alberto's to see how you are doing. Each day you can modify your plan, but you can't use tomorrow's information to do it. No hind sight allowed. Continue this procedure each day until the storm is no longer a threat. This can be a very enlightening experience. If you are like many people, you will wait to make a decision until it is too late to make a run for it, or you will find yourself constantly running away when it is not necessary.

Obviously, you can run several different 'plans' simultaneously, and you can use several 'home locations' as well. And, of course there will be other storms to look at. Just don't cheat.

More from Gary Elder:
> Would I have to go to the mainland to find a good swamp [to tie up in] ?

Many people think that The Keys have some very good 'holes', but they are very close to lots of open water (big waves) and tend to get very crowded (boats cause major damage to other boats) during a storm.

Just north of Cape Sable is Little Shark River, look for it just north of Flamingo on your map. You can take a 5ft draft boat about 10 NM inland, away from the big waves. Little Shark River is only about 45 NM due north of Marathon, much of the trip in water 6 to 6 1/2 ft deep. The problem this time of year is that it is infested with mosquitoes that are big enough to eat your boat, then use you as a toothpick! ... And it is NOT a good choice because it is so far from civilization that it is almost impossible to get to safety ashore after you secure the boat, and staying aboard in a hurricane should never be considered an option. This place is miles of open water from any town where you could land a dinghy and get into a car to drive to shelter.

... For a major storm that I knew was heading for me in Marathon, I would consider the Ten Thousand Islands just north of Little Shark. A question to answer is, how many times in a summer are you willing to take such drastic measures?

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
Hurricane prep:

As much as any of us prepares, there is still a good deal of luck involved -- direction of wind, time of high tide, if your neighbor breaks loose.

1. If you can, head up river and find a well protected hidy hole.

2. Usually anchor gear doesn't fail, lines do. I'd be buying as many of those Davis ballistic nylon, velcro closed line wraps as I could and layer them on.

3. Strip off all the windage you can -- sails, dodgers, etc.

4. There are a lot of irrational emotions surrounding boats. I'd not get carried away with them. A lot of people who have never been through a major storm are carried away by the ideal of the heroism of staying with the boat. The reality of weathering a major storm aboard is that it's dangerous and miserable. Frankly, I can always make enough money to buy another boat -- if I'm alive. Aint no boat worth my life.

Besides, think about the number of boats in the area. Most of the marinas will probably make everyone leave to find shelter elsewhere. The good hidey holes will only hold a few boats, so most owners will abandon their boats on an old anchor or two and head for high ground. No matter your good intentions, your love for your boat or will of iron, you can't fight off three or four entangled boats floating down on you in 100-knot winds.

From Bryan Genez on World-Cruising mailing list:
... Marinas in these parts do not build slips with any more beam than needed to fit a boat. That's OK with our typical 1-2 foot tidal range. It's impossible to rig lines for boats in a slip to allow for a greater range. As a result, boats left in slips are often seriously damaged in a hurricane. My slip, rented from the home owner where it's located, is 20 feet wide. That allows me to rig proper spring lines. If I were in a narrower slip, I would have taken the boat out and anchored. ...

From Bernard Chalecki:
... I observed marinas that were just off the "protected" intercoastal waterway.

It became clear that most fixed docks are held together by gravity only. I had close looks at several exploded waterway marinas. Some boats broke free and smashed into the shoreline riprap and some quietly sank tied up to their pilings.

Seems the dock deck boards are nailed down onto stringers. When even a mild surge comes in, the wave action and water pressure lifts the boards up and off they go; floating battering rams with big spikes sticking out. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

Older docks suffer nail rot and come apart with a sneeze but with the nails rotted off. New docks take several seconds longer to self-destruct and shed boards with bright strong spikes protruding.

I noticed battered and sunk boats still tied to massive dock cleats bolted strongly to 2 by 8's that were fastened (before the storm) to dock stringers using several 10 penny nails. A joke.

I don't recall seeing any deck boards lag bolted to stringers, anywhere.

I guess the recommendation is to avoid the area near fixed docks even though dock decking is new and the pilings are sturdy.

