This article first appeared on SailNet's companion website Boatscape(www.boatscape.com).
If you're like me, you cringe when you hear the words "hurricane season." Actually, I've been pretty lucky during hurricanes—knock on wood. Only the first week I owned Snapper Blue
did we have a hurricane hit and cause me any damage. She was on a borrowed mooring in Newport Harbor and broke off that mooring and went partway across the harbor before the two anchors I had down took hold. The only damage to the boat was a bent martingale and a damaged caprail. And boy, it must have been some force on those anchors, because I had to use the windlass and the engine to get the plow back aboard.
My brother and I had another boat in the water just across the harbor, and that boat, too, withstood the storm with no damage at all. That was good, because she had no insurance at the time. The surveyor had submitted his report and the insurance company had refused coverage for something the surveyor had mistakenly identified as rot. (It’s a long story, that you don’t want to hear about now.) Anyway, by the time we had done what the insurance company had required to assure them of the soundness of the area in question, a hurricane watch had been posted and they would not issue coverage. We were lucky.
I guess my good fortune since then has been due to the diligence of building a strong mooring, keeping that mooring up to snuff each year, paying attention to the weather forecasts, and taking the proper precautions to strip and hunker down the boat when even the slightest hint of a storm is forecast. It takes extra time, but then Snapper Blue is not a boat you can just call up and order from the factory, either. She has been around for 53 years, and I plan to keep her around for another 53, at least.
I noted that keeping an ear tuned to the weather forecasts is an important part of hurricane preparedness. I recall one night, before I was married even, which tells me how long ago this event happened (10-plus years). We were having dinner at my future in-laws when someone mentioned, or it came over the weather, that a big storm was coming. I forget now whether it was a gale warning or not. Regardless, my boat was at a dock for the first and only time since I have owned her, and I did not know about this impending storm. By the time I got to the marina, the winds were already up and I fought to get lines and fenders out. By the time the night was over, I had every line out of the locker and strung somewhere, and the engine in full reverse to keep her off the dock. What a night! At one point I was even flung out of the bunk.
But that's not what I wanted to talk about here. The other night, as I was fading off into dreamland, I thought I heard out of one ear those dreadful words—2001 hurricane season.
"Can it be? I thought. Did I already hear weather forecasters talking about the hurricane season?" Well, I guess, when I think about it, it's time to start thinking about storms, although I still have a way to go to get the boat even launched this season. After all, we're nearly through the spring, and June 1 marks the start of the dreaded season.
But what I do remember? Did the forecaster say this was going to be a "less active" season than the past few, with 11 named storms and 7 hurricanes? A good resource for checking hurricane updates (because they offer a good depth of information and research reports) is the National Weather Service’s website at (www.nws.noaa.gov/er/box/).
Not to belabor the point, the moral of the story here is to prepare yourself for the worst well in advance. Make sure your mooring is checked for its integrity before the season starts and make sure you keep an eye on the rope pennants, that they don't wear dangerously during the season. If you have your boat at a dock, be sure you have a place to go if and when a storm heads your way. Check with your insurance agent as well, to see what sort of action you should take when a storm is imminent. Some underwriters will want you to haul the boat, some won't.
Finally, keep an eye and ear out for impending storms! And when you do hear that a storm is coming, be sure to take prudent action to secure your boat early. Don't wait 'til the last minute when you could risk your own safety to get to and from the boat, as well as the safety of others who might have to rescue you from trouble. You don't want to lose your valued possession, but neither do you want to lose your life.
Jim Wolstenholme was formerly the content editor at Boatscape
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