Posted On: September 21, 2018

Preparing For A Hurricane

Wind, Rain And Surge

By Charles Fort

Tropical storms may be unpredictable, but one thing you can predict is that if one hits your marina, your boat is far more likely to survive if you have a preparation plan and follow it.

Photo of a flooded marina

Long-range forecasters have learned that trying to predict the number and intensity of the next season's tropical storms is like herding cats. Weather patterns such as El Niño/La Niña, wind shear, and even Saharan desert dust affect the development of tropical storms, and these intertwined variables can confound the best prognosticators, even as the season is starting. As an example, the 2013 season was predicted to have more than average activity, yet it was (thankfully) a yawn. The 2012 season, on the other hand, had twice as many hurricanes as predicted (including Superstorm Sandy). Tropical storms, it seems, don't care about forecasts, and all it takes is one big storm that comes ashore to make seasonal predictions irrelevant. The lesson: Don't wait for the season's forecast before you develop your tropical-storm preparation plan, which is nothing more than knowing what, where, how, and when.

What To Expect

Tropical storms, including hurricanes, produce wind, rain, waves, and surge in proportions rarely experienced by boaters, and storm damage is usually due to a combination of these factors. A good preparation plan has to take all of these elements into consideration and the time to develop one is now, not when a storm is approaching.

How To Prepare For Wind

By definition, tropical storms have winds of at least 39 mph (which is when storms get a name) while hurricanes start at 74 mph and have been recorded at more than 150 mph. What's not always understood is that as the speed of the wind doubles, its force quadruples. In other words, the damage wind does increases much faster than its speed. This illustrates the importance of reducing your boat's windage — the area your boat presents to the wind — by removing as much rigging, canvas, and deck gear as possible. Whether your boat is stored ashore or stays in its slip, the less stuff the wind is able to push around, the safer your boat will be. Biminis are sure to get shredded in a strong storm, so take off the fabric and the frames. Strip off outriggers, antennas, running rigging, booms, life rings, and dinghies. Remove cowling ventilators and seal the openings. Furled headsails have a surprising amount of windage and are one of the first things damaged by wind, so they must be taken down. Not only can they shake your rig apart when they unfurl (and no matter how well you secure them, in a big storm they probably will), they can cause damage to your neighbor's boat as well. Mainsails are bulky and should be removed also.

How To Prepare For Rain

Rainfall of six to 12 inches in 24 hours is common during a hurricane, and as much as two feet can fall in a day. Cockpit scuppers can be overwhelmed by such torrents, and even boats stored ashore can suffer damage if rainwater overflows into the cabin. Boats stored in the water can be sunk when rainwater backs up in the cockpit and the weight forces deck drains underwater, causing them to backflow.

Make certain cockpit drains are free-running. If your boat is staying in the water, remove heavy items from the stern area, such as anchors, extra fuel tanks, and kicker motors, so that the cockpit scuppers are higher above the water. Close all but cockpit drain seacocks and plug the engine's exhaust port. Use masking or duct tape to seal around hatches, ports, and lockers to keep water from getting below. Seal exposed electronics. Make sure the bilge pump and switch work, and that the battery is topped up; shore power is not likely to remain on throughout the storm. Keep in mind that the ability of the pump and battery to remove water is usually greatly overestimated. Small boats should be covered if possible.

How To Prepare For Waves

Tropical storms build up surprisingly large waves quickly, even in relatively small harbors, bays, and lakes. The longer the distance over which the wind can build up waves, the bigger the waves. Waves make boats bounce in their slips, displacing fenders and increasing strain on docklines.

Photo of a swamped powerboat tied to the dock

Exposure to waves can pound a boat against the dock. Small boats should be trailered inland.

Double up on docklines and make sure all are well-protected from chafe. While fenders and fender boards won't compensate for poor docking arrangements, if the boat is well-secured, they may offer some additional protection, especially if they are heavy duty. Smaller boats can be overwhelmed, especially if they are stern-to to the waves. The bow is strongest and least likely to be overcome by water and should face into the waves.



Posted On: September 17, 2018

Marine Shrink-Wrap


When considering your storage options, don’t forget to consider the benefits of shrink wrapping.

  • Shrink wrapping allows customized contour framing to accommodate the specific needs of your boat.
  • Most shrink-wrap covers are ventilated to help eliminate moisture and mildew concerns.
  • Shrink-wrap is more durable than tarps and/or canvas and allows snow and ice to slide off the boat prior to damaging build up.
  • Shrink-wrap is cost effective. They are durable, UV protected, and shrink-wrap helps stop the hot sun from damaging your gel coat, seats and canvas.
  • Shrink-wrap provides an extra layer of security against vandalism and theft.


