Sunday, January 21, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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It was September 24, 1985. I knew Hurricane Gloria was approaching so I ran over to my marina to lash down the boat. Upon arrival, I noted a lot of activity — boats were being hauled as folks feverishly prepared for the storm. Fellow boaters urged me to have my boat hauled too, but as the yard manager was overwhelmed, it wasn’t going to happen.

So it was back to lashing down the boat. I took all manner of lines and haphazardly tied the boat cleats, grab rails, and anchor chock to whatever pilings and dock cleats I found. I added a line to the antenna and to the folded down Bimini top and put out fenders along the gunnels. Taking a cue from other boaters, I bolted three lengths of two by fours to the pilings to extend their height in order to accommodate the storm surge. The boat looked more trussed up than lashed down, and I swear I heard some of the marina staff snickering as I left.

I returned after the storm to see several boats and finger docks in the parking lot, apparently because the owners didn’t do the two by four/piling trick. I couldn’t be smug, however, as that was the only thing I did right.

The expression, “It looked as if a storm hit” accurately described my boat. It was hanging out of the water as I had failed to leave any scope to account for low tide. My antenna splintered, the cabin top grab rails partially pulled out, the stern cleats pulled out, the anchor chock was askew, and the Bimini came off its mounts. The gel coat was scuffed and cracked in spots, and the fenders were on the cockpit floor. Yikes!

There’s a lot I did wrong. Based on the storm’s predicted intensity and where it was to come ashore, it would have been better to arrange in advance for my boat to be hauled and professionally grounded. I saw boats put on cradles, jack stands, or blocks that had rolled over, and ones in dry stacks that toppled or collapsed during the high winds.

If I didn’t make the hauling cut and had to remain in my floating slip, I should have lashed two lines per cleat to the farthest pilings and bulkhead screw eyes, not to the dock. Storm surge and retreat need to be calculated so the lines are scoped accordingly. Short scopes (as in my scenario) lead to pulled cleats and parted dock lines. Braided nylon lines do best because they stretch, but chafing gear is still needed. I’ve learned that cleats are designed to take lateral stress, not vertical, so pre-done loops can lift off. Take the time and make the knots yourself!

Removable Bimini tops, antennas, and anything that can fly off or around should be removed from the boat. (My slip mate’s fire extinguisher broke loose and smashed into his audio system.) Close hatches and windows, and then duct tape any you know don’t seat well or rattle. Be sure your battery is fully charged, your bilge float switch is operating, and your scuppers are clear.

It’s true that you can never have enough fenders. Deploy them everywhere the boat may come into contact with a hard surface such as the dock, piling, or seawall. Secure the fenders by tying a line to the bottom hole, running the line under the boat, and tying it off on the opposite gunnel. The top part should be tied in the usual manner.

The biggest takeaway here is that I didn’t make a hurricane plan and have a stockpile of materials when the forecasters first started discussing the storm. Waiting until the last possible minute invites mistakes and shortcuts (or the unavailability of knowledgeable personnel to help). I also wasn’t prepared for the post-storm insurance claim — I should have photographed the boat from all angles as well as inventoried the contents before the storm to make assessing the damage easier. Moreover, reviewing my policy ahead of time to make sure it covered everything and every eventuality would have been smart.

By Paul Knieste





is an R.N. in psychiatry and a professional photographer. He is an avid boater and fisherman in the waters of East Rockaway Inlet and Montauk Point, and loves cooking. Contact him at

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