By Steve Morrell
August is the beginning of the heart of the hurricane season for the southeastern states. August, September and October: to me, the big three months when we need to be more aware.
It’s hard to believe that it has been 13 years since August 13, 2004—the day Hurricane Charley came ashore and changed my view—and a lot of other peoples’ views—on the hurricane season. I lived in Florida for 10 years in the ’80s in southeast Florida and experienced only one hurricane during that time—Hurricane David. I owned a 26-foot wood cruising sloop that I stuck in a hurricane hole in Stuart, FL, and suffered only one smashed compass (as a result of the topping lift breaking). After David, no other serious storms came to Florida, and I became complacent. I was away from the ocean in the ’90s, returning in 2001, still not considering them to be a real bother.
Then Charley struck. Then Ivan, Dennis, Francis, Jeanne, Rita, Katrina… well, I won’t bring them all up. After those storms, I saw all the damage they did to boats (to homes and lives, too, but Southwinds is a sailboat magazine). I started to study, see and learn what we could all do to save our boats. I have learned a lot. We can save most of the boats. Sure, when the big one hits, there isn’t much you can do, but I also heard many stories of people who prepared their boats and survived even these big storms.
In Southwinds, I have made a major effort to make the magazine a significant source of information on how to prepare your boat for a storm. We have collected articles and information with the main goal being that they be practical stories: what to specifically do to prepare your boat and fit that into what you are most likely to do. I hear people give out advice that the only real way is to anchor your boat out with many anchors and strip the boat down. I’ll bet that is the best thing to do, but I have learned this: Most boats are kept at docks and if you make a plan and prepare to carry it out, you will have the time and it won’t take long. You are likely to do this. If you plan to take your boat out, anchor it with three to five anchors, handle all the logistics of moving the boat (with help) to an anchorage, set all those anchors, and then get back into shore (on some other boat, which has to be prepared, too, by someone), you better have a lot of time and be dedicated to doing so. It will take up a good part of your day to do all this.
The best anchoring success story I heard was of Mick Gurley’s Pearson 35, New Moon (see Southwinds, Back Issues September 2005, or read it in our Hurricane section available on our Web site). Mick had a great plan, implemented it many times in the past—refining it over the years—and carried it out, taking a direct hit from Charley. It survived with no damage. But New Moon is Mick’s business as a charter boat. He, along with many others like him, including those whose boat is their home, make the time to save their boats. Most of us use our boats for pleasure and don’t have that time. So Southwinds has been concentrating on this group—the majority of sailors whose boats are for weekend use, or an occasional cruise, and who, perhaps, race weekly in the club races. We might only have a couple of hours when the storm comes. But with planning, that is all you need—and you can save your boat from those storms that are most likely to hit, the smaller ones. Without planning, you will be in trouble, as there won’t be enough time. Once you’re prepared, it doesn’t take that much time.
All of our past stories and many links to hurricane weather Web sites and other articles on the Internet are available on our new, updated hurricane pages on our Web site, www.southwindsmagazine.com.
So this month, stay aware, get your plan ready and, if need be, carry it out. But let’s hope we won’t have to.
This articles originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of SOUTHWINDS as an editorial. It has been edited for this online version.