Posted On: September 14, 2018


A study by MIT after hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were far more likely to be saved than boats stored in the water. For many boat owners and marinas, hauling boats is the foundation of their hurricane plan. Some farsighted marinas and yacht clubs have evacuation plans to pull as many boats out of the water as possible whenever a storm is approaching and secure the rest. There are some types of boats that must be pulled if they are to have any chance of surviving. Smaller, open boats and high performance powerboats with low freeboard, to use two examples, will almost always be overcome by waves, spray, and rain. Fortunately, most of these boats can be placed on trailers and transported inland.

Boats ashore should be stored well above the anticipated storm surge, but even when boats are tipped off jackstands and cradles by rising water, the damage they sustain in a storm tends to be less severe than the damage to boats left in the water. Windage is also a consideration. If nothing else, reduce windage (see “Critical Points”) as much as possible and make sure your boat has extra jackstands, at least three or four on each side for boats under 30’ and five or six for larger boats. The jackstands must be supported by plywood and chained together. To reduce windage, some ambitious boat owners on the Gulf Coast dug holes for their sailboat keels so that they presented less windage. Smaller sailboats were laid on their sides Recent storms have proven that high-rise storage racks are vulnerable in a storm’s high winds. Several have been completely destroyed in recent hurricanes. If possible, boats on storage racks should be placed on trailers and taken home.



Posted On: September 10, 2018

Sept 11

BASED ON A PIECE BY Byron Williams Sept 2016

On this upcoming anniversary of 9/11, let us never forget the innocent lives that were lost that day, the families whose lives were permanently altered and the valor that service units displayed, willing to risk their lives to save others. But let also us remember it was a moment when fear trumped our values. And to the latter point let us be resolved to say:

Never again.

We vowed never to forget 9/11, and in many respects we have not. But the underlying fear, resulting from that ill-fated day, rendered America vulnerable in a manner perhaps not duplicated in our history.

Unlike Pearl Harbor, when some Americans witnessed newsreels in the aftermath or the JFK assassination footage taken by Abraham Zapruder, which was not made public until 1975, America saw the second jet go into World Trade Center tower live.

The power of that image allowed us to place an asterisk on Sept. 11, 2001, denoting the date where we would be willing to make an exception to the constitutional values that had held the nation together for 213 years.

It was a time when the Patriot Act made sense to majorities in Congress and the nation at-large, in spite of protestations of its dangers. The downside was rationalized in that only those with something to hide should worry about the unprecedented invasion of privacy that was shielded by the Fourth Amendment’s protection of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The fear of another terrorist attack made the risk of any potential government overreach a Faustian bargain worth taking.

The understandable need to return to safety permitted our collective actions to utter the unthinkable: “Yes, our constitutional values are important, but...”

Let us be resolved to remember our rights and values guaranteed us in the constitution, and not let them be compromised.



Posted On: September 07, 2018

U.S. Coast Guard issues Marine Safety Alert on potential interference problem

Will your VHF radio work when you need it? The Coast Guard has reports of LED lighting causing interference. 


ALEXANDRIA, Va., August 30, 2018 – With their low battery draw, cooler operation and sturdy construction, LED lights have been popular with recreational boaters. The lights may also be causing poor VHF radio and Automatic Identification System (AIS) reception, according to a Marine Safety Alert issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on August 15.

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is urging boat owners to follow the Coast Guard’s simple test procedures for LED interference and report any instances to the Coast Guard Navigation Center.

The alert, issued for informational purposes, outlines reports received from mariners concerning radio frequency interference caused by LED lamps that “were found to create potential safety hazards.” In some cases, the Coast Guard says, the interference may cause problems if mariners need to call for help. The interference can affect VHF voice communications as well as Digital Selective Calling (DSC) messages, and it may also affect AIS because they also use VHF radio. In particular, masthead LED navigation lights on sailboats may cause problems due to their close proximity to antennas.

The Coast Guard advises that it is possible to test for the presence of LED interference by using the following procedures:

  1. Turn off LED light(s).
    2. Tune the VHF radio to a quiet channel (for example, channel 13).
    3. Adjust the VHF radio's squelch control until the radio outputs audio noise.
    4. Re-adjust the VHF radio's squelch control until the audio noise is quiet, only slightly above the noise threshold.
    5. Turn on the LED light(s).

If the radio now outputs audio noise, then the LED lights are causing interference and it is likely that both shipboard VHF marine radio and AIS reception are being degraded by LED lighting. Potential solutions include contacting an electronics repair facility to address the problem, changing the LED bulb to incandescent bulb or fixture, or increasing the separation between the LED light and antenna.

