Wow, this has been a bit of a job for me as I don’t type. Starting to think that securing a boat for a hurricane is easier.
My personal rules for hurricanes
- Within the forecast cone at 120hrs out, I start to worry. At 72hrs out (3 days) if in the forecast cone I run to the hurricane hole. Note that at 120hrs National Hurricane Center forecasts averages error is ~300 miles. At 72hrs average error is ~150 miles. At 12-24hrs error is around 40-50 miles. 40-50 mile error is enough to put the storm passing on one side of your position or another. This can make a huge difference on how you secure your boat for a storm. This will make a big difference as to which direction the wind comes. SO BE AWARE. DO NOT TRUST HURRICANES TO BEHAVE THEMSELVES. Note: for Hurricane Earl we kept popping in and out of the forecast zone. At 72 hours out we were slightly out of the cone, so I prepped anyway. I had actually moved the Shanti up to Benners Bay two weeks prior to Earl. I anchored out in the open Bay, but was maybe a 1/4 mile from my “spot”. In those protected waters it was easy to put my 8hp dinghy on the hip and move her where I wanted. I did this because my engine was not functioning. So I wanted to sail up there while a had a nice wind. I didn’t want to be stuck in a bad anchorage with no wind to sail to shelter. And that was exactly what happened. The wind went flat for 2 days preceding the arrival of Earl.
- I prepare for all 4 quadrants if at all possible.
- I Strip EVERYTHING off the topsides of the boat. Including ALL sails. I take light tared marlin and use them as tracer lines to remove halyards. I have seen roller furling sails come unfurled to many times to count. No matter how many times you have the sheet wrapped around it. The name of the game with hurricanes is windage!
Setting up in the mangroves
Since mangroves can be shallow I try to time my move with high tide. Here in the Virgin Islands our tides very by maybe a foot or so. But that does make a difference. I bumped a few times going in. I anchored in 6 feet of water. Shanti draws about 5 ft. I just touch at low low tide.
I try to find a spot along side the mangroves as opposed to bow or stern to. One reason is the current. With just a little bit of storm surge you can see 5-6 knots of current in Benners Bay. The area is a natural water pump. I start out by putting my main bower down, then run one of my stern lines ashore to a large mangrove branch. I look for a 4″ or greater branch. I use 5/8 nylon 3 strand for my lines to the trees. I also use sections of 3/4″ water heater hose for chafe around the mangrove branches. Not only to protect my line, but also the trees (in fact it is required for use of Benners Bay). Then I secure the line with a bowline.
Now I run out the remainder of my anchors and mangrove lines. I have a 22lb Delta , a 16lb Danforth Hi-Tensile, and a Fortress FX37 for anchors. I set the Fortress in the direction of greatest fetch. Once all my lines and anchors are set I tighten up everything as much as possible. Even with everything bar tight it is amazing how much stretch I see after a storm. I start out with some where in the neighborhood of 10-12 to 1 scope. With 6 feet of water and another 2.5-3 feet of freeboard I usually try to put out 100 feet. although with other anchors in the area and narrow channels that is not always possible, but close.
Finally for chafe I use cowhide that I wrap around my line and rodes at strategic points. I secure the wrap with wire ties. I have theses made up ahead of time with a hole punched on each end. I run some small stuff through this hole and secure it to the line fore and aft. The small stuff is woven in and out of the strands of the line much like one strand when making an eye splice. This anchors the chafing gear in place. The following illustrates my setup.
Done! Now all thats left is to pray. One small note, obviously you will secure all portholes and hatches, usually by locking the hatches. But if you are staying on board you will also need a method to secure you main slider hatch closed from inside. I use two barrel bolts on the port and starboard side of the companion way that slide up into the hatch.
- NEVER trust a hurricane to do what the forecasters predict!
- Go early. These mangrove areas are usually crowded. But I prefer the crowd over an anchorage that is more exposed. So far after 4 hurricanes the crowd has not been a problem. And of the problems I have seen it usually has been cosmetic damage from a vessel breaking loose.
- Check out your preferred hurricane holes before you need them.