Hurricane Preparedness – Lessons Learned

Hurricane Isabel (18 September 2003) was an unusually severe storm for our area, and our Boaters’ Club members prepared in a number of different ways. A large number of boats evacuated the marina and opted for haul-out at another local marina. Boat US and a number of other experts recommend this as the approach most likely to avoid damage. This recommendation is based on a large amount of data compiled nationwide over the years. Unfortunately, Isabel was accompanied by enough tidal surge water to float the hauled boats off their jack-stands and, when the water receded, to pile them up, causing quite a bit of damage. This phenomenon was noted up and down the Chesapeake Bay and was not unique to our locale.

On the other hand, boats that remained in the marina were also damaged. Smaller boats that were secured were not damaged, while some larger, beamier boats stretched or broke dock lines and banged against one another, causing severe rub-rail and topside damage. One or two small boats that were not secured caused damage to larger boats in adjacent slips. One large cruising yacht was moored a short way up river from the marina and was unscathed. One of our smaller yachts was moored in one of the shallow-water creeks and was also unscathed. On the other hand, one boat was moored up the Nansemond River, broke loose, ended up nearly a mile inland, and had to be manually hauled across the swamp to deep water.

Lessons we may glean from this are:

(a) If you haul your boat, do not under estimate the ability of the storm surge to float it off its cradle or jack-stands. If you cannot find a high-ground marina, consider filling your boat with enough water to keep if from floating. This might cause some water damage but will avoid possible and costly hull repair.

(b) If you do not haul your boat, add additional lines and, again mindful of the surge, try to secure dock lines to more than one piling, preferably the tallest pilings you can reach.

(c) If you do not haul your boat, consider working with the marina staff to use the slips emptied by those who do haul to provide more space between the boats that remain.

(d) If you moor-out, use extra heavy ground-tackle and chain and at least two anchors.

Another bit of advice that emerged had to do with the wide range of repair estimates received by members. We hope you won’t need such services, but there appears to be good reason to shop around.