From Robb Worthington on The Live-Aboard List:
1. Don't even consider staying on the boat, even if it is "only" category 3. Karen was Category 2 and I got "stuck" on the boat at the mooring. Will never do that again! (On the other hand, some friends saved their Hans Christian by sitting at anchor with engine pushing against the wind to reduce strain on the anchors. They were thus prepared when a much larger steel boat barrelled down on them out of the spray at 30 knots or more. They responded by going full ahead and hard over, it missed them by 3 feet and crushed the boat behind them. The winds were only about 70 to 80 knots at the time. They did not stay on the boat for Fabian.) If you go on deck in 130 knots of wind to try to resecure a failing mooring line, there is a high likelihood that you will not be effective or will die in the attempt. We had four die here in Fabian when they were washed into the water in Grotto Bay.

2. Try to get out of the marina and into a good hole. Most every one here has storm moorings. Marina's and the boats in them get trashed if there is any surge.

3. Even a good storm mooring may not be sufficient. 10 hours of 130 mph winds with gusts to 170 mph will chafe through just about anything. I'm in the process of building new bridles which almost chafed through in Fabian. All-chain is a good idea but if struck by another boat, likely, or you have another boat drag its mooring across your chain it won't hold. (This happened to the boat next to me. The chain stretched and snapped when she was hit by another boat. Many others came off due to chafe, my friend's large Hatteras is in the mangroves high and dry after the fairleads for the bridle ripped out and the bridles chafed through on the hull.) Beef up your chafing gear, distribute the load to as many cleats as possible, try avoid the possibility of shock-loading any cleats. I have the initial strain taken up by a very stretchy bridle running from the midships cleats through the anchor roller to the mooring chain. As this stretches the strain comes onto the main bridles on the foredeck. After about 50 knots all the stretch is taken out of the primary bridle and the boat is effectively secured on four cleats. The primary bridle continues to function as a shock-absorber in the chop and surge.

4. Do what you can to reduce the possibility of sailing on the mooring. Remove everything above decks, even anchors. One study recommended a tiny storm sail at the stern to keep her pointed into the wind.

5. Lock down all lazarettes and hatches as if going to sea. My boat got blown flat in Fabian; had the lazarettes come open, I believe she would have gone down.

6. Secure everything below as if going to sea. If the anchor that you removed from the deck goes flying around down below it could hole your boat, glug glug. Keep the weight low.

7. Find a strong building well away from the coast to wait it out.

From John on trimaran "Buddy":
A multi-hull can go airborne in a hurricane; you have to tie the boat down to mangroves to prevent this.

When picking a "hurricane hole": look around to see how many marinas or how big a local fleet there is in the area. When a hurricane approaches, the marinas will empty and all of the boats will end up in the harbor or hole that you planned to be in. You don't want to be there with a hundred other boats that rarely anchor out, and whose owners care more about securing their houses than their boats.

My experience:
The marinas may not empty out. I've seen cases where a lot of the owners in the marina simply defy the marina's order to leave. And many of the owners may be a long distance away, or busy securing their home or business, and just choose to ignore the boat.

But charter fleets, fishing fleets, and a zillion small boats from small docks up canals may suddenly appear in the bay or cove you intended to move to.

From 11/15/2004 issue of Practical Sailor:
Staying on a mooring is a bad idea; move the boat to a safer area. If you're going to stay on the mooring, inspect the underwater parts carefully, put out anchors, add redundant lines to the mooring, and know that mushroom or dead-weight moorings are easily dragged.

From article by Vincent Daniello in 6/2010 issue of Yachting magazine:
  • All storms need to be given the same weight. The "little" ones can carry an unexpected wallop. (Geography may funnel storm surge to increase it, the storm may stall nearby, it may carry thunderstorms or tornadoes with it, etc.)

  • Hurricane preparation must be organized in advance, so it's simple and quick. There are more important considerations, such as family, when a storm threatens.

  • Local topography, marina construction, and just plain luck all affect storm survivability.

From letter by Bruce Van Sant in 2/2005 issue of Southwinds magazine:
  • Run early to your pre-planned burrow.

  • Lash onto unmovable friendly objects with lots of buffering and chafing gear.

  • Splay all anchors into whatever water to which you remain exposed.


My experience with hurricane Charley 8/2004 in Fort Myers Beach FL:
I had planned to leave Fort Myers Beach (Matanzas Pass) and go up the Caloosahatchee River if a hurricane approached, to get away from the coast and get out of the crowded harbor where boats could drag into me.

I ended up staying put in the harbor. Fortunately, the worst of the hurricane missed us by 15 miles, passing north of us. Still, it was very rough and scary, and several boats in our harbor were totally destroyed. I came through without a scratch.

