Preparing a Boat — and Surviving — Hurricane Charley

New Moon Survives Charley Anchored off Captiva Island

How to anchor your boat for storm

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Southwinds

By Steve Morrell

On September 17, 2000, Hurricane Gordon passed near Mick Gurley’s Pearson 35, New Moon, as she lay anchored off Captiva Island in southwest Florida. He lost the boat, but not because he didn’t secure it well. The boat was struck by lightning, which put a hole through it. The boat sank. The boat was a complete loss and put a temporary end to his charter business, New Moon Sailing, located in Captiva. Mick has been in the sailing and charter business for over 25 years and wasn’t about to let a little old hurricane or lightning bolt put him out of business. Two months after the loss, he purchased a Pearson 39, named her New Moon, and was back in business.

Four years later, on August 13, 2004, the eye of Hurricane Charley passed over North Captiva – a few miles north of the same spot where the old New Moon was during Gordon – hitting the new New Moon pretty much directly, as it lay at anchor in the same spot as the old one. This time, though, the boat suffered no damage. It was not struck by lightning, but it did survive Category 4-storm-winds of 150-plus mph. That’s right; no damage. What did Mick do that worked so well?


Sailboat New Moon survives Hurricane Charley
New Moon anchored off Captiva. Photo by Steve Morrell

“I have always had a special affinity for anchors. At one point I had 14 or 15 anchors – and used them all,” says Mick. And he learned from them over the years. He has slowly, over time, narrowed them down to what he considers the best. He says he now, for storm preparation, always uses five anchors, which is what he did on Wednesday, August 11 – two days before Charley struck.

Mick set up in Roosevelt Channel, the narrow waterway east of the south end of Captiva Island that heads south to the bridge separating the island from Sanibel. Uninhabited and wild Buck Island borders its western side. The channel is 50-150 yards wide, with a navigable channel meandering through it. In places, only a kayak can pass over the shallow waters outside the navigable part. The channel itself is 6 or 7 feet at high tide in the deeper areas and only a few feet deep farther south. Mick chose an area as far down the channel as he could find and still get the depth he needed for New Moon‘s 5-foot draft-and still have room to put out five anchors. He also went to what he called “the front of the line,” where there would be no boats upwind from New Moon. The channel is somewhat of a hurricane hole, with luxury homes on its west side, and thick vegetation on the other side.

Mick put his five anchors out in a hemispherical pattern, the orientation of which is determined by the anticipated wind direction that a storm will bring. This is one of Mick’s most important points; where will the strongest winds of the storm come from? Mick predicted that Charley would pass to the west heading north, and the southerly winds along the storm’s right flank would come right up the north/south-running channel. He therefore pointed his half-circle of anchors down the channel, with the center anchor running directly to the south.

Mick uses two 35-pound CQRs, a 33-pound Bruce, a 22-pound Delta, and – what Mick calls “one big mother of a Danforth,” On four of the anchors he carries 30-40 feet of galvanized chain, either 1/2-inch or 3/8-inch. For the Danforth, he carries about 200 feet of 1/2-inch chain which he stores in a bucket. He secures 30-40 feet of 5/8-inch line to the chain and, with a tender, runs the chain out of the bucket till both reach the end, where he drops the anchor, then bear downs on it, securing it on the bottom. All anchors are set in a similar fashion equally spaced in the hemispherical pattern.

I asked Mick how he secures five anchor rodes to a 39-foot boat, knowing that many boats aren’t equipped for this. He said he has two bow cleats and two chocks. He secures two lines to each cleat and then takes the Danforth rode, makes a large loop with a bowline in it, and loops that around the two cleats. Mick used no chafe protection. Having heard of stories where lines actually melted inside chafe protection, he decided not to use it-especially since he had good solid chocks through which the lines were led. (I will have to some day remind Mick of stories on the east coast where large, slow storms created hurricane-force winds that lasted up to 17 hours – when chafe became the final destroying factor for many boats. Charley was a strong, but small and fast storm.)


A sailboat that did not survive hurricane Charley
Another boat anchored off Captiva that didn’t do as well. Photo by Steve Morrell

He removes all canvas and sails on the boat, putting them down below, and lashes the helm, holding the rudder inline. He shackles the roller furling drum to the frame to minimize any movement. He removes one battery from the system and separately connects it to the bilge pump, isolating the system to some extent – remembering his previous boat getting struck by lightning.

Mick then went home and began to prepare his house on Sanibel.

After Charley struck on Friday afternoon, August 13, Mick was anxious to get back to see how his boat-and his business-survived the storm. He was able to get to it soon afterwards and was pleased to see no damage. Well, there was one thing. The channel suffered a low storm surge, laying the boat way over on its side. Engine oil, a couple of quarts of it, drained out through the dipstick tube. Mick said it was a real mess cleaning it up. We discussed different ways to shut off the dipstick tube in the future.

He did remark on one item he forgot and left on deck, the boat hook. It hadn’t moved.



When asked what he would like to say to others about preparing their boats, Mick responded, “You can’t prepare enough. When the season rolls around, you get your gear together. You put it in one spot where you can grab it and run with it up to the boat.”

Unfortunately, Mick’s home didn’t do as well as his boat. His Sanibel house had a tornado touch down on its roof, flooding the bedroom. He and his wife had the foresight to stay inland during the storm.

Probably would have been safe on the boat.

For more information on Mick Gurley and New Moon, go to



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