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Experts urge boaters to prepare for hurricane season

by Nick Versaw 1 Jun 2019 05:26 PDT
Hawaii prepares for major hurricane © Daria Blackwell

Hurricanes Florence and Michael left a trail of destruction in 2018. As many residents across the country are finally getting their lives back to normal nearly a year later, hurricane season is upon us again.

According to The Weather Company, an IBM Business, "The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be slightly less active than last year, but that doesn't necessarily mean in will be less dangerous."

Due to the unpredictable nature of storms making landfall in the United States, residents along all coastlines should be preparing for the imminent season regardless of forecasts.

With the start of another hurricane season days away, veteran Sea Tow Captain Capt. John Ward and Sea Tow's Sea Insure program manager, Chris McKinnon, have offered up important tips for boaters to ensure they are prepared for the season ahead.

"One of the most important things is to have a plan in place," said Ward, who has played an integral role in efforts led by the Sea Tow Catastrophe Response Team, having helped in post-storm recovery throughout the East Coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. "One of the things I see most is that people either don't have a plan or don't communicate that plan effectively. If you store your boat in a marina, you need to know their requirements. Some allow you to keep your boat there, others make you haul it out. You need to know their plan and they need to know yours."

Not only is a storm plan important from a preparation standpoint, but, many times, it is required by insurance providers.

"It's vitally important you take the time to review and outline your policy requirements and ensure you're in compliance with them," says McKinnon. "You may be required to relocate your boat in the event of a storm or even have a formal, written storm plan in place outlining where and how your boat will be secured."

McKinnon added that one of the most important things boaters can do early in the season is to make a detailed inventory of their boat and its components.

"Keep a record of all valuable fixed items, such as marine electronics, that you can't remove from your boat," he said. "It's not a bad idea to make a video inventory to get a good visual of everything that's on-board. In addition, store all the boat's documents, including your marine insurance policy, in a secure place off the vessel. Do this early because you may not have time once a storm is overhead"

Capt. Ward impressed the importance of early season preparedness, citing far too many instances he's seen where a lack of preparation led to catastrophe because time and resources are often limited once a storm is in the forecast.

"If you're planning on hauling your boat out, make sure the trailer is serviced early on in the season, because you won't be able to find a trailer mechanic once a storm is approaching," Ward said. "It's also a good idea to do a test run of your plan early on in the season to make sure you're ready when the pressure is on. If you're going to anchor your boat, sail up to your 'hurricane hole' with whoever you plan to help you get back ashore and anchor it up. Practice tying down your sail or other windages. Get everything ready just like you would right before a storm."

"Don't wait until the last minute," McKinnon added. "Once a storm is threatening, you'll have too much going on to be able to get everything done, so getting prepared now can be the difference between coming out unscathed and losing everything.

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