I didn't leave the harbor because:
  • By the time the prediction changed from "hitting Tarpon Springs" to "hitting Fort Myers Beach", it was too late to leave.

  • I had had two anchors down solidly for 2 months, in shallow water with good holding.

  • My immediate neighbor boats seemed pretty responsible; we moved one that wasn't.

  • I was close to the "better" side of the harbor: the strongest winds would put me upwind of most other boats.

  • I had access to friends and facilities and EMS in Ft Myers Beach; if I ended up in the middle of nowhere up the river, I wouldn't.

  • One of my friends needed a lot of my help to get ready for the storm.

  • The predicted path of the hurricane became "right up the Caloosahatchee River" ! It actually went up the next "river" 10 miles to the north, Charlotte Harbor.

  • The predicted strength went from category 1 to category 4 in a matter of hours, too late to change plans. The weather service should have done a better job on this facet of the prediction.

  • The statuses of the opening bridge at Sanibel Causeway, and the locks on the river, weren't clear (and the USCG had no info !). I could have been roadblocked by any of them, unless I had left a day earlier (before the storm track and strength were upgraded).

  • Inertia; it took less effort to stay than to go.

I had planned to get off the boat for large storms (category 3 and above). I didn't leave the boat because:
  • I had nowhere safe to leave the dinghy if I dinghied ashore.

  • I would have been at the mercy of the authorities; they would have evacuated me by bus, and kept me away for days after the storm. (They kept land residents away for so long that the police ended up Tasering one irate resident at a checkpoint.)

  • I could fix problems on the boat if I stayed on the boat. As it happened, my rudder tangled on my third anchor rode a few hours before the storm, my dinghy needed more lashings in the middle of the storm, and I needed to trim my third anchor rode to counteract slight dragging on the primary anchor. I was there to fix the problems. (But let there be no doubt: I couldn't have fixed a serious anchor-dragging problem in the middle of the storm; conditions were inhuman.)

  • Inertia; it took less effort to stay than to go.

I did a good job of preparing for the hurricane:
  • I had good ground tackle (bought 3 years earlier). Some other people had crap (some old, some new), and some of them paid for it.

  • I had backing plates on my bow cleats (added 2 years earlier). As built, the boat didn't have backing plates on the cleats.

  • I took just about everything off deck, including roller-furled sails. Many people left roller-furled sails or bagged sails on deck, and some paid for it. (On the other hand, one of my friends left his furled jib, soft dodger, exposed solar panel, and satellite dish up on deck, and got away with it.) Putting extra wraps or lashings on furled sails often did not save them; any little edge peeled up by the wind was fatal to them. People are lucky they didn't lose the mast or the boat when the sail started coming open.

  • I put out a third anchor; some people didn't bother, or didn't have a third anchor. (I lent my fourth anchor, a Fisherman, to someone else.)

Some surprises:
  • Storm surge current kept us sideways to the strongest wind, making boats roll ferociously.

  • The VHF gave useless information: USCG announcements focused on bridge closings and harbor rules, and the weather channels never mentioned the predicted path and arrival time and land-speed of the storm.

  • I didn't see any chafe on the rope anchor rodes on any boat ! I always had the impression those ropes would be sawed through in no time. The rope rode on my third anchor went across a metal rounded-corner of my anchor windlass, and I was sure it would chafe, but no.

  • Lots of unattended semi-derelict small boats did just fine in the storm; some dragged. I guess the ones you see in the harbor are veterans of many storms, so their anchors have set well. Maybe they'll survive until barnacles cut their anchor rodes or rainwater fills them up.

A message I posted after the storm:

My preparation:

- Just about everything off the deck, including roller-furled sails. (Many people left them up !)

- I had a CQR 45 and a Danforth 43 down, each on 100 feet of heavy chain, in 6 feet of water at low tide, in a muddy bottom with great holding. I added a CQR 35 on 10 feet of chain and 100+ feet of 5/8 rope, in the direction of expected worst wind.

- Two of us relocated a small sailboat whose owner had come in and dumped it too close to us a day before the storm. He ignored our protests as he dumped it. His boat survived just fine where we put it.

Damages to other boats:

- One large old powerboat dragged even before the main part of the storm arrived, hit shore, was totally destroyed. There were people on board (they survived), and at least one other boat rafted to it (I think).

- Several boats sank at or near docks. I'm told docks inside some marinas were going up and down 4 or 5 feet, causing lots of damage to boat hulls.

