Harbormaster Shares Preparedness Plan Ahead of Hurricane Season


WITH ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON HERE, Manchester Harbormaster Bion Pike today issued a storm preparedness plan for area boaters when preparing for heavy weather.

Every storm and vessel is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to preparing your vessel when a storm is coming.  

If unsure of the steps to prepare, Pike wrote, boaters will need guidance. 

“Do nothing to put yourself or others at risk. Starting preparations days, weeks, and months in advance is the responsible choice of the boat owner. Showing up in the final hours before a storm to secure your vessel only endangers you and those who may have to rescue you if things go wrong.”

No Vessel Is Equal to The Life of a Human Being!

Vessels are the responsibility of boat owners and must be taken seriously.

“Do not depend on others to notify you of imminent bad weather. You should check the weather every day your vessel is in the water. Choose a weather delivery platform that you are most comfortable with. NOAA’s National Weather Service is the bedrock for most weather service offerings. Tropical Tidbits is a potential choice for following tropical storms. The long and short of it is, find one that works for you and check it every single day.”

The plan's goal is to ensure that all boaters in Manchester are aware of approaching bad weather and to provide guidance in preparation for bad weather.  Another primary facet of a good storm plan is facilitating a return to normal operation as soon as is practical after the storm has passed.

Early and orderly preparations have a direct impact on the success of any storm plan. It is important to remember that the boat owner bears the ultimate responsibility for the safety of his/ her boat as well as the crew.  Rapidly changing conditions may require abandoning some aspects of the plan.

In heavy weather, the order of priority for the Harbormaster is as follows.  First, prevent personal injury and loss of life.  Second, minimize property and environmental damage.  Third, quickly restore normal harbor operations.

Although the Harbormaster tries to ensure that all boats in Manchester are safe, the ultimate responsibility for any boat belongs to the owner.

To protect your vessel and those around it, you must a) know your boat and your skill level, b) know the surrounding area, and c) have a plan.

Preparation for the hurricane season begins before you launch in the spring.  Is your mooring adequate to hold your boat during a storm?  What other options are available to you?  These are questions that need to be answered before a storm arrives.

Remember, these are general guidelines and should not be considered our only options.  Time is of the essence, and planning cannot happen when the storm is imminent.  Early planning will ensure that vessels and valuable infrastructure will weather the storm with minimal damage. 

Option 1:  Get Out of the Water    

If your boat is small, trailers easily take it out of the water and move it to higher ground. Be sure you move above any potential storm surge or wave action. Wind and rain can also cause damage to your vessel.  Whenever possible, store your vessel in a garage or covered area. Remove all fuel and equipment from the boat and store them inside.  Place blocking under the axle on your trailer and remove the drain plug if your hull cannot support the extra weight. Consider tying the boat and trailer down with large tent pegs or house trailer tie-downs.

Option 2:  Stay in the Water 

This option assumes that you will; a) stay at the dock or mooring, b) anchor in a hurricane hole, or c) get underway and head offshore.

Moorings … Consider the Very Real Dangers

The greatest threat to staying on your mooring is storm surge. A moderate surge can reduce mooring scope to unsafe levels. Check for expected surge levels before the storm arrives. Chain wear is another important factor. A loss of chain diameter amounting to one-third of the original diameter is considered unsafe. 

Pike’s plan asks boaters on moorings to take the following fundamental steps:

  • Moving of vessels to safer anchorage should be completed 48 hours before the storm lands.
  • Reduce "windage" or surface area that the wind can strike.
  • Remove sails and stow below, especially roller furling jibs. If you cannot remove the sails, it is imperative to secure them to prevent them from coming loose. Look for any other object that may cause wind-age.
  • Close all ports, remove funnels, and install caps.
  • Secure the tiller or wheel with a line.
  • Remove coils of line and other gear not permanently attached from the deck. Prepare for the likelihood that other vessels will break loose and drift onto your boat. Remove all protruding objects and set fenders alongside your boat.
  • Install a second pennant on your mooring. If one chafes through, a pennant will still secure your boat to the mooring.
  • Lastly, GET OFF THE BOAT. Your safety is more important than your vessel.

