Preparing for a Hurricane

8 July 2010 By Louisa Beckett

After several relatively calm Atlantic hurricane seasons, it looks like we may finally be in for a blow this year. “They expecting it to be a more active season than last year – and even than the last five to ten years,” said Adam Foster, CMM, general manager of Rodney Bay Marina in Castries, St. Lucia.

An Island Global Yachting (IGY) marina, Rodney Bay has a new superyacht pier that can berth yachts up to 200 feet in length with drafts of up to 14 feet, and its protected harbor has long been a favorite Caribbean summering-over spot. When a hurricane is in the area, Foster said, “Most of the captains I’ve had here – particularly the ones who stay though the summer – watch the weather on a daily basis and normally make an early decision to get out of town, either north or south.”
Foster recommends monitoring and for up-to-date weather information.

For those who choose to remain in the marina, he and his staff have a 72-hour Hurricane Plan that offers solid tips on how to prepare your boat to ride out the storm, wherever she may be berthed.

  • First, the staff prepares the marina and its grounds for the storm, trimming the vegetation and removing all nonessential vehicles and vessels, as well as anything that can be caught by the wind.
  • Forty-eight hours before “impact,” the marina staff begins to reconfigure the marina to prevent any boats from breaking loose of the docks. “We tie one boat between two slips, in the middle,” Foster says. “We double up the [dock]lines.”
  • All loose items on the boats’ exterior decks, such as biminis, furniture, cushions and sunpads, flags and burgees, are removed. Electric/hydraulic awnings are dismantled.
  • Windows are taped to help them better resist wind damage.
  • All tenders and shore vehicles are filled with fuel, as well as reserve containers.
  • Twenty-four to 12 hours before the storm, the tenders are hauled out on the hard.
  • Boats unplug from shore power and the electricity to the docks is shut off.

While not listed in the marina’s Hurricane Plan, captains and crew naturally are responsible for ensuring that their lines have adequate chafing gear; that all external electronics are removed or secured in a weatherproof enclosure. The interior furnishings, fixtures and tchotkes all should be stored and/or secured to ensure they won’t fly about or break in hurricane-force winds and surge.

Captains who decide to weather a hurricane at anchor or at a mooring face a whole different set of challenges. In fact, many experts advise against it, since the hardest element to control in an anchorage or mooring field is “the other guy.”

“It is the responsibility of the captain or owner of each vessel to ensure that their vessel is correctly moored at all times and particularly under the threat of a Tropical Storm or Hurricane,” reads the Marina at Marigot Bay’s Hurricane Plan for the permanent Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) mooring field in this historic hurricane hole on St. Lucia. “Most damage to yachts and other small craft in a hurricane is caused by other vessels that have not been correctly moored. The single biggest hazard is from boats that are unattended in the period prior to the storm [that] break free during the storm and [cause] damage or break free [and free] other correctly moored boats.”