- One boat dragged into another and chewed a nasty hole through the hull/deck joint near the bow, letting water in. (Ironically, the two boats were owned by friends, and they had left the harbor and gone to a cove in the mangroves, to be away from all the boats in harbor that might drag into them.)

- Several roller-furled jibs left up were shredded. The owners were lucky they didn't lose mast or boat; if the jib had opened fully (it shredded before it could do that), the mast or boat would have been lost. Extra lashings around a furled sail are not good enough; take the sail down. The biggest danger to my boat during the storm was my friend's nearby boat: his jib was flogging and sounding like a helicopter as it destroyed itself, and making his anchors drag a bit.

- Some other people put out no additional anchors, left roller-furled sails and soft dodgers up, and came through just fine. Go figure.

My experience with hurricane Frances 9/2004 in Fort Myers Beach FL:
  • The hurricane hit the east coast of Florida, but stretched across the state (storm 300 miles wide; state 120 miles wide), and the eye could have transited the state from one coast to the other. So, even with the boat on the west coast, you have to keep a watch on hurricanes on the east coast.

  • I was very careful to make sure my engine was working, but didn't realize until the last minute that my prop was so fouled that the boat wouldn't move. Clean the prop !

  • I marvel at how little ground tackle many people have: one barely-adequate anchor, a second too-small anchor, and that's all. Pathetic in a hurricane. Even in normal conditions, what would they do if their primary got stuck and they couldn't raise it ? No spares.

  • If at all possible, don't leave a dinghy in the water. My friend's inflatable got swamped, and nothing could be done with it until the storm was over. The dinghy may chafe through the painter, or the painter may chafe through the bow tube.

  • If you're going to leave your boat, put out all your fenders. My friend didn't, and a boat dragged into his and chewed off the rubrail. If he'd stayed aboard, he could have put out fenders at the time and avoided most of the damage.

  • Again, I was glad I stayed on the boat and could adjust anchor rodes during the storm; it was necessary.

  • I should have learned from the previous hurricane: the same places that leaked then, leaked again. Should have done some caulking.

From Bud Chalecki:
I live on the upper Chesapeake, Sassafras River. I own a Vector 39. I keep it in FL, Ft. Lauderdale, off of Los Olas behind a condo, and I worry about storms.

When Isabel hit last year [2003], I drove like a madman down to the boat with giant fenders, rope and 60- to 120-pound anchors. Isabel didn't hit FL so I drove like a madman back to MD and was in NC when the storm was hitting the Outer Banks.

Stopped for gas just as the station was closing at noonish. They said the last hurricane hit and knocked out power for three weeks.

1. No power; no gas and no food.

Felt strong desire to get the hell out of there, otherwise I might be stuck for a long time.

Storm chased me up to Annapolis where they had just closed the Bay bridge because of 70+ winds.

Drove up to Baltimore and just crossed the bridge before it was closed due to winds. Other than these high winds, cloud cover was spotty with a few rain drops.

Got home, everything pretty good so I collapsed and went to sleep. Woke up next day with huge tree limbs down, just missed my truck by inches.

2. Don't park near trees, stay away from sh*t that can fly around. Keep boat away from buildings and sh*t and stay on it. You are not safe on land unless you are well protected from projectiles.

3. Stay away from sand. Sand will sand blast your boat, even a mile away.

4. Have extra anchors and rode on deck, well tied down.

5. Take off sails like roller furling; otherwise tie very very securely.

6. Reduce windage.

7. Stay far away from all other boats, they can only hurt you.

8. Sassafras River rose at least 8 feet, all power meters under water.

9. You will not stay shallow for long, you are a good candidate for surge.

10. With surge, you will now get waves because water is no longer shallow.

11. Use swim mask in high wind and rain when checking for chafe or letting out rode.

12. Pick a soft spot to land downwind just in case you need to bailout or rode breaks.

13. All in all, a river, like the Sassafras, is a good place to be in a storm. Just stay away from other boats and figure they are going to drift down on you.

14. Use your own ground tackle, not some cheesy mooring that can break or drag like a mushroom anchor.

15. Don't underestimate the problems caused by surge. I don't think the wind is the problem unless stuff is flying around, but waves cause extra stress to yank the anchor out and contribute to chafe. The surge changes your anchor scope. My long-time live-aboard neighbors pull up stakes and head for the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, or tie their boats between the canal shore with loops of chain shackled to line. The chain loops are placed around trees, bollards, pilings (chain sinks to the bottom so the lever arm is reduced on the piling; chain loops counter chafe). If necessary, after the wind tames and the surge comes, the chains can ride up on the pilings. Stay away from floating docks and slips and don't tie to a piling, use chain loops.

