Boaters can protect crafts from storm threat


August 31, 1993|By PETER BAKER

Fifty-three weeks ago, Hurricane Andrew blew ashore in Florida and caused more than $200 million damage to recreational boats, largely because boaters had not prepared their crafts for the coming storm.

Hurricane Emily, which by this evening will either be ashore in the Carolinas or tracking up the Atlantic Coast toward Maryland waters, could present a similar threat to area boats and boaters.

Even if Emily goes ashore in North Carolina, it is possible that as the hurricane loses strength over land it also will curve around to the north and northeast and pass through Maryland as a strong storm.

In the best of worst-case scenarios, boaters might be faced with only higher than usual tides or storm surges and moderate to strong winds, perhaps through Friday.

In the worst of worst-case scenarios, Emily might deepen and build strength over the Gulf Stream, be turned slightly to the north by a high pressure system moving west to east and barrel up Chesapeake Bay or tight along Maryland's ocean beaches.

BOAT/U.S., a national consumers group of recreational boaters, suggests the following procedures for minimizing possible storm damage:

* If possible, take the boat out of the water and move it to ground high enough to be above storm surges.

* If the boat is lying at anchor or on an exposed mooring, move it to a well-protected anchorage or hurricane hole where wind and wave movement will be dampened by shorelines or shoreline structure. If you must move to a hurricane hole, do so before the onset of rough weather.

* If the boat is in a slip, be certain that your dock lines are arranged to allow the maximum vertical rise without coming into contact with piers and pilings. Spring lines should be used to keep the boat from moving fore and aft while still allowing maximum rise and fall.

* Check size and condition of docking lines and relocate chafing gear on lines. If lines are doubled for additional strength, be certain that each length of line is of equal length, otherwise the load will be unevenly distributed and one length will part before the other.

* On sailboats, it is important to reduce windage. Remove the sails from booms, stays and roller furling gear.

* If Emily closes on Maryland waters, take your personal belongings and electronics off your boat, seal the hatches and be certain cockpit drains and deck scuppers are clear, and go home.

According to BOAT/U.S. statistics, nearly 50 percent of the damage caused by Andrew last August was the result of dock lines that were too short, too small, poorly arranged or unprotected against chafing.

It could be worth your while to take a couple of hours to have your boat prepared for the worst.

If you are interested in tracking Emily, the National Weather Service and BOAT/U.S. have a hurricane update telephone line that can be accessed by touch-tone phone. The number to call is (900) 933-2628. The call costs 98 cents per minute.

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