A Complete Guide To Sailing In A Storm

Paul Stcokdale Author Avatar

Sailing in a storm can be a challenging experience but with the right preparation and techniques, it can be navigated safely in most instances.

While it's best to avoid storms when sailing, there are times when storms cannot be avoided.

To sail in a storm:

  • Prepare the sailboat for a storm
  • Monitor the weather conditions
  • Adjust the sailboat to stabilize the vessel in the storm
  • Maintain communication with the coast guard

The number one priority when sailing in a storm is safely navigating through the water during these bad weather conditions.

1. Prepare The Sailboat For A Storm

The first step of sailing in a storm is to prepare the sailboat for storm weather conditions.

To prepare a sailboat for a storm:

  • Check the rigging & sails : Assess the rigging and sails overall condition. Ensure they are in full working order with no issues with maneuverability or rips in the sails. There should be a storm sail onboard too in preparation for sailing in the storm
  • Ensure safety equipment is onboard : Ensure there are liferafts, life jackets for everyone onboard, life buoys, heaving lines, sailing jackets, flashlights, flares, VHF radios, chartplotter/GPS, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers
  • Remove the boat canvas/bimini top : In preparation for sailing in a storm, remove the boat canvas/bimini top to prevent it from getting damaged or destroyed or causing injury to passengers onboard ‍
  • Ensure loose items are tied down : Any loose items like lines on the deck should be tied down and secured before sailing in a storm. Loose items can become dislodged and damaged or cause injury to passengers onboard if they are not secured during a storm
  • Ensure the sailboat's engine is in great condition : Ensure the sailboat's motor is in perfect condition with sufficient oil and fuel to operate during the storm

Preparing the sailboat for a storm will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. This timeframe will vary depending on the size of the vessel and the amount of equipment needed to be purchased and installed onboard.

In preparing for sailing in a storm, there is certain sailboat equipment needed. The equipment needed for sailing in a storm includes a storm sail, heaving lines, sailing jackets, life jackets, life buoys, liferafts, first aid kit, Chartplotter/GPS, fire extinguishers, VHF radio, and flares.

The benefits of preparing the sailboat for a storm are a sailor will be prepared for any issues caused by the storm and a sailor will have the necessary safety equipment to help keep everyone onboard safe during the storm.

One downside of preparing the sailboat for a storm is it can be costly (over $500) especially if the sailor does not have all the right equipment needed to withstand the stormy weather. However, this is a small downside.

2. Monitor The Weather Conditions

The second step of sailing in a storm is to monitor the weather conditions regularly.

To monitor the weather conditions:

  • Connect to the VHF radio weather channel : Connect to channel 16 on the VHF radio as this channel provides storm warnings and urgent marine information for boaters
  • Use a chartplotter : Modern chartplotters will have marine weather data for boaters to monitor the weather conditions and check windspeeds, rainfall levels, wave height and other relevant marine weather data
  • Check a marine weather forecast provider website : If you have internet access on the sailing trip, connect to a marine weather provider for marine weather forecast information in your area

In sailing, weather conditions are considered a storm when the wind speed is 28 knots or higher and the wave heights are 8ft or higher. Other characteristics of stormy weather when sailing is poor visibility with visibility ranges of under half a mile (0.8km or less) and heavy rain with a precipitation rate of at least 0.1 inches (2.5 millimeters) per hour.

It can take approximately 3 to 6 hours for a storm to fully develop when sailing. However, for larger storms, it can take over 2 days for the storm to fully develop.

Monitoring the weather should be done every 20 minutes when sailing in a storm to get up-to-date information on potential nearby locations with better weather to sail to.

The benefit of regularly monitoring the weather conditions is a sailor will be more prepared for the weather that lies ahead and the sailor will be able to make adjustments to their sailing route to help avoid the bad weather.

3. Adjust The Sailboat To Stabilize The Vessel

The third step of sailing in a storm is to adjust the sailboat to stabilize the vessel.

When sailing through the storm, reef the sails to reduce the stress and load on the mast and sails, attach the storm sails, turn the vessel until the wave and wind direction are blowing from the stern of the sailboat, i.e. the wind is blowing downwind. Carefully tack the sailboat slowly until the boat is in the downwind position. Pointing the sailboat downwind is not recommended if the sailboat is near land as it could cause the boat to run into the land.

Alternatively, if the storm is very bad, sailors can perform a "heaving to" storm sailing maneuver.

