How to Protect Your Boat During a Storm

Twelve to twenty-four hours.

With modern global weather and hurricane tracking, that’s the usual amount of time you have to prepare your boat for a storm. Are you ready? If not, there’s no time to wait.

Long Before the Storm: Insurance Protection

The time to prepare for a storm is when the weather is sunny and you have some time. Specifically, you’ll want to look into your insurance coverage to ensure that your boat is protected:

  • Check your insurance coverage. The phrase “storm” might mean something specific to you, but for insurance purposes, it tends to be vague. You’ll want to make sure that your insurance policy protects the boat from lightning damage, hail, windstorms, and flooding.
  • Keep in mind the difference between small craft and larger craft. For instance, according to the Insurance Information Institute, “Small craft may be covered under your standard homeowners policy or renters insurance policy.” That changes with a larger boat or yacht. You’ll also find that “personal watercraft” like Jet-Skis also fall under this category. Long story short: don’t assume that your homeowner’s insurance covers your boat.
  • Understand the two types of boat insurance. The two types are “actual cash value”—in which policies handle replacement minus the depreciation of the boat as measured at the time of its loss—and “agreed amount value,” which is a valuation that both you and your policy agree upon.

With your boat’s insurance protection, don’t look for only storm damage coverage. You’ll also want to make sure that a wide range of potential events are covered, including boat theft, physical loss of elements of the boat (such as machinery on the boat), guest passenger liability, and medical payments for injuries sustained while boating.

When the Storm’s on the Radar

What happens when a storm’s on the radar? If you’re out at sea, the time to dock is now—not later. You can still do a few things to protect your boat while docked:

  • Strap down your boat. This is a step that’s become more popular when hurricanes roll in, as notes.
  • Strip the boat down. Anything that the wind will pick up during a storm or hurricane is something that you’ll want to take to safety rather than keep around your boat. Flying debris can cause a lot of damage.
  • Cover the valuables. Add storm-grade boat covers to glass and other valuables on the boat, especially those you can’t remove but will face the highest risk of damage.

During the Storm

If you’re ever out on your boat when you’re caught during a storm and have no way to dock, there are a few procedures you should always follow:

  • Put on all life jackets. It doesn’t matter how good you are at swimming—a sudden turn of the boat or a wave crashing over the side can change everything. The life jackets aren’t there for when you need to brace; they’re there for the unexpected moments.
  • Lock down your windows and hatches.There’s a reason the phrase “batten down the hatches” has become synonymous with emergency preparedness. Given how much a boat can twist and roll during a storm, you’ll want to minimize the number of objects that can get loose and cause damage.
  • Understand how to call for assistance. BoatUS features a communications guide that will help you understand when—and who—to call when you’re in dire need of assistance.
  • If you can, get to shore. Every storm requires your best judgment and experience. But if the waters are calm enough to get to a dock safely, you should proceed there at a 45-degree angle from the waves.

If you adequately prepare your boat for a storm with proper insurance coverage and know how to handle a storm when it’s upon you, you can do a lot to minimize the damage. Keep in mind that any boat owner should think about these problems now—or else you might find yourself caught when it’s too late.

Ask your insurance agent about yacht insurance.