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  #1  
Old 11-07-2006
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hurrican protection: which is safer? in the water or on the hard?

We've brought a boat to FL and had the horrible occasion of having our insurer tell us they will not insure our boat here. We've found a couple of insurers that will cover her but with a high deduction and NO coverage during a named storm. So we thought, OK, we'll put her on the hard during Juen - Sept. Then we found that Boats US will cover her for named storms but at a very high premium. Bottom line: it is the same price to go with USAA with NO coverage for named storms and pay $2,000 to have her on the hard during the summer VS Boats US which will cover her for named storms in the water - same price.

It comes down to......is she safer on dry land during hurrican season or at the marina.

What do you all know? Thanks. Faith
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Old 11-07-2006
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Purely based on observations cruising Ft. Lauderdale waterways in a skiff in the days following Wilma, I would have to say safer on land. I saw very few boats with no damage in the water. Most had relatively minor damage but many were badly scarred or worse.

The boats that I saw with damage on the hard were badly prepared, ie sails and canvas left on, not strapped down to ground anchors, stands not chained together.

All boats are vulnerable to flying debris but the consequences to a boat on the hard will never be seawater submersion unless the storm surge is phenominally high, in which case boats in slips will be over their docks and pilings anyway.

If you can afford both...? If you love the boat dearly and don't want to be left with an insurance check than you are likely safer on the hard, properly prepared (encourage or help your neighbours to do the same).

I hope others will offer their observations as well but those are mine.
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Old 11-08-2006
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It depends. The most novel approach I saw to hurricane preparation involved putting each boat into a pit, so that it was effectively in the ground up to the waterline, and then lines led to anchor points on embedded in the ground. This is probably the safest of the on-the-hard storage methods I've seen.

On the hard is probably safer, provided that the boat stands are properly chained together. And that there are no large trees or such other things near the storage area that might blow over onto the boats.

On the water has the problems of both high winds, and usually more problematic, high storm surge and waves.

One other possibility is getting a contract to store the boat with a marina that is further north. You usually have a few days notice, so this might be an option if the refuge marina is only a day's motoring away or so. Some insurers won't insure a boat in Florida, but will insure one in Georgia. Just something to think about. You don't say where in Florida you are, so this may not be an option for you.
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Old 11-08-2006
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In general....a boat that is WELL PREPARED on the hard is safer. That's why BoatUS will pay 1/2 your haulout fee in advance of a named storm.
Given your choices, you might want to keep her in the water and enjoy her...but have a pre-arranged deal to haul in the event of a storm with a local yard.
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I think storage on the hard is safer, but no place is absolutely safe.

This year I experienced my first near hurricane, with high winds and big storm surge, and it was an eye opener. If you leave your boat in its slip and remove all your sails and double up all your lines, and spend the night at the marina adjusting your lines for the storm surge, but the boat in the next slip to windward is tied up with undersized, old, deteriorated line, then your boat is in jeopardy of that boat breaking its lines and drifting down on yours. If you store yours on the hard, and the owner of the boat next to yours didn't remove the roller furling jib, and it unfurls during the storm, the force of the wind can pull the boat off its stands and into your boat.

The lesson I learned is that it isn't enough to be satisfied with your own storm preparations for your own boat. Look at the boats all around you, and make sure they're also well prepared for the storm. If not, then I'd try to call the owner and ask him if I can remove his sails for him and put them in his cockpit locker. Unless he's a complete idiot, he'll be grateful for your offer. If he says no, then I'll tell him clearly that, if his boat breaks loose or falls off its stands and damages mine, I'll hold him responsible for my damage. If I can't contact him, I'll take it upon myself to remove his sails and stow them, or to double up his docklines.

I regard a persons boat as being sacrosanct as his home, and ordinarily never board without being invited. But when a hurricane is coming, those niceties are off. If I saw my neighbors house on fire, I'd have no qualms about entering it without permission to pull out his kids. A hurricane is just a different kind of emergency, and I have no reservations about boarding someone else's boat to adjust his lines, or double them up, or take down his sails. After the storm is over, if he's still mad about it, I'll think about apologizing, even though he really doesn't deserve one if he put my boat at risk through his neglect.
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Old 11-08-2006
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Big Blows

Well, I will mostly agree with the comments above and give my observations.

First, I rode out Gabriel with wife and kid on board (at a marina). I have also been in Charlie, Jean (or gene, I don't remember), Francis, and brushed by Ivan. Other milder tropical storms too, which were not that bad.

