Given the impending storms, I feel it would be appropriate to outline some hurricane preparation suggestions/steps for cruisers and boat owners. For those of you that will be weathering your first storm, it will be an experience. I would strongly suggest not weathering the strom on your boat. For the most part, once it is close, you are stuck on your boat for better or worse. That may not sound really bad until it is howling overhead and you cannot even hardly stand up, much less get off the boat. Take note that it is my STRONG understanding that most people who have ever weathered a hurricane on their boat would NEVER do it again. I am one of them.
Remember that many municipalities shut the bridges down at 35 mph, so be counscious of the timing to get prepared and get off the island or wherever you are at.
Preparations check list for cruisers:
1) Fill up with fuel, including gas for the dink. After the storm, there will likely not be fuel for days or weeks and no electricity either. A generator is very nice to have.
2) Fill up with water. Get extra water!!! Get Ice too. You cannot imagine how precious ice is until you can't get it anymore.
3) Fill up your propane tanks.
4) Get lots of extra bug spray and at least one can of raid. The mesquitoes and no-seeums will be unimaginable afterwards. THere also seems to be an abundance of fire ants floating around in the storm surge, amongst other things.
5) Lots of food. Supermarkets will be closed for a many days/weeks.
6) Get out cash. You will not be able to use your Credit cards as there is no power.
7) Get any meds you need.
8) Extra batteries for a flashlight and even an extra flashlight will be very helpful.
9) A battery operated weather radio.
10) A Handheld VHF.
11) Drop everything that can catch the wind. THis includes the jib RF, main, all your canvas, cockpit cushions, and any items on deck. Get them away from the coast if possible. Anything that stays on deck, like the RF, should be lashed VERY tightly. You will be setting on your rail until the eye passes, then the other rail.
12) You are going to have to come up with a plan for the dink. If it gets free, it will be gone. If you can deflate it and put it in the lazarette, go for it. If not, either lash it securely to a tree (against the tree) or securely on deck. The deck may be the better place so you will likely still have it after the storm and it lessenss the chances of strom surge taking it away, but it also creates more windage. That decision is yours.
13) Double or triple lines if you are in a marina. I call it spidering, but I am sure there is some nautical term for it. Basically the more lines, the better. You also, (assuming you are getting a storm surge and not having all the water sucked out), need to put the lines high to account for the surge.
14) Lots and lots of fenders, where appropriate.
15) Chafe protection. Anything that might chew through a line, will chew through a line. If you need something quick, you can try using pieces of hose. You can use old towels. In a pinch, maybe tape... but don't go sparingly on the chafe protection.
16) Assuming you are not planning on riding out the strom on your boat, get off your valuables. This includes ID's, jewelry, documentation, pictures, and anything else you do not want to lose.
17) If riding it out outside of a marina, my suggestion is to find an area where you can spider lots of lines to trees. Mangroves seem to work fairly well for this. You can try really setting in a strom anchor in the direction of expected most wind. You may even consider a "bahamian moor" type arrangement where a secondary anchor take the force when the wind clocks around. It will likely be as bad or worse right after the eye, depending on where you are at.
18) If riding it out in an open bay, all I can say is good luck. Setting the anchors as mentioned before may (MAY) be your best bet. I have not ridden a storm out like this but have seen MANY boats that do. The issue will be the other boats around you that will break lose and either come into you or catch your anchor and drag you with them. A better solution may be finding a canal where you can spider in the docks or trees if the owners there will let you. But in the end, any other boats or large floating debris that can come into you will most likely be your downfall.
19) Anything on the dock will be gone or under water. Clean out your dock box if you have one unless it is items that can be under water for a very long time. ANything else on the dock should be securey lashed away from the dock. THe surge will persist for a while after the storm. You don't want to be tripping through dock debris any more than you have to.
20) Be very cautious of floating docks. Look and see how high they can float before they come off the pilings or are shattered on the pilings. The floating docks were completely destroyed in Gabrielle and anything that was on them or near them was taken with them. Think about that when deciding where to tie up your boat.
21) Consider video taping or taking pics of your items for insurance purposes.
Hurricane preparation starts long before a storm is coming. Everyone will be waiting until the last minute to get stuff, so plan ahead and don't get caught with the crowd... AND GET OUT CASH!! Also, it will take a lot longer to strip the boat than you think. Much of this preparation can be done long before the storm is bearing down on you. About 12 hours before the storm, you may be getting lots of rain bands and squally weather... not a good time to be working on your boat. Make sure you are done before then.
I hope these items help. They are many of the steps we take/took in storm preparation. Again, I strongly urge everyone to get off their boat and to not ride out the storm there. It will be miserable. Feel free to add any comments or anything I missed. I am sure there are items.
All the best. Fair winds and good luck.