Seaworthy magazine notes that a seawall or sandy spit that normally protects a harbor may not offer any protection in a hurricane. And although some boaters head to the Miami River, it officially cannot be used as a safe harbor unless the boater has contracted for marina space, warns Miami-Dade County's Office of Emergency Management.
There are never any guarantees in a hurricane, no matter where you leave your boat, but there are some steps with obvious advantages:
If you secure lines to trees, avoid tying up to non-native exotics, such as Australian pines and certain palms, which are vulnerable to blowing over. Pilings, most indigenous trees (mangroves are good) and earth augers screwed into the ground are the best alternatives, according to BoatUS.
Duct-tape vertical windows to prevent water from getting in. If possible, duct-tape engine room vents to prevent rain intrusion, MarineMax says.
In a storm, a boat will rise and fall with water levels, so position the fenders on pilings or docks that pose a constant threat to the hull, advises Miami-Dade County's Office of Emergency Management.
When docked, double- or triple-line boats, allow them to move with the water, but keep them tight enough to prevent the vessel from slamming against docks and poles -- the cause of most boat damage, MarineMax warns.
Using more and larger lines significantly improves a boat's chances of surviving a storm, reports BoatUS. Eight lines should be the minimum. Although the size of cleats determines the maximum size of the rope, a three-quarter-inch line will outlast a half-inch line and two three-quarter-inch lines will outlast a single three-quarter-inch line.
"One of the most obvious mistakes is old lines," says Miami-Dade's Haley. "Make sure your lines are in good condition, not frayed."
Using braid-on-braid lines, which have 50 percent less stretch than three-strand, has helped in previous hurricanes, advises BoatUS. Nylon lines are traditionally stronger, but polyester lines are more resistant to chafe, so using a combination of both can be beneficial. Only two lines should be tied to any one cleat or piling. Multiple, long lines to shore allow the boat to rise and fall with the surge without coming in contact with pilings, piers or seawalls.
WHEN TO ACT
Boaters should start moving or preparing their boats at least 48 hours before a storm. Once evacuations have started off the barrier islands, Intracoastal Waterway bridges in Miami-Dade will be opened only infrequently until lockdown.
In Broward, lockdown will be approximately three hours after an evacuation order is issued or when winds reach 40 miles per hour. These lockdowns can be ordered 24 hours or more before a hurricane hits.
Helpful websites for boaters looking for hurricane preparedness tips:
BoatUS has a Hurricane Preparation Worksheet