To perform the heave-to storm sailing maneuver:

  • Turn the bow of the boat into the wind : This involves turning the sailboat so that the bow faces into the wind. This will cause the boat to lose forward momentum and begin to drift backward
  • Adjust the sails : Depending on the size and configuration of your boat, you may need to adjust the sails in different ways. In general, you will want to position the sails so that they are catching less wind and are working against each other. This will help to slow the boat's drift and keep it from moving too quickly
  • Adjust the rudder : You may need to adjust the rudder to keep the boat from turning too far or too fast. In general, you will want to angle the rudder slightly to one side to counteract the wind and keep the boat on a stable course
  • Monitor the boat's drift : Once you have heaved-to, you will need to monitor the boat's drift and make small adjustments as needed to maintain your position. This may involve adjusting the sails, rudder, or other factors as conditions change

The heaving to maneuver is used to reduce a sailboat's speed and maintain a stationary position. This is often done in rough weather to provide the crew with a stable platform to work from or to wait out a storm.

This sailing maneuver will adjust the sailboat and should stabilize the vessel in the storm.

The benefits of adjusting the sailboat position in a storm are it will help to stabilize the boat, it will improve safety, it will reduce the crew's fatigue as the crew will not be operating with a boat at higher speeds, it will help maintain control of the sailboat, and it will reduce stress on the sailboat and the rigging system.

Depending on the size of the sailboat, how bad the weather conditions are, and a sailor's experience level, adjusting the sailboat to stabilize it in the storm should take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

4. Maintain Communication With The Coast Guard

The fourth step of sailing in a storm is to maintain communication with the coast guard.

This is particularly important if the storm is over Beaufort Force 7 when sailing is much harder.

To maintain communication with the coast guard during a storm:

  • Understand the important VHF channels : During sailing in a storm, be aware of VHF international channel 16 (156.800 MHz) which is for sending distress signals
  • Ensure there are coast guard contact details on your phone : Put the local coast guard contact details into your phone. These contact details are not substitutes for using the VHF channel 16 distress signal or dialing 911. These contact details should only be contacted if all else fails

Contacting the coast guard takes less than 1 minute to complete and they are fast to respond in case of an emergency caused by the storm.

The benefits of maintaining communication with the coast guard during a storm are it will help improve safety, the coast guard will be able to provide real-time alerts, and it will provide navigation assistance as the coast guard has access to the latest navigation technology and can guide you through the storm's hazardous areas such as shallow waters or areas with a strong current.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sailing In A Storm

Below are the most commonly asked questions about sailing in a storm.

What Should You Do If You're Caught Sailing In A Storm With Your Boat?

if you're caught sailing in a storm with your boat, you should reef the sails, attach the storm sails and tack the vessel slowly until the wave and wind direction are blowing from the stern of the sailboat.

Should You Drop An Anchor When Sailing In A Storm?

Dropping an anchor can be a useful technique to help keep a boat steady during a storm. However, whether or not to drop an anchor depends on a variety of factors including the size and type of the boat, the severity of the storm, the water depth, and the type of bottom (i.e., mud, sand, or rock).

If you are in a smaller boat that is being pushed around by the waves, dropping an anchor can help keep the boat oriented in a particular direction, reducing the boat's drift. Additionally, it can help reduce the risk of capsizing or being thrown onto a rocky shore.

However, if the storm is very severe with high winds and waves, the anchor may not be enough to hold the boat in place, and it may put undue stress on the anchor and the boat's attachment points. In such a case, it is usually better to try to navigate to a sheltered area or to deploy sea anchors that can help reduce the boat's drift.

It is also essential to be careful when anchoring in a storm as it can be challenging to set the anchor correctly and the wind and waves can cause the anchor to drag.

Is It Safe To Sail In A Storm?

Sailing in a storm should be avoided due to the lack of safety. However, experienced sailors can sail in storms up to Beaufort Force 7 if required. Beaufort Force 8 and higher storms are extremely dangerous to sail in and should be avoided at all costs.

How Do You Improve Safety When Sailing In A Storm?

To improve safety when sailing in a storm, wear a life jacket, hook everyone onboard up to a safety line or harness so they don't fall overboard, reef the sail to improve the sailboat's stability, and understand where all the safety equipment is onboard and how to operate it in case of an emergency.

What Type Of Storm Should Not Be Sailed In?

A sailor should not sail in any storm but especially a storm from Beaufort Force 8 to Beaufort Force 12 as it is considered to be too dangerous.

Can You Sail Through A Hurricane?

While sailors have successfully sailed through hurricanes in the past, sailing through a hurricane should be avoided at all costs. Sailing in hurricane weather is too dangerous and could result in loss of life.

What Are The Benefits Of Sailing In A Storm?

The benefits of sailing in a storm are:

  • Improves sailing skills : Sailing in a storm will force sailors to improve their sailing skills and increase their ability to handle rough seas
  • Exciting experience : For some sailors, the thrill of navigating through a storm can be an exhilarating experience that they enjoy. The adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment of successfully sailing through a storm can be incredibly rewarding
  • Greater appreciation for the power of nature : Sailing in a storm can provide a unique perspective on the power of nature. It can be humbling and awe-inspiring to witness the raw force of the wind and waves and this can lead to a greater appreciation for the natural world

It's important to note that these potential benefits should never come at the expense of safety. For the majority of sailors, it is smarter to avoid sailing in a storm and instead wait for the bad weather to pass.

