As Tropical Depression Nine begins its abrupt change in course to the west that will steer the storm ashore late Thursday or early Friday, boaters in the Big Bend region of Florida may be thinking they dodged a bullet. However, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says TD Nine, expected to grow into Tropical Storm status, will bring heavy rains across much of the state.
The National Hurricane Center forecasts up to 10 inches for the Cross City, Florida, area, and up to five inches is expected to fall as far north as Savannah, Georgia, more than enough water to sink a boat that is not prepared for the torrential downpour. BoatUS Seaworthy Magazine Editor Charles Fort says, “Boat cockpit deck drains are often woefully inadequate and a deluge can fill the cockpit and sink the boat. If the cockpit is not watertight, a bilge pump and battery’s ability to handle rain accumulation won’t last long. Deck drains and pump discharges located near the waterline can also back flow when waves and rain put drains underwater.”
For boats kept in the water, Fort recommends a good fitting cover, or at least ensuring rain can easily drain off the boat, including clearing any deck scuppers or drains of leaves. Batteries should be charged and the boat made as watertight as possible. Removing windage such as sails, bimini tops and deck furniture is also a good idea as winds are forecasted to increase. Trailerable vessels should be taken to the boat launch ramp, hauled and stored ashore away from trees.
At press time, most “hurricane haul-out” boat insurance provisions that help pay for owners to haul larger vessels from marinas or home dock slips are not yet in effect and may not be until TD Nine becomes a NOAA-named storm. With BoatUS Marine Insurance, a boater is eligible for 50 percent of the cost of labor, up to $1,000, to have the boat professionally hauled. A range of downloadable, no-cost storm preparation information is available at BoatUS.com/hurricanes.
For up-to-the-minute marine forecasts visit Buoyweather.com.