Hurricane Holes

A crowded anchorage may necessitate moving to a protected hurricane hole or area of safe anchorage, a small cove with a soft bottom that is not a traditional anchorage.  Be prepared, writes Pike, because it is probable that the cove will fill rapidly with other boats.  This is one reason not to move.  Any hurricane hole should be identified and inspected before the season begins.  An area with high bluffs, and tall trees on as many sides as possible with deep water is best. Identify several spots and test the bottom in each.

  • Arrive at least 12 hours before storm landfall.
  • Set your anchor with a scope of at least 7 to 1, although 10 to 1 is preferable where possible.
  • Consider setting a second anchor approximately 30 degrees from the first anchor. A nylon anchor rode is best if you don’t have a chain as it has elasticity and reduces shock on the anchor rode and deck hardware.
  • Use chafing gear when the line makes contact with chocks coming onto the boat.
  • Make sure bilge pump float switches are operating and
  • If you decide to stay on the boat, monitor the weather and marine safety channels. Let someone know you are on the boat and establish regular communication. Let the shoreside party know what to do if you do not respond to a scheduled communication.
  • Have ample fuel, water, food, clothing, portable radio, and a flashlight with extra batteries. Bring any prescription medicines.  If necessary, engage the engine to reduce strain on the anchor.
  • Maintain an anchor watch to keep on station.
  • Check bilges and pumps regularly.
  • Floating navigational aids can move off the station, so do not rely on them for position.

Biggest Recommendation to Boaters: Do Not Go Offshore

Unless your vessel is 100 feet or greater and you have heavy weather experience, do not go offshore, writes Pike.  This is not a viable option.

“These are general guidelines and should not be considered your only options.  Only you know what will work best for you and your vessel.  Time is of the essence and planning cannot happen when the storm is imminent. Plan early, and you and your vessel will likely weather the storm with minimal difficulty and damage.”

Manchester Harbor, Magnolia Harbor, and Area G Guidelines

Given the extreme exposure to open water in Magnolia, extra time and energy must be devoted to any vessel moored in Magnolia Harbor.  This requires planning well in advance of any approaching storm. In the event of a major storm, ALL vessels in Magnolia Harbor must be moved or removed from Magnolia Harbor.  Vessels in Area G should also plan to evacuate during a major storm.  Vessel owners in Area G and Magnolia must have a viable storm plan for their vessel on file in Harbormasters office.  Tuck's Point's float and ramp system will be removed and secured in Area A alongside the Town Hall floats at Alert Level 2. 

Many vessels moored in Manchester Harbor are expected to be hauled in the event of a hurricane. Many of these empty moorings will be made available for vessels moored in Magnolia Harbor and Area G.  Check with the harbormaster, Crocker’s Boat Yard, Manchester Marine, or Manchester Yacht Club to locate available appropriate moorings in Manchester Harbor.

Do not take a mooring without checking with one of the entities listed above.  The security and safety of your vessel and those around you could be compromised.  Any damage caused by a vessel inappropriately using a mooring will be the responsibility of that vessel's owner.

  • Relying on the possibility of an available mooring is not an appropriate storm plan.  Be sure you have developed at least one other viable option to secure your vessel.
  • First priority for available moorings in Manchester Harbor, writes Pike, will be to Manchester and Magnolia boaters. 
  • 72 hours before the storm arrives; all necessary planning steps to secure your vessel should be completed
  • 48 hours before storm arrival, begin securing Magnolia Harbor and Area G. If moorings are unavailable in Manchester Harbor, each mooring holder must implement a Plan B.
  • 24 hours before storm arrival, encourage boaters to finish preparing their vessels for heavy weather, all work should be completed at this time, and your vessel should be evacuated. Surf may have already started to build, causing unsafe conditions.
  • Close attention must be paid to storm track and speed to adjust the timing for securing your vessel. 

Option 3:  Remain in the Shelter Until the Storm Passes

  • After the storm passes, post lookouts at any boats that have come ashore to prevent looting.
  • Contact the owners of any boats that have come ashore and advise them of the situation.
  • Communication will be maintained between the harbormaster, assistant harbormasters, and any other waterfront volunteers for the duration of the storm and the recovery period.

Assess any damage to pier structures and determine if they can re-open. If damage is discovered, contact an engineer to identify necessary repairs at your earliest convenience. Effect repairs as soon as possible.

If the facilities are undamaged, bring all floats back, lower ramps, and turn electricity and water back on.