Ian Macmillan Safe boating is no accident

September 14, 2018

Since the height (Sept. 10) of the Atlantic Hurricane Season is upon us we would like you to take the time to take the following steps to prepare your vessel in the event of a storm. These actions should be practiced as a standard, since unnamed and unpredicted storms can also cause significant damage.

Hurricane awareness

Hurricanes are severe tropical disturbances which originate over water, gradually intensifying as they move over the ocean in erratic but sometimes predictable courses. A tropical storm which has wind velocities of more than 74 mph is classified as a hurricane. In addition to high winds and torrential rains, these storms are accompanied by large seas, abnormally high tide, and create possible tidal waves along the storm’s path. This plan defines the responsibilities and functions to be followed in the event of such a storm.

Hurricane preparedness steps

To best protect your boat in the event of a hurricane or other storm, the following guidelines can be followed:

Remove your boat to a safe harbor

If possible, boat owners should attempt to have their boats hauled out or relocated to a sheltered harbor. Greenwich has three nearby. The Byram River, Greenwich Harbor and The Stamford Hurricane hole behind the hurricane gate on the Northeast of Stamford Harbor. Captain Harbor is dangerously exposed to southerly winds. Waves can build very quickly, and reach a height where even the inner Greenwich Harbor offers very little protection. For 30 years Greenwich has lacked a maintenance dredge of the Federal Safe Harbor of Refuge.

Reduce windage

Remove anything from your boat that can catch wind and may become airborne. This can include:

All flags or anything from rigging, such as radar reflectors.

Dodgers, biminis, or other removable canvas.

All sails including roller furling, mainsail, and boom if possible on smaller boat. Alternatively, lash down with line and additional sailties.

All other cruising-type items in lockers or below deck (propane, fuel, anything flammable placed ashore or in ventilated lockers.)

Rig a storm bridle i.e. secondary bridle tied around your mast or primary winches.

A storm line or bridle can be attached to your bow cleat at all times. Attachment should be verified prior to a storm.

This is rigged as a secondary bridle alongside the primary bridle. This bridle should have slack in it compared to the primary bridle and only engage if the primary fails. Use chafing gear.

Remove and stow anchors

Remove all anchors from the bow of your boat. Anchors, especially plow anchors, can act like knives in rough seas and cut mooring bridles. Any boats left unattended on moorings for extended periods of time should follow this procedure as a standard practice. Inspect chocks and cleats.

Make sure that chocks have no rough edges that can cause chafe, and make sure cleats are securely fastened to the deck. During rough seas little can be done to prevent a bridle from chafing on a burred chock. You may use chafing gear with some liquid soap to lubricate.

Leave your boat unlocked, batteries charged and on, keys in ignition. Check your bilge and pumps. Keep a flashlight handy and your contact information.

On a dock or slip

Extra lines, extra fenders and keep the lines from being too tight. Be sure to have fenders between your boat and your neighbor’s boat as well as the dock.

It is possible to aid in the recovery of vessels, but this is greatly helped if the boat is easily boarded and gotten underway. The person helping you or your vessel in an emergency will likely be unfamiliar with your boat. It is also important to have extra fenders, dock and towing lines available in an obvious and easily accessible place.

Come early to prepare for the storm

Don’t wait until the day of the storm to prepare for the event. Conditions may prevent launch and tender services from operating at certain times. In case of emergency or danger, the mariners nearby will do whatever is practicable to insure the safety of yachts belonging to the others, but neither they nor the professionals assume any responsibility for such yachts. If conditions warrant, the State Harbormaster may suspend the launch, and tender services at his discretion until such conditions pass. The launches and private tenders may not be operated at any time by other than by designated captains and in this case the Harbormaster’s decision is final.

Ian Macmillan is the Greenwich Harbormaster.