I don't like the idea of being in a bay during a storm too much, you want to be far inland on a muddy river with soft banks away from buildings and big trees and other boats.

From John Dunsmoor:
My personal experience would probably have me staying on the vessel, unless the storm seemed unsurvivable. Having stayed on board a number of times and seen the aftermath, it is clear that vessels do better when attended, than when they are not. Simple things like line chafe, tangled lines, plugged scuppers can easily sink a boat. And tending to these things just is not that difficult, up to about 130 knots or so. At 170 knots, you can do nothing; just going outside could spell your death. ...


I have been on deck with 90 knots measured with an anemometer, and you had to hang on tight and crawl on your hands and knees. I have attempted to move a dinghy, which sank in the process from shore to the boat, following a line that was strung between the deck and a tree, in 60 knots of wind. The moisture in the air feels like sand at 90 knots. We took gusts at over 120 knots, but by that time I was in my bunk with a lifevest and harness on, dive mask, snorkel and fins at the ready, in case I had to make it to shore. To save the boat I am not willing to die, but I am willing to ride the boat to the beach if need be. ...

I have also seen a crewmate get popped on the forehead by a piece of insignificant cloth and it cut him like a knife. This is probably the most dangerous element, ranking right up there with just losing one's balance. Gary Green slipped in bad weather and hit his head on the anchor winch, and it should have killed him. ...

Having unattended vessels drag down on you is a serious problem, but having been there and seen it in action, only once did it result in a boat going to the beach that was attended and was hit. They just got tangled up and there just wasn't enough time to get untangled. Most of the time it is a bang, bang and I once cut the rode of the boat that attacked us. It did not sink, just went out to sea, and they found it three days later. The best bet when sharing an anchorage is to get in early and secured and then help those that come in after. This is a way to both protect your space and make sure they are properly secured. Only once was the offer to help rejected. The boat was left unattended and sank on its mooring due to filling up with rainwater.

From Ron Rogers on Liveaboard list 8/2011:
... Although a few things contributed to our successfully getting through Irene, the element of luck looms large.

We were trapped onboard owing to poor judgment and/or bad luck. The eye of the storm was due on Saturday at 1400, but it arrived much sooner. The nearby city of Washington NC had issued a curfew warning for 2200 Friday night while the county of Beaufort (not the city) posted a curfew of 1200 Saturday. We had planned to get off the boat NLT 1630 on Friday and worked to strip the exterior of the boat of potential flying objects and rearrange lines to cope with the anticipated for a surge of up to 13 feet of water.

In fact, 1630 was 30 minutes too late. Water was lapping at the dock at 1600 with little wind and no waves. By 1630, there was 18 to 24 inches of water over the dock with moderate winds pushing small waves. The boarding ramp was swimming in the waves while still tethered to the boat and there was no way that I could get George ashore without his swimming. In that situation, I might have lost control over him so we were stuck. So, that's what I did wrong and that's a lesson learned: storm forecasts might not accurately reflect your micro-location's conditions. [As a side note; 5 feet of surge water disappeared in under 1 hour after the eye had passed us.]


Yandina's "Surviving Hugo"
Picture of sailboats damaged in Grenada by hurricane Ivan 2004

My experience in west Florida 2004:
  • VHF WX information isn't very useful: doesn't tell you groundspeed or expected path of hurricane.

  • Prediction for hurricane below west Cuba is not very accurate; won't get accurate prediction until it is near Key West (which is too late).

  • Bridges will stop opening either when wind gets to 35 knots, or when authorities decide car-evacuation must get priority.

  • You may not be able to go ashore for days afterward, as authorities clean up before letting people back to their houses.

  • Fuel may not be available for days afterward, if electricity is down or fuel docks and gas stations are damaged.

  • It is surprising how many people with roller-furling jibs didn't bother to take them down. Some got away with it, but some had their sails shredded when the wind opened the edges. They were lucky their masts didn't come down.

  • If you're going to leave your boat, put out all your fenders, on the forward quarters and amidships.

  • Don't calculate the wind directions ahead of time and put anchors out only in those directions; the wind may not behave as you predict, and currents are another variable.

  • Storm surge may cause currents that hold you sideways to the wind during the storm; very nasty.

