Isaac was an interesting experience. While I had to set a boat up for a hurricane previously in the British Virgin Islands, this time I couldn’t call the charter company, hand the boat off, and walk away. The storm itself where I was in Key West didn’t feel much worse than a windy day on the San Francisco Bay.
What I learned from Hurricane Isaac follows:
- Preparation is everything: anything you have to do in a storm will be much harder in high winds with a boat pitching in the rain.
- Be willing to walk away if conditions warrant: this is a hard one, and particularly with regard to what the conditions need to be before you pull out. My benchmark is what it takes to get me and my crew to safety.
- It’s not okay to keep your sails on: I secured Pearl’s sails so that they would not unfurl as a result of a furling line failure. I did this by tying the sails down using a series of vertically arranged half-hitches and secured the free ends with a round turn and two half hitches for this. This isn’t something I would do again. The sails come off.
- Chafe gear: I can’t stress how important this can be, and how important it is to check it. A friend whose boat was on the mooring field broke loose because his chafe gear and mooring line chafed through.
- Mooring lines: at a dock, these are critical. I had my dock lines tripled at each attachment point to control side-to-side movement and my spring lines doubled on each side to check front to back movement.
- Be aware of tides and storm surge.