The Coast Guard also requests those experiencing this problem to report their experiences to the Coast Guard Navigation Center by selecting “Maritime Telecommunications” on the subject drop-down list, then briefly describing the make and model of LED lighting and radios affected, the distance from lighting to any antennas and radios affected, and any other information that may help them understand the scope of the problem.



Posted On: September 03, 2018

Labor Day seems to be the most misunderstood of our national holidays, and thus never seems to get the respect it deserves.

Labor Day was always just a long weekend marking the unofficial end of summer, a day I celebrated with family and friends in our backyards, drinking sangria and complaining  about how fast summer had flown by. But a closer look at the origins of Labor Day, and the people who have fought for the rights of our country’s most valuable asset – our workforce – reveals that Labor Day deserves much more respect than it receives.


Our country does not have a glamorous history as it relates to business owners’ treatment of their workers. In the late 1800s, following the Industrial Revolution (wherein manufacturing replaced agriculture as the primary source of American employment), the average American worked twelve-hour days and seven-day weeks just to earn a basic living. In many states, children as young as five or six worked in mills, factories, and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks.


These inequalities caused tremendous unrest within the workforce and gave rise to the formation of labor unions, which organized strikes and rallies to protest these horrific conditions and compel employers to pay a fair wage. Unfortunately, there are many accounts of employers paying off police officers to disband the strikes and rallies (by force if necessary) and arrest the union leaders.


These tensions reached a boiling point in May 1894 when employees of the Pullman Car Company went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. In response, the American Railway Union called for a strike of all Pullman railway cars, resulting in over 125,000 workers walking off the job. This effectively shut down the railway system nationwide, causing severe economic hardship throughout the country. The U.S. government obtained an injunction to force the workers back to work, but they refused, so President Cleveland ordered thousands of U.S. Marshals and 12,000 Army troops into Chicago to enforce the court’s order. The chaos resulted in the death of up to 30 strikers and injury to many more, as well as over $80 million in property damage. By August, Pullman had reopened and rehired the striking workers, subject to their signed pledge that they wouldn’t join a union.

 Following the Pullman strike, to help calm the massive unrest around the country, the President and Congress formalized the idea of a “workingmen's holiday” – which was already in place in many states – to honor the fact that this country was built on the backs of working men and women. An act was passed designating the first Monday in September a federal holiday known as “Labor Day.”



Posted On: August 31, 2018

Beelining For The Bahamas

To enter the Bahamas, private vessels need a Bahamas customs clearance form, one Bahamas immigration card per person aboard, and proof of citizenship (a U.S. passport).

According to the Bahamian government website, visiting boaters must clear Bahamas Customs & Immigration at the nearest designated port of entry; fly the yellow quarantine flag and notify customs of your arrival. Only the captain is permitted to leave the boat until your vessel has been cleared, at which time customs will send officers to your vessel to check in the crew. All boaters entering the Bahamas are required to pay an entry fee of $150 for boats up to 35 feet; it's $300 for larger boats. Fees are subject to change.

Go to the entry requirements page at for info, including contacts and downloadable clearance form.



Posted On: August 27, 2018

Headed To Mexico?

The Mexican government has attempted to make entering Mexico by pleasure boat less complicated, but there's still a checklist of documentation required. Getting that paperwork in order months ahead is necessary. Start with a valid passport, required for each crewmember.

Most critical for any skipper to enter Mexico on your own boat is having original vessel documentation for proof of ownership, obtaining a temporary import permit (TIP) and displaying the decal, as well having your boat's hull identification number (HIN) where inspectors can see it. This is especially important if you plan to leave your boat in Mexico while returning stateside. In 2013, Mexican authorities seized dozens of U.S.-flagged boats that didn't have the permit decal and/or the HIN visible.

Apply for a TIP at one of 10 Mexican consulate offices in the U.S. You can also apply and pay for the TIP online through its Banjercito website. The site is in Spanish, but you can switch to English by clicking the option in the upper right corner. The cost is around US$51 plus tax.

Everyone on board will also need an FMM visitor card (formerly called a tourist visa).

Vessels also must complete an International Clear-In Document on arrival. A fee of about US$15 is required for each person aboard and must be paid by credit card. The fee can be prepaid online through the Mexican government's Banjercito website.

Casual anglers should know that if there's fishing gear on board, every person on board must obtain a Mexican fishing license, whether or not they're fishing. 

In addition to proper documentation, boating in Mexico requires three types of insurance: hull coverage, liability coverage, and automobile liability coverage, if you're trailering your boat on land. The wrinkle is that a Mexican insurance provider — outside of your normal insurance policy — must issue liability coverage for boat and trailer.  Restrictions may apply for storm seasons, destination, and length of stay.

Americans must remember that it's illegal to carry firearms or ammunition into Mexico. For comprehensive information on border-crossing document requirements, visit CBP's "Get You Home" page on its website.