This year’s hurricane season is one with higher than normal expected activity.
The preparations for a docked boat at a marina in La Paz differ in many ways from the preparations for a wind event at anchor or at sea. So, I thought I would share how to prep your boat down here.
Preparations begin even before the storm season.
First, and foremost, if you have insurance and it is your first year in Mexico, keep it in force. And, as importantly READ IT!
You will probably find, if it is a standard policy, that it contains a “named storm” clause. This little bit of legalese lets you know and serves as notice that if the storm that comes ashore and destroys your little boat/home has been named by the forecasters, then your coverage doesn’t cover the loss.
Don’t panic, you can actually do something about this clause, now that you have read it. You can write the insuring company and let them know that you want “named storm” coverage. They will charge you a small fee (I think it was about $150) and tada … you are now covered if something happens.
Second, and this will help you get the insurance (so I guess that makes it first sort of), write a “heavy weather plan”. I will attach so you can see an example. It will list the things you will do in preparation for a known and oncoming storm if you have notice.
With this, you can convince the insurance company that you are doing your part to protect and prepare the boat. This only works if you actually prepare the boat.
This is the boat at the dock before the storm. This is the casual, we are all trying to keep cool in the sun look!
What you should pay attention to here is all the canvas work that is up. Note the weather is hot and not very windy before Hurricane Erick approached from the south. At this point, it was two days out.
The roller furler 120% head sail has been removed. By marina rules ( and by the rules that govern responsibility under most insurance policies) require removal before big winds.
To give you a little perspective, I will link to two videos of hurricanes shot within less than 20 feet from where my boat is not moored. One is Hurricane Marty in 2006 and the other is after Marina La Paz was rebuilt showing the improvements in protection. They also implemented a hurricane plan and the second hurricane was sort of its first test. Watch in order.
HURRICANE MARTY 2003
HURRICANE JOHN 2006
Note in the first one that lots of boats still have their furlers up and loaded with sail and some are actually flying (as in accidentally opened by the wind). The best outcome in such winds is that your head sail rips itself to shreds without taking off with your boat.
Urban legend here is that one or more of the boats actually sailed off unmanned once the head sails opened and they pulled off the dock cleats.
Anyway, back to the near present. July and Hurricane Erick (later to become tropical storm Erick as its winds fell.
Steps are sort of as follows:
Remove head sails.
Tie all sail covers (yes, the little buttons will open under wind and your sail will climb up the mast in the wind).
Remove all barbecues from rails.
Prepare your solar panels. You can remove them and store below decks. Or, you can add clamps to lock them down so they can not wing out and fly in the storm. We have lock downs. We also have the very special and cheap tool without which absolutely cannot get the wiring released to take them off. It is very cheap and essential for a boat with solar.
Secure everything on deck, rafts, dingy, spars, boat hooks.
Fill all jugs that are empty. This includes water, diesel, and gasoline, if you are a cruiser. This serves two purposes. First, they don’t fly as well full ( also tie them down). Second, if the storm damages critical infrastructure like water, fuel, and electricity, you are prepared.
Make sure your food stores are full.
Look at hatch covers, and plywood interior shutters for major hatches.
Inspect your lines securing you to the docks. Add lines securing you to the pylons if storm is anticipated to be major. Logic here is cleats are held to wooden docks by screws. Pylons are driven into sea floor. Work the math about which is stronger.
Add a lighter line to each dock line as back up or stress indicator depending on how you tie them.
Close all sea cocks (except cockpit drains … very very important).
Secure all items inside that can go sliding or flying around.
The first time you do this exercise, make notes and take times so that you will know, next time, about how long it takes to prep your boat for the wind. If your boat is ready to sail at the drop of a hat, it is probably half way to prepared already. The more comfortable you are at a dock, the more preparation work so allow time accordingly.
This is Spiritus all prepped up.
I think the most important thing is to deal with the covers and sail canvas before the winds pick up. Once the blow starts, it much more difficult and dangerous to be handling the 120 genoa/gib on a furler.
Once preparation if finished, wait! Sit there in the heat … sweat … sweat … and wait. Calm … more calm …. no evening winds … watch the storm over the internet … storm track it.
Oh, and for entertainment you can listen, watch, or talk to the “seasoned sailors” around the marinas. Three trains of thought here …. (1) do nothing as it is too early in the year for a hurricane (then you notice them quietly lower their head sails), (2) there is a storm warning, we are all going to die. (this group falls into two general categories, one group moves ashore into hotels and the other “puts to sea” headed for the mainland ports. (3) What will be, will be! This group prepares their boats even if the storm is not a certainty because it is only certain after it is too late to prepare your boat.
We track storms using several sources in info down here in Mexico. We can read Baja Insider which has lots of articles on storms of the past and keeps current storm predictions and season information up to date. We use bajasundog.com because it has lots of ways to display the information. Many use Saildocs weather for sailors for this zone. And finally, every morning on Channel 22, the local fleet channel, at 8:00 am there is a local weather forecast that uses everything above plus more to give us a good local picture.
This is the boat after it became obvious that we were not even going to get rain from the storm.
I think it was somewhere in Shakespeare that someone said … “If will be, will be. If is not to be, then will not be … the readiness is all.” Paraphrased as he might as well have been talking about preparing for storms.
“If it be now, ’t is not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all” is the actual quote ( I add this so my wife, a Shakespeare scholar, when she is not being deck fluff, does not kill me with ridicule). Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2.
With this storm weakening and dissipating without significant landfall, you might also say “Much ado about nothing” !
My wife is giving me the evil professorial eye. I think I will end this while I am still allowed to use the keyboard.