Learning From Ike
Maarten van Hasselt relates storm-preparation lessons hammered home by Hurricane Ike. "Special Report" from our October 2, 2008, CW Reckonings.
Here's what I learned:
Take the preparation checklist seriously. Every item has its purpose. Don't think too long over the necessity of each, just do it.
The surge is far worse than the wind. It floats boats above the pilings and opens up the port to incoming waves.
The biggest risk, in my view, is from other boats, including boats that work loose and go on a rampage and boats that are moored close together and start rocking against each other, catching masts. The solution seems to be to moor your boat with as much free space around it as possible.
There's also the risk that mooring lines will not keep the boat in place. The surge makes it impossible to trust the pilings, unless they are specifically designed for hurricanes-- tall, steel, and well anchored. At Houston Yacht Club, many pilings just pulled right out of the bottom. Mooring lines will move up and off if not secured. But secure to what? Most parts of the infrastructure are not going to withstand the storm. I had considered attaching a long line to the pump house near our boat, but the pump house ended up 300 yards away!
Woven lines-- the kind used for halyards and sheets-- are absolutely useless as mooring lines. Mooring lines need to be undamaged, spliced, and oversized. Any line that gets stuck and starts chafing will break in short order.
In hindsight, I would have moored in the outer harbor on long, new lines made fast to the breakwater. Another strategy would be to anchor, but unless you have really heavy ground tackle, I don't see how that would work near a lee shore. The Florida tactic of hauling the boat and parking it at a yard might be the best alternative.
Change to gel batteries. Battery fluid is nasty stuff.
Close all openings and use duct tape on areas you know will leak-- sinks, toilets, and other inlets, even when the seacocks are closed.
Count on everything getting wet. Empty the boat after every season and discard anything you haven't used. Consider vacuum-bagging manuals, documents, and clothing. Toilet paper is the most horrible stuff when it starts floating around.
Review your insurance. It's important to define what type of coverage you want. If you're counting on "old for new," you'd better pay for it.
Getting a professional survey is also a good idea. I'm glad I had Joan II surveyed, as I now have a document of the state of the boat before the hurricane.