newer boat storage buildings — typically those built following hurricane andrew —
are much less likely to be destroyed in a storm. RiGht: after almost 30 years, the
BoatU.S. Cat team has an industry-wide reputation for their professionalism.
be inspected. It used to be that mooring
components such as chain and shackles in
some harbors were likely to have become
badly corroded before they were required to
be replaced. I’ve been on the Bourne Shore
and Harbor Committee in Massachusetts
for many years. Anything that has caused
problems in the past has been addressed.
Aside from replacing under-sized anchors, for
example, we no longer allow the use of some
foreign-made chains or shackles because they
don’t hold up in seawater. The old adage
about a chain only being as strong as its
weakest link certainly applies to moorings.
74 | BoatU.S. Magazine
I remember a high-rise marine storage facility — a “boatel” — near Miami that was
destroyed in Hurricane Andrew in 1992,
and another outside of Charleston, South
Carolina, that was collapsed by Hurricane
Hugo in 1989. Like most storage buildings,
they appeared to be sturdy, but upon closer inspection, they lacked diagonal struts.
There were gussets on the frames, those
normally triangular metal brackets used to
strengthen the joists, but in this case the
gussets didn’t provide the support needed
to withstand a strong hurricane and the
entire structures were blown over. There
were several hundred boats stored inside
and all but a few were a total loss. Collapses
of rack-storage buildings bring with them
several other concerns, including the potential for fuel leaks, fires, and explosions.
That’s why first responders must secure the
area around a collapsed building.
After Andrew, the standards for marine
storage buildings were strengthened so that
a newer building is far more likely to survive
a hurricane than an older, pre-Andrew facility. There have been at least a dozen of these
older buildings destroyed in recent hurricanes and plenty of them still being used that
are packed with boats. It’s almost guaranteed
one or more will be blown over whenever a
major storm comes ashore.
If you’re planning to dry-store a boat
in a building, begin by asking the manager
when it was built and how much wind it was
designed to withstand. If it’s a relatively new
building in a hurricane-prone area, he or she
will be able to answer those questions. Of
course, there are no guarantees; if the eye
wall of a Category 5 hurricane were to hit
the rack — any rack — then all bets are off.
If it’s a well-constructed building, though,
with ample robust cross braces, and built to
modern standards, your boat is more likely
to weather a storm than if it were at a dock.
If you keep your boat in an older building
that’s likely to be vulnerable, your hurricane
plan should be to put the boat on a trailer
and take it inland. If you’re going to evacuate
the area, you can use it to haul valuables you
don’t want to leave in your home.
In theory, canals should be an ideal place
for a boat in the water during a hurricane;
most are well-protected with almost no wave
action. The surge can be dealt with by tying
boats off in the center of the canal with more
and longer lines; the longer the better able a
boat will be to accommodate the surge. In
my experience, however, canals may not offer
any more protection. All it takes is for one
absentee owner to leave their boat poorly
secured, and it can break loose during the
storm and become a wrecking ball. The result
may be that the boat gets tossed up in someone’s yard where there’s little or no access to
pick it out with a crane.
Boat owners living on a canal should
work together to devise a “community plan”
for all the boats. The “plan” should also
involve working out permission on how the
boats can be anchored to trees or anchor
points in lawns. This includes keeping spools
of line on hand for making longer lines to
shore, compiling a list of which boats will be
leaving before boats are tied off, and deciding
who will prep boats if people are unavailable.
The end result of a collective effort should
be more boats surviving the storm and far
fewer boats on lawns, in living rooms, or
sunk in the canal.
Other things to keep in mind when
boats are stored in canals: Boats that were
tied with the usual four lines have proven
to be vulnerable. The spring lines must be
tied with as much scope as possible and
drawn up tight.
Any slack left in the line will allow for
shock loading and the lines could snap like
a guitar string once the boat starts heaving
in the surge. Boats raised up on lifts are
not protected; they’ll either get tossed out
of the slings or slammed against the pilings
and holed. They should be taken down and
either stored ashore on their trailers or tied
off in the center of the canals.