TO begin with: I will emphasize a point I have made many times and hope everyone will listen carefully: IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, DO NOT RIDE THE STORM OUT ON YOUR BOAT!! It is not worth it. Once it hits, you are stuck on the boat (and you WILL wish you were not before it is all over). The old adage that there is nothing you can do is not true. You can adjust your lines up and down, watch for chafe, start and run the engine... there are things you can do. But, better to do your best and leave it be. The only reason we had to ride out Gabrielle was that we got stuck on the boat and it was not even supposed to hit us when it did or where it did. So, the next point:

The cone of uncertainty is quite that... uncertain. Hurricanes have a funny way of making unpredictable turns and speeding up and slowing down. Get well prepared well ahead of time. Plan on it hitting you even if it is "supposed" to hit somewhere else. Buy all your extra fenders and lines long before the season starts... or be prepared for the line from hell at West Marine.

The boat is safer on the hard, properly tied up. Now, if you take a direct from a Cat II+ and get a good storm surge (where most of the damage comes from, directly or indirectly), you are probably screwed either way. Once everything is under water and you are tied down hard on land, I could easily see you popping off a cleat or snapping a line. If that happened and you were on land, you can probably kiss your boat goodbye. So, in general, you are safer on the hard... but I guess the argument could be made that if you found a tight little inlet where you could really spider your lines, you could weather the storm better there than tied up on the hard. The issue, as has been pointed out earlier, is all the idiots around you that throw out a 15 lb Danforth (not one of my favorite anchors anyway) and 5:1 scope and head on back to dry land. Once that boat drags, it will take everything with it in its path... no matter how well you are tied up. Also, at the first hint of a storm, the good hurricane holes will dissapear. SO if you are planning on that option, you better get there really early.

I will point out a few more observations if you are moving to S Florida. DO not be fooled into thinking that you can head up river (Callosahatchee) or 30 miles inland and you will be safe from storm surge or high winds. East to west, I think Florida is only like 120 miles. Most hurricanes haven't even coughed by the time they cross coast-coast. The very, very worst will be on the coast directly hit... but it is not going to be pretty anywhere in the path... including Okechobee.

The comments were made earlier about tying up someone elses boat. As I understand it, a new law has been passed that Marina owners now have the right to board boats in the even of an imminent storm and make all the preparations to save their poperty (and other boats) as they see fit. They can charge these back to the boat owner. Apparently, they can no longer kick you out of a marina in the even of an approaching storm like they were theoretically able to before (or, so I have heard).

In Gabrielle, three boats tried to sink (in our marina) and several more were taken out to sea. THis was all due to the storm surge and collateral damage. If the boat owners of those boats had been more prepared, that probably would not have happend.

Boat US will pay for half the haul out fee and will also pay for half of the cost of a captain to move your boat to a safer area in the event of a named storm. This is probably the best option if it is an option, but good luck finding a marina that can make space for you. Most marinas with travel lifts will be cram packed full BEFORE the hurricane. A lot of planning and calling and dissapointment is likely in the works for you.

I have thrown out another thought for people that are not stuck on having to live in S Florida over the hurricane season: Go to Texas (Keemah). It has a good sailing community and the money saved in slipping your boat there will more than pay for the cost to sail back and forth. The marinas are very nice (comparatively) and could be considered more protected than most of S Florida (or almost any of Florida). The worst hurricane to hit our country hit Galveston, so don't think you are safe from them there. Still, statistically, they get hit less frequesntly and you will also find that Boat US will lower your premiums (I think mine dropped a grand or two) if you are west of the Mississippi. You will likely also find more insurance carriers that will pick you up if you are in Texas.

Just some thoughts. If you have specific questions, drop me a PM and I will help in any way I can.

- CD
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Cruising Dad - Fantasitic post!

While I have no experience with my boat and hurricanes, It was hurricane Francis that brought me back to sailing. I write disaster assistance loans, and over the past couple years this activity has been centered around hurricane damages. I have heard more stories than I can possibly recall (thousands, likely). The long and short of all those stories is extremely well put in CD's above post. Take heed of the warnings mentioned above.
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Thank you Parley for the kind comments.

- CD
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Just trying to get your rep power up there.
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Old 11-08-2006
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It really depends... if you have a shallow draft boat, then anchoring with the boat nestled into a mangrove swamp is a pretty good solution that some sailors I know have used.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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