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Mooring your Boat for a Storm
By Michael Little

Mooring your vessel is a process that requires much fore thought and preparation. It is not something that can wait until the last minute. As a storm approaches mandatory evacuations maybe ordered and roads close so you may or may not have access to your marina. Also there is a time factor to consider as to when you actually start securing your boat. When the wind is above 20 knots you are going to have a very rough time getting sails and canvas off the boat. So if in doubt prepare.
You must have a plan and have the necessary supplies to do the job well in advance.
And please do not even think about being one of those who are going to "ride it out" on board. In 100 mile per hour wind you are a liability not an asset. Some one else will have to risk their life to come save you.

There are things to do before a storm and when one is predicted to come our way. Here are some items, which may help.

Before the Storm
Look around the Marina and think about what it would look like with 4 to 6 feet of water above the docks. And prepare for that. Remember once water is over the docks it is too late to secure the boat plus it is very dangerous.

1. Check the dock.
2. Look for loose or broken cleats.
3. If you are in a fixed slip and have Risers for the mooring lines to connect, inspect for wear and signs of corrosion, if any signs of weakness report this to your Harbor Master immediately.
4. Check your Dock area for what maybe loose or flyable debris.
5. Either remove or tie down loose gear
6. Check the operation of Automatic Bilge pump
7. Make sure bilges are clean and free of debris or anything that could clog bilge pump of filters.
8. Check that your Dock locker has drain holes and that they are not clogged. Dock boxes that can float and are bolted down to the dock can make boards come loose creating very dangerous situations. Have a Storm Kit on Board with a plan on exactly how and what you are going to do. Talk to your neighbors about their storm plans. It does little good to have your boat all secure and other boats in the marina are not secure.
9. Make sure you have all the lines and chafe gear to secure your boat before its necessary. Storm kits should include a complete extra set of dock lines, and some extra lines with plenty of length for spring lines. A fresh roll of Duct tape, Plastic wire ties are handy for binding bimini railing together and helping secure chafe gear so it stays in place. You should have a boat hook for helping attach lines to pilings.

It is a great idea to take a day and secure your boat as if there was a storm to:
1. Make sure you have all the necessary items to secure the vessel.
2. Give yourself a realistic idea just how long this job will take.
At the last minute, line and fenders may be hard to find and a waste of time you may not have.

When Storm is headed our Way

Boat Preparation
Reduce Windage:

  1. 1. Remove Roller Furling Sails and all Canvas
    a. Bimini
    b. Hatch covers.
  2. Secure all Loose Halyards
    a. It is best to connect halyards to stanchion bases and not to the mast.
    b. During high winds the halyards will beat themselves and the mast to death.
  3. Remove Cowl Vents and ventilators and seal openings.
  4. Secure Bimini Frames so they do not chafe on rigging or on Fiberglass.
    a. This is a good place to use some carpet scraps, duct tape or wire ties.
    b. Make sure you do not over look the obvious things such as straps and buckles on the Bimini Frames that might whip around in high wind.
  5. Mainsails on non-furling rigs should be removed from booms.
    a. If this is not possible leave the sail cover in place and securely wrap the sail and cover with a lot of rope so wind cannot get under cover.
  6. It is best to remove the boom and put below or secure on the side deck. But on many boats this is not a practical solution so if the boom cannot be removed, securely tie a sturdy line around the boom end and then to either side of the boat. This is done to prevent the boom from swinging side to side which it can do in high winds even if the mainsheet if very tight.
  7. Remove Important Gear from Boat
    a. Special Electronics such as hand held VHF Radios, GPS'S and other uncounted equipment.
    b. Remove Bracket mounted equipment such as GPS, Radar Screens, Sonar's and anything someone might steal.
    c. Flush mounted Electronics should stay in place with their covers in place.
    1. Secure the covers with Duct Tape so they will not blow away.
    2. The covers, if in place may help if there is flying debris.
  8. Close all Thru Hulls fittings.
  9. Make yourself a note and tape it over the Instrument Panel that thru hulls are closed so when you come back to the boat you will not forget and run your engine with the engine cooling water shut off.
  10. Empty Refrigerators and turn it off.
  11. Do not leave anything on, that may draw the batteries down.
    a. They may be needed to run the bilge pump.
  12. Disconnect Shore power and stow power cords.
    a. Do not leave cords on the dock.
    b. If water comes over the dock the power will probably fail. If you, or harbor staff are checking the docks it is not good to be wadding in knee deep or deeper water and get tripped up by loose lines or shore power cords. More than likely at some point the Marina will shut down the power anyway. Disconnecting the shore power will help protect the vessel from power surges when power is restored.
  13. Either remove or store all loose gear inside boat.
  14. Secure all doors inside.
  15. Remove owner's manuals, Service Manuals, Warranty information.
  16. Make a list of gear on board with model and serial numbers.
  17. You may need information for insurance purposes later.
    b. It is a good idea to take pictures of the boat inside and out.
  18. Make sure the cockpit drains are clear and open and will drain with out any obstructions.
    a. Do not leave loose gear or lines, or rags or anything that can clog cockpit drains.

Securing the boat

  1. Chafe protection is essential on all lines.
    a. Avoid running lines over rub rails or other hard points as this will add to chafe
    b. Use leather wrapping secured around lines at the chafe points. This requires lots of fore thought and knowing that your docking location will not change.
    c. Old Fire hose. Many books rave about this but this might be difficult to obtain.
    d. Use plastic hose over the lines. This works quite will. The best use of this is a hose inside of a hose with the line inside a hose. Only issue is the amount of line and chafe gear you can squeeze into a mooring bit.
    e. Carpet scraps. Depending upon the boat and the line angle a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet with a slice cut in so a cleat will just fit over thru the hole. This will help protect bare gel-coat from line chafe. One word of caution. Be careful picking up dirty carpet as you could in effect be trying to protect your boats finish with Sandpaper.
    f. Special made chafe gear. I recently was told about a system a live-aboard couple had developed. They took web straps approximately 3 inches wide and had Velcro sewn on opposite sides of the webbing. This strap was wrapped around a line and Velcro'd together. These straps were 18 to 36 inches longs. They used them when anchoring or tying up in a storm.
  2. Do not tie up boat to lifeline stanchions, the bases are better anchored and have less leverage but best not to use stanchion bases if it can be avoided.
  3. On sail boats with a Keel stepped mast, lines could be tied around the mast just above the deck. This is one of the strongest points on the boat.
  4. On a deck stepped mast this technique should probably not be used except for a line of last resort.
    The important thing to remember is the boat must be able to rise 6 to eight feet.
  5. In practical terms it is difficult to tie up in a fixed slip for tides greater than 8 feet unless they are big slips.
  6. Floating Docks offer the best protection but some cautions should be observed here also. Do not tie too many lines on the same cleat on the dock and check the condition of the cleats and the decks they are secured.
  7. Docking in cover sheds offers another set of problems. As the water level rises you must keep in mind things like radar and light towers. If possible these should be lowered and securely fastened to the dock. If a severe storm surge is predicted it would be best to move boat out of cover shed. Other dangers here are falling roof debris.

Each Mooring situation is different as are the boats being secured.

When securing your boat to a floating dock generally the below illustration will be of help.

When securing your boat to a fixed dock generally the below illustration will be of help.

For more information in Hurricane Prepardness click here

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