Hurricane Prep Important, but Beware the Nor’easter!

How about all of those testimonials sent in attesting to the way SlideMoor’s docking system let boats safely ride out the ravages of Hurricane Irma? And I do mean “ride out,” as SlideMoor successfully helped many of the southwest Florida region’s boats smoothly go up and down with the massive storm surge. Little doubt that the 12 or so written comments represent just a small fraction of area boat owners who experienced limited boat damage due to the SlideMoor system. 

A satisfied Punta Gorda customer reported that SlideMoor held his 45-foot Island Packet snugly in place when the storm first emptied the water from the canal system. “The winds were no concern,” and “the boat barely moved,” he said. “Later, when the surge came, SlideMoor simply rode it up. There would have been no way to securely tie the boat with dock lines to account for the 8 foot swing from ebb to flood. It would have left too much slack in the lines.”

And storm surge and too much or too little slack in the lines is a major concern with keeping any boat moored to its dock during a storm. The amount of line scope is also a factor should one try to ride out a storm by anchoring or spider-webbing a solution in a small hurricane hole.

Of course, absent the apparent ease of SlideMoor, storm prepping one’s boat is an exercise of performing standard tasks that have proven tried and true over time, guessing what else might be done to mitigate potential damage, and prayer. With the latter perhaps expanding in accordance with the power of the storm.

Up here in the Canadian northeast we’ve never had to contend with a hurricane with the power of Irma, but we do get our fair share of smaller hurricanes. In fact, since moving here full time 15 years ago, we’ve had to contend with nine hurricanes and post-hurricane tropical storms, though only one—Hurricane Juan—landed as a category higher than “1.” Juan landed as a Category 2 storm, and is considered the most powerful and most damaging hurricane to hit the Canadian Maritimes in the last 100 years. The September 2003 storm killed eight people, sank and/or damaged hundreds of boats, destroyed several marinas and left our area without power for two weeks.

And we missed it because we were on vacation down in North Carolina. While several boats in our small harbor broke from their mooring lines and were tossed up on the land by the wind and storm surge, my boat held fast and survived with no damage. Our dock also survived the tempest; however, it was severely damaged by “White Juan,” a powerful winter nor’easter that hit us five months later.

You may surmise that “prayer” had been my default storm preparation for Hurricane Juan, which it was. Though I also had on-site help from my stepfather, who took off the sails and anything else on the boat that would help reduce windage, wrapped the mooring lines with anti-chaffing leather, and dropped an anchor next to the mooring stone. Other than that, there wasn’t much he could do…but add in some prayer.

This storm prep pretty much serves as my go-to whenever a hurricane approaches, and—knock on wood—has always worked. And, actually, I’m far more fearful of nor’easters than I am of hurricanes because our harbor is exposed to the northeast and they often don’t arrive with much advance warning. In fact, the only damage my boat has sustained in the past 15 years is from nor’easters. One spring nor’easter parted our mooring lines and set our boat free. Amazingly, the wind took it down the harbor, apparently without it touching any of the other moored boats, and then pinned it against a dock a quarter mile away. The only damage was a relatively small scratch caused by one of the dock’s mooring posts. A recent nor-easter broke another boat free from its mooring, sending it through the harbor like a pinball. It took out my boat’s anchor roller, and careened into several other boats before it ended up sideways on a rocky beach.

I’ve also ridden out a couple of nor’easters at sea, and, yeah, I don’t like them at all. But I have a special dislike for them because the famous 1991 “Perfect Storm” nor’easter sank my grandfather’s boat, a beautiful wooden Alden sloop. Other than when my grandmother died, it was the only time I ever saw him cry.

M.J. Moye

M.J. Moye

M.J. Moye is an editorial consultant and sailor who lives in Chester, Nova Scotia.
M.J. Moye

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