With Tropical Storm Isaac likely tracking toward the Gulf of Mexico, boaters should review their hurricane preparation plans now. Don't wait until the storm strengthens or changes course to start thinking about what to do with your boat.
Tropical systems typically affect boats in several ways. Storm surge can raise sea levels far above normal high tide. This rush of water can stack unsecured watercraft like cord wood.
The best course of action is to move a boat inland well ahead of the storm so you won't have to contend with clogged roadways. If possible, store the boat in dry storage at a marina or in a garage. A storm-proof structure offers the best level of protection.
If you must motor to safety, take your boat up a creek or river, where it can ride out the swells, storm surge and heavy winds. But remember, drawbridges are authorized to lock down eight hours before the arrival of gale-force winds. The last place you want to be is trapped on the water when the storm hits. And because the Republican National Convention is in the area, there are additional bridge restrictions (see story, 1A).
If you plan to leave your boat in the water, remove all valuables before you secure it. Disconnect all electronics, and remove any Bimini tops, sails, antennas, life rings, outriggers, booms and dinghies.
Make sure the deck lines are not worn, and leave enough slack to account for the rising water. Don't wait until the storm is here to secure the boat. It may take a couple of attempts to get the lines right. Extra-long "spring" lines, designed to keep a boat secure during major tidal fluctuations (spring, as in spring tides), are extremely helpful.
Once the storm has passed, remember that aids to navigation — buoys and channel markers — may be torn away from their usual positions. If you have to move by boat, take it slow. Channels can be hard to recognize without the usual markers. There is also the danger of floating or submerged debris. Everything from derelict boats to fallen trees will be in the water. Post a lookout on the bow.
For more preparation tips, visit Boat U.S. at boatus.com.