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How boaters can protect their boats for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season

by Sea Tow Foundation 19 Jun 14:44 UTC
Always on hand.. © Sea Tow

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its official predictions for the 2024 hurricane season with 23 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), 11 predicted to develop into hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) and five that could strengthen into major category one, two or three hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or higher). The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be one of the most active on record.

While the season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, usual peak activity occurs in August and September. However, storms have formed before the official start date over the past 10 years.

Captain John Ward, owner of Sea Tow Destin and Pensacola, is proud to share his time-honored advice to boaters, with tips to prepare for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. He has been a key resource in catastrophe response efforts following all major storms that have made landfall since he joined the Sea Tow network in 2004.

"As a third-generation captain, I have seen the devastation that a storm can cause," said Captain Ward. "I'm happy to offer tips for boaters to consider when making their storm plan. There are critical steps to take with each stage of a storm, but most importantly is preparation well in advance."

Captain Ward offers the below tips for a hurricane response action plan:

  • Prepare early. Keep in mind that services in the area must prepare too and will shut down in advance of the storm. If the boater depends on the services of others to assist with their vessel, provide them with enough time so that they can also help themselves.
  • Arrange a prepaid haul-out service for the vessel. Some marinas have waiting lists of more than 150. Boaters most likely will not be able to find a marina to haul and store a boat a few days before a storm is predicted to make landfall.
  • If the boat cannot be hauled out, move it to a "hurricane hole" to ride out the storm. A "hurricane hole" is a spot relatively sheltered from wind and storm surge. That location should be determined long before an impending storm is even a conversation. For the storm plan, be sure to calculate the time and travel to get there and how the vessel will be secured.
  • If the boat is stored at a marina, the boater must know and understand the marina management's storm plan and their obligations.
  • Know and understand the boat insurance policy and its coverages. Some require a hurricane plan prior to a storm approaching.
  • If leaving the boat in its slip, double up all lines so that if one breaks, there's a secondary in place to hold the boat.
  • Once the boat is in position to ride out the storm, lower all VHF and radio antennas so that they are down. Remove all vinyl windows and Bimini tops.
  • Duct tape the deck hatches down. If they are not sealed and if the wind catches, the latch can break and open up, ultimately ruining the interior of the boat.
  • Once the storm has passed and the boat is back under way, be mindful of debris. Anything can land in the water such as trees, refrigerators or cars, and becomes an unmarked hazard.
  • Have a post-storm plan in place in the event a home dock is displaced or destroyed.
  • If a boat is damaged by a storm, it is important to work with local, licensed and insured companies only. Sea Tow has the experience to safely recover property and has established relationships with most marine insurers to work with directly for a stress-free process.

Beyond the member only on-water assistance services that it's known for, Sea Tow has responded to every major hurricane since 1989 to assist with vessel recovery and clean-up efforts. For specific questions about hurricane preparation or post-storm recovery, please contact a local Sea Tow franchisee. To find the nearest Sea Tow location, use the service locator at seatow.com/service-locator.

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