This morning’s hurricane forecast is worse for Florida, but better for us. So much better for us, that it looks like it is going to be a non-event here.
Here are the choices that we have as a storm approaches. We can head out to sea and run away from the storm. We can find a marina and tie down. We can find a “hurricane hole” and anchor. We could also have the boat taken out of the water, and stored ashore. There is no one choice good for all situations.
Running away is typically what larger, faster boat and ships do. In the open ocean it is about the only choice you have. Forecasts these days are good enough to make it a valid choice in many cases. On the east coast of North America, it often is not a great idea for slower boats (like us!). The problem is, you can’t go west, there is land in the way! Your only option is to head east, crossing in front of the storm. Most storms at some point in their lives, as the meteorologists say, “recurve”. That is to say they head off to the east. Predicting if, when, and how much, storms curve back to the east is not the most refined art. It is quite possible that just as you head out to the east to avoid the storm, it tacks off in the same direction, and you are worse off than when you started. An even worse idea is to count on the curve to the east, and run down the coast. if the storm tracks farther west than expected, suddenly you are pinched between the coast and the storm. A bad place to be, and one that has cost several large vessels and many lives.
Marinas can be a good place if they are well protected, well built, the storm isn’t too bad, and they let you stay. The Annapolis Yacht Basin, where we are now, meets those requirements. They told us we could stay in anything up to a forecast direct hit by a Category 4 hurricane. The superyachts have been told they have to clear out if winds of 70 knots are forecast. The pilings and docks aren’t up to the load they put on them.
Other than a good marina, if you find a small enclosed bay with a firm, but not hard bottom, that is the best place to hide. With suitable anchor and other attachments, the biggest hazards are other boats, and flying debris. I think the debris is the most under-appreciated hazard in a major storm. Imagine someone shooting coconuts at your boat at 100 mph. If you are out of the waves, it’s a lot easier to keep an anchor stuck to the bottom. Some of the most valuable hurricane holes have “soft edges.” So if, in a worst case scenario, you were driven ashore there is soft and flexible brush to land on, not hard rocks or tree trunks.
Taking the boat out of the water is generally more of a long term solution if you were leaving a boat alone in a storm prone area. If the boat can be stored high enough that it is about a storm surge of water, and it well tied down, it is likely to be as safe as it can be.