A Storm Is Coming – How to Protect Your Boaters
Back in May of 2023, NOAA predicted that this fall’s hurricane season would see between 12 and 17 named storms, meaning the storm included wind gusts of 39 MPH or higher. Within that prediction, they concluded that the Atlantic Basin could see five to nine hurricanes, with a 70% confidence in their forecasts. Even those marinas that don’t encounter the wrath of the coasts still experience storms that threaten the property or even the lives of boaters each year.
Now, a skeptical marina manager might say, “Well, it’s halfway through hurricane season – what’s the point of doing something now?” The contrary perspective: “It’s off-peak season and I have a window – maybe now is the time for improvements.”
It could be a Category 3 hurricane or a light mist moving through your marina. Either way, it’s your marina’s responsibility to have emergency structures in place for the customers who entrust you to safeguard their boats. Here are a few preparations that can make an impactful difference before the arrival of a storm.
Recommend a boater float plan and affirm boater safety.
In the event of a hurricane, your boaters probably won’t be out floating on paddle boards. But they also may not have full knowledge of exactly how important it is to enact safety preparations. The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2022 Recreational Boating Statistics reported that 74% of the boater fatalities in 2022 occurred on a boat where “the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.” Of the percentage that drowned, 85% weren’t wearing a life jacket.
Before a boater makes port at your marina, an assertive marina manager can communicate their role as a safe place to leave a float plan – meaning that the operator provides knowledge of vessel description, how many people are aboard, contact information, where they’re going, and for how long. Marina managers can also imprint boater safety via their social media channels and the occasional friendly “boater safety” reminder sent to the email list.
In a storm, even experienced boaters may encounter heightened stress and need to make decisions about how to quickly get to safety. Helping your boaters prepare for these scenarios shows a knowledgeable and caring marina manager.
Prepare your storm team with an annual staff meeting.
Your marina might utilize high school or college students who are home for the summer. You’ve got year-to-year staff turnover. Everybody’s learning. It’s imperative that when that storm season comes, your staff knows exactly what to do with calm efficiency. What to cover in an annual storm safety meeting:
- Who is responsible for blocking and hauling boats onshore, and how to do it
- How to safely move boats onto trailers and/or secure them to floating or fixed docks, or secure them in a “hurricane hole”
- Where will the boats need to go, and how will you align them, to be safe from a storm surge?
- What are the steps for contacting boat owners?
- How do you ensure that anyone living at your marina during a storm surge stays safe?
Check on the status of your equipment.
The way your marina’s landscape is configured plays a critical role in how your boats fare in a severe weather event. This is like an annual physical at the doctor’s office – the fitness of the body of your marina. These are some points you can use to assess how prepared your marina is for a storm:
- Do you have up-to-date storm lines and chafe gear, and do you have enough of it?
- What is the status of your docks – are there loose pilings or rotted wood? Are your pilings high enough to withstand a surge?
- The trailers available to you for hauling out boats – are they safe? Maybe you haven’t had a storm in a couple of years, it’s approaching, and you need to haul out boats. You pull out your trailers at the last minute and the axles are rusted from salt surf and each trailer has a flat tire.
Have you communicated with your customers?
One of the most vital pieces of an approaching storm is communicating to tenants exactly what is going to happen with their boat and how it will be protected. One way to establish a clear policy is to write your hurricane plan into the initial contract agreement, so the tenant knows exactly what to expect when a storm approaches.
BoatUS wrote about the Houston Yacht Club, and how they required all their members to adhere to a strict boat evacuation policy before a storm. Whether your boats will be hauled inland or secured onshore with polyester ropes and concrete-moored eyelets, make sure your boaters know the exact process.
Those who spend their lives drifting through a calm blue know that there’s a respect for the forces that can turn a ripple into a surge. While we can’t change the weather, we can prepare for it. Having a comprehensive plan in place will help your boaters feel safe with your marina, and fulfill the definition of “riding out the storm.”
Article by Hammer and Nail Marketing
WHAT IS HAMMER & NAIL?
Hammer and Nail Marketing is a boutique marketing firm that helps small to mid-sized marinas get noticed by boaters. If you’d like to focus on operating your marina without the additional responsibility of marketing, get in touch with us.
We’re boaters ourselves from a background of operating a family-run marina. From a group of experts who know the water, let Hammer and Nail Marketing help you be the waterfront your local boaters see every time they cast off.
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