Can You Be Forced OUT of Your Marina By A Hurricane?

The dilemma continues … many boaters are not aware that some marinas will try to force them to leave if a named storm threatens.  Leave?  Where would they go?  There aren’t enough hidey holes and anchorages to accommodate boats if everyone was forced out of their marinas.  This is a state by state decision, so make sure you know the rules in your state!

Marina owners claim boats destroy the docks.  Florida has enacted legislation prohibiting marinas from forcing boats out, but the marina owners have put language in their contracts that shift the liability for damage from the marina to the boaters.  So far this shift has not held up in court, WITH THE EXCEPTION that boats must be “secured properly”.  Since “secured properly” is a very gray area, you may want to check with the harbormaster to make SURE what your marina expects for boats left in a named storm.  A bare minimum would be sails and canvas off, extra lines and proper chafe protection.  Some marinas require a written hurricane plan for each boat.   A bit of history:

Hurricane Charley ... Broken Masts, Sunken Boats....Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda, FL

According to BoatUS:

“Current Florida law protects life over property by prohibiting marinas from forcing boats out once a hurricane watch or warning has been posted for that area by the National Weather Service. After 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, a comprehensive bill was passed and signed into law to address a host of emergency preparedness problems that surfaced before and after that Category 5 hurricane. Marina owners at that time wanted lawmakers to give them the right to evacuate marinas prior to a storm; BoatU.S. and many boaters objected and the law, enacted in 1994, explicitly protected citizens’ safety over property on the grounds that some boat owners would have no safe place to go or would try to “ride out” a storm on board their boats, a potentially deadly tactic. In addition, heavily populated areas such as south Florida don’t have nearly enough anchorages or hurricane holes to accommodate the thousands of boats in that area.

 In 1995, the law was challenged by a marina in court and the case was dismissed. A subsequent appeal upheld the dismissal and in deciding the case, the First District Court of Appeals noted that while boat owners were not obligated to move their vessels prior to a hurricane, they did “have a duty to take all other reasonable precautions to protect the marina from harm” including properly mooring the boat, removing loose objects and tying down items on the deck that could not be removed.”

Since every state, and every marina, is different, Be SURE to read your marina contract word for word before signing up to know what the rules are.   You definitely do not want to be surprised when a named storm suddenly makes a beeline for your location!

Unfortunately there’s no really good answer for the dilemma … Winterlude was in Burnt Store Marina when Hurricane Charley took an abrupt right turn and slammed into the marina as a Cat 4 hurricane.  Click here for more information on Winterlude and Hurricane Charley.    Docks were destroyed and condemned and many boats were sunk or sustained serious damage with broken masts and holed hulls.  Luckily, Winterlude escaped serious damage – primarily by luck, being on the side of the dock pushed off when the wall of water came rushing into the marina.

What does your marina require?  Please post a comment and we can all learn more.  THX!  Jan



  1. My Marina here in Rhode Islands requires you to leave or get hauled out. I was not aware that any named storm will invoke this, not just a hurricane. Not a huge problem in the northeast (twice in four years) but it is still something you need a plan for.

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