As a boater, you need to be alert for any forecast that is calling for rough weather, a named storm, or worse a hurricane.

Whether your boat is at a dock, on a mooring, at anchor, or on the hard preparing for a storm or a hurricane is critical for protecting people, pets, and property. Please consider the following general list of “To-Do” items as a starting point for you and add to this list any items that meet your specific needs.

During a severe storm, the safest place for people and pets is off the vessel and at a safe location on shore. The same holds true for your boat. Having your boat on the hard can significantly reduce the likelihood of your vessel floating away or sinking, along with it being damaged by objects in the water (including other boats) striking your vessel. Having your boat on the hard is not risk-free so you will need to evaluate your specific situation. Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy – it might include special provisions for named storms.

If your vessel will remain in the water, selecting a safe location to anchor or grab a mooring will help protect it. Keep in mind this will require preplanning and early execution because you will not be the only person looking to move their boat to a safe location.

Below is a list of tasks that will help you keep your boat as safe as possible during a storm and should be executed far enough in advance so you have time to pick up any items required to complete the list.

Storm & Hurricane Preparation To-Do CHECKLIST

  • Ride it out onshore if possible. Storing onshore has proven a good option based on post-storm data. But it also raises the issue of toppling. Some marinas are now securing boats to the ground with embedded anchoring systems and straps. Secure boat stands to one another to keep them from working free as the boat reacts to the wind. Many insurance policies pay hauling costs for named storms.

  • Consider identifying a “hurricane hole” where the boat can ride out the storm. You may want to consider using more than one anchor. Selecting a site has to be done well ahead of any storm forecast. Consider how you’ll get to and from your boat in this new location. Also, these seemingly well-protected areas must be evaluated for how they might fare in the worst of conditions and changing wind directions. If a breakwater is your idea of protection, consider that there are many examples from previous storms of breakwaters being overcome by storm surges and waves.

  • Remove all gear above deck that you can remove. Secure any gear that cannot be removed
  • Remove all attached sails from the boat. If that is not feasible or practical, wrap the sails with lines or extra sail ties to prevent them from opening or unfurling during the storm
  • Secure all halyards
  • Remove dodgers, biminis, sun shades, and flags. Stow them below or on land
  • Check all lines and double and triple up on dock lines spreading the load over as many cleats as possible. For moored boats, check all mooring hardware well ahead of any storm warning and add extra lines. In all cases, it’s best to replace lines used every day with new lines that have not been under tension and weathered since launch. Check with the harbormaster to make sure your boat can remain on the mooring for the storm
  • Fixed dock vs. floating dock. Fixed docks are tough as you’ll want lines at a length to account for tide and surge for the duration of the storm. While floating docks don’t have this issue, they can float higher than their pilings and float away with your boat. Or they can simply ride higher than normal on their pilings, thus causing enough stress to loosen the pilings and float away.

  • Add chafe gear to all lines. Add line snubbers to absorb shock whether at a dock or mooring and don’t forget to add fenders. You can never have too many fenders in a storm!

  • Test batteries for charge level. Consider buying backups to ensure bilge pumps continue working for the duration of the storm.

  • Check the bilge pumps and switches to make sure they work properly

  • Make sure the strainers for the pumps are clean

  • Remove debris from the bilge that may clog pumps and strainers

  • Make sure your overboard discharge hoses are securely attached and in good shape

  • Add additional pump(s) if necessary

  • Check all hatches, portholes, companionways, etc., for proper seals. Get some plugs for your exhaust ports and make a note to remove them after the storm. Close all thru-hull fittings except those used for bilge pumps.

  • Clear deck drains and scuppers

  • Check the mast base, wedges, and boot

  • If you are on the hard or a trailer, remove the bilge plug so water can drain and your boat doesn’t “sink on land”

  • Check fuel level

  • Photograph the interior and exterior of the boat along with equipment on board the vessel

  • Update your inventory list of equipment on board

  • Remove anything you feel is irreplaceable

  • Remove all important paperwork, including insurance information. Become familiar with your insurance policy well before a storm.

Storm & Hurricane Preparation Equipment CHECKLIST