Then there’s luck. Hurricane Charley brought 150 mph winds—the first of Florida’s 2004 quadruple beating—and a half mile meant the difference between survivable damage and utter devastation. This mirrored Hurricane Andrew. “Houses on one side of the street came through with minimal damage while just across the street they were completely destroyed,” says Hunt, who weathered the 165 mph winds in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. The odds of catching the worst of even these Category 4 and 5 storms was small.
“A wobble can save you,” Lavery says. “Do the best you can do in the time you’ve got, but when the hurricane starts, be somewhere safe. There isn’t a boat out there worth dying for.”
Hurricane Tips From the Experts
Make preparations at the start of the season, not when a storm threatens, and don't rely on marina staff — they have enough to do.
1. Reduce windage. Five square yards of canvas generates 10 pounds of force in a 10-knot wind, and 1,000 pounds at 100 knots. Wrap exposed electronics with the clingy plastic wrap used by moving companies (the industrial version of kitchen plastic wrap) and weatherproof tape. —Mark Lavery, Old Port Cove Marina and North Palm Beach Marina in Palm Beach, Florida
2. The best chafing gear is fire hose, available for free from local fire stations. Rubber hose is better than plastic or vinyl. Take strain off all-chain anchor rodes with long nylon snubbers attached with chain hooks. —Jim Hunt, charter fleet operator
3. Prepare for days without power. Remove perishables and tie all battery banks together for bilge pumps. —Rob Simkins, general manager of Chesapeake Harbour Marina in Annapolis, Maryland
4. Long lines remain tighter as tides rise and fall. Bypass the closest cleat or piling for one farther away. Spread the load among parallel lines attached to multiple points on the boat and dock.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.