Hurricane Preparedness #3 … Dock Lines

Charley caused minimal damage to Winterlude, mostly from laying against the piling when the water was sucked out.

One of the most important parts of leaving your boat in hurricane season in a marina is correctly setting your dock lines …   this can be Catch 22 at it’s best!   When Winterlude endured a direct hit by powerful Cat 4 Hurricane Charley, we had the dock lines set for the predicted significant storm surge.  In a prior hurricane, the docks were underwater and the storm surge caused most of the damage.    Charley, being contrary, sucked ALL the water out of the marina instead.  So all the boats sat in the mud against pilings.  As the eye passed, a wall of water surged back in, pushing boats across the docks into the docks and destroying many bow pulpits, after the masts had already been broken and boats sunken.

Luckily Winterlude was on the side of the dock that the wall of water pushed the boat away, instead of shoving us into the dock.  Winterlude had little damage, mainly damage from laying against the piling when the boat was on the mud.

Setting your dock lines needs to guard against both possibilities, storm surge and no water.  Since the most likely scenario is storm surge, that’s what we plan for — here’s a checklist:

1.  Make sure all your dock lines are of sufficient length — storm dock lines should be at least the length of your boat and in good condition.

2.  Rig double lines on bow, stern and springlines — you DO have springlines in place, right?

3.  Rig chafe protection on all points of contact — wherever a line goes through a chalk on the boat or around a piling or over the edge of a dock needs chafe protection and it needs to stay in place through significant motion.  We make sure we use small line to tie the chafe protection on both ends.

4.  Ensure at least some lines will not lift off pilings in a more than anticipated storm surge — likewise that they’re not too tight and end up holding the boat against the water — the water will win every time.  This is tough since lines that are too loose allow the boat can float around too much in the slip, banging against the dock or pilings.  You have to use your best judgement on this one, there is no right or wrong answer.  We’re wondering if we left ours correctly, time will tell.

5.  We keep our lines adjustable from the boat — different marinas prefer different line adjustments, so check with your dockmaster to see if they have recommendations.  Winterlude’s are all adjustable from the boat.

6.  Consider leaving extra lines in the cockpit for your caretaker to change the configuration as the forecast gets closer.  These lines should be extra long so that the lines can be used for anything needed.

Now you know what we do with the lines.   What do you do?  Anyone have comments or suggestions we can all learn from?   🙂

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