Storing boat on the hard for hurricane season

From Melissa / Vinga on Cruising World message board:
Re: Thinking about storing boat on the hard for hurricane season:

I left her on the hard for six months in Nanny Cay on Tortola.

Everything rusted, corroded, quit working and even with a solar vent, the whole boat moulded black inside.

Get someone to come air out and check the boat every DAY! Without help, my boatyard bill would have been 20k to get her to where she is now, sort of seaworthy and liveable again.

A whole-boat cover might have helped with the heat, which must've been extreme inside. The Spectra watermaker is still showing me hairline cracks, seven so far. I'm sure it's from getting too hot.

Sorry for the bad news, but this was my experience. Never again! I'll rent the poor boat to nearly anyone to live aboard rather let her sit on the hard again!

From article by Hugo du Plessis in 5/2006 issue of Caribbean Compass magazine:
Make sure the boatyard doesn't put your boat on top of a termite nest: they will climb the hull and eat every piece of wood aboard, maybe except for teak and marine plywood. ... Some nests are visible above ground, but sometimes termites live deep underground. Some outposts are high up in trees, and some nests are under tree roots. Do not leave a boat near a tree.

From Jerald King on Cruising World message board:
Re: Thinking about storing boat on the hard for hurricane season:

The Sea of Cortez has been hit by three serious hurricanes during the last two years. Many boats stored on the hard were badly damaged. (I was at anchor 100 to 300 miles NW of La Paz.) Here are a couple of observations based on long discussions with their owners as they repaired the damage:

- Most insurance contracts have a clause in them that states that the insurance is void if ANY canvas is left attached to the exterior of the boat when it is left unattended for some length of time (mine is 14 days). Because of this clause, dozens of boats in La Paz found they could collect no insurance after the storms. (I know of only three boats in La Paz that collected ANY insurance money).

- Most insurance companies have a clause that says they will only insure boats on the hard when the jackstand bases are placed on concrete or blacktop surfaces.

- Most insurance companies have a clause that says they will only insure boats when the jackstands are tied together with chains.

In La Paz, before Hurricane Marty had entirely departed, there was an insurance adjustor touring the area with a video camera filming all the damaged boats. He then "sold" the film to the insurance companies, who used the pictures to prove they did not have to pay because the boats violated one or more of the clauses listed above.

- Many boats on the hard were damaged when nearby boats blew over. You can do everything right, but if your neighbor screws up you might be injured. You have little or no control over this problem.

- I know of at least one boat that blew off their jackstands and seriously damaged the adjacent boat which otherwise had done everything correctly. The 2nd boat was unable to collect damages from the boat that blew over because of some obscure insurance regulation. This was not a Mexican problem - it was a US boat hit by a Canadian boat with Canadian insurance.

- Several boats suffered substantial interior damage when their interiors were floated. The boats were sitting bow down on the jackstands. Their cockpit scuppers filled with blowing debris (palm fronds, plastic). The cockpits filled with water (I was 100 miles NW of La Paz and received 20" of rain in 6 hours) and that water then drained through the companionway into the interior.

- One boat blew off their jackstands because they had put "waxed paper" between the jackstand pads and the boat to protect the new bottom paint. The wax paper was slippery.

- Several boats blew over when the hard-packed sand under their jackstands washed away.

- In La Paz after Hurricane Juliett, the ONLY crane operator was charging $2,000 (US) per boat to pick up the 20 or so boats that blew off their jackstands.

[7/2004] I just received notification from my insurance company (USF) that they WILL NOT provide any insurance coverage for boats left unattended in the water for more than 20 days in the area from 10 North to 31 North during the period August 1 to November 1. This cancellation of coverage is for boats at a DOCK, MARINA or MOORING (to quote the letter I received).

This discontinuation of insurance applies to the Caribbean as well as the Sea of Cortez.

From articles in 9/2005 issue of Sail magazine:
If keeping boat on the hard:
- Each jackstand must be chained to the stand across from it.
- If not on hard pavement, put large plywood pad under each foot of each jackstand.
- Don't scrimp on the number of jackstands; the more the better.
- Position jackstands where the bulkheads are.
- If surface is not paved, consider driving sand-screws in and running nylon straps to the boat.
- Provide a way for rainwater to drain out of the cabin if it gets filled.

- Prepare early; if you're going to move, move early.
- Get away from hard things: docks, rocks, seawalls, etc.
- Use all your anchors; no point in leaving anything unused.

Stop hurricane