What Are The Risks Of Sailing In A Storm?

The risks of sailing in a storm are:

  • Boat sinking/capsizing : With high winds over 28 knots and waves and swells at heights over 8ft, there is a risk of the sailboat capsizing and sinking
  • People drowning : High winds and high waves during a storm can cause people onboard to fall overboard and drown
  • Loss of communication : Bad storm weather can cause the sailboat's communication system to stop working making it much harder to signal for help if needed
  • Boat damage : Storm weather can damage the boat including the sails, mast, rigging system, lines, Bimini top, etc.
  • Poor visibility : Sea spray, large waves over 8ft, and heavy winds over 28 knots can reduce the visibility to under 500 meters in some instances making it difficult for navigation
  • People being injured : People onboard can get injured due to the increase and sharp movements caused by the storm

What Should Be Avoided When Sailing In A Storm?

When sailing in a storm, avoid:

  • Getting caught sailing in the storm in the first place : Ideally, a sailor should avoid sailing in the storm in the first place by checking the weather radar and instead wait for the weather to clear before continuing their sailing trip
  • Increasing the sail area : Increasing the sail area in a storm should be avoided as it can cause the sailboat to become more unstable and increase the risk of capsizing
  • Not wearing a life jacket : Life jackets should be worn at all times when sailing but especially during a storm. Avoid not wearing a life jacket in a storm as there is no protection if someone falls overboard
  • Not wearing the appropriate gear to stay dry : Sailors should avoid not wearing the appropriate foul weather gear to stay dry when sailing in a storm
  • Not connecting the crew to safety lines/harness : When sailing in a storm, all crew on the boat deck should be
  • Not understanding the safety equipment : Sailors should avoid not understanding the safety equipment onboard

How Do You Avoid Sailing In A Storm?

To avoid sailing in a storm, check the weather forecast regularly when going on a sailing trip to know when and where not to sail as the weather gets worse in these areas. If a sailing trip involves passing through a storm, wait in an area where there is no storm until the weather clears up in the storm area before continuing on the voyage.

What Are The Best Sailboats For Sailing In A Storm?

The best sailboats for sailing in a storm are the Nordic 40, Hallberg-Rassy 48, and the Outremer 55.

What Are The Worst Sailboats For Sailing In A Storm?

The worst sailboats for sailing in a storm are sailing dinghies as they offer little protection from the dangers of stormy weather.

What Is The Best Sized Sailboat For Sailing In A Storm?

The best-sized sailboats to sail in a storm are sailboats sized 30ft. and longer.

What Is The Worst Sized Sailboat For Sailing In A Storm?

The worst-sized sailboats to sail in a storm are sailboats sized under 30ft. as it is more difficult to handle rough weather and choppy waves in these boats.

sailboat in a hurricane

Surviving a hurricane in a sailboat: Essential things to do

In this article, I am going to explain to you what all the things you need to do for protecting yourself and your sailboat in a hurricane. Although surviving a hurricane is not that simple, but you can follow some steps to protect yourself during a hurricane in the sailboat.

Choose an area near the shore for anchoring your boat. Try to choose an area surrounded by mountains (mountains will try to decrease the wind speed). After anchoring, keep all your belongings inside the boat. During the hurricane, you just need to check the boat condition regularly.

During a hurricane, winds can exceed 100 mph and tornadoes are often associated with these storms. Mostly, try to avoid being on the boat during the hurricane.

In the center of the hurricane, the wind speed will be high compared to the outer area of the hurricane, where the wind speed will be less. Whenever you hear about the hurricane, sail away from the hurricane area if possible. If that option is not possible, then do follow these steps to defend yourself and your boat from a hurricane.

Everything has parts to deal with, in the first part you need to prepare for a hurricane, in the second part you might not have much work to do, in the third part you need to do post-hurricane work.

sailboat in a hurricane

Preparing for the hurricane

Before doing all the pre-hurricane work, check whether you have enough resources like food, water, etc. If you don’t have them, try to get them. Check whether all the communication devices are fully charged or not and working or not? Communication plays a major role during the hurricane.

While preparing your boat for the hurricane, there are some steps everyone needs to follow to secure your boat from the hurricane winds. These are the following steps.

  • Finding a perfect area for anchoring your sailboat
  • Anchoring your sailboat in a hurricane
  • Keep your objects inside the sailboat during a hurricane

1. Finding a perfect area for anchoring your sailboat

The first essential thing you should do while preparing for a hurricane survival in a sailboat is to find a good area for anchoring your boat. And try to find the area that is close to the shore, not too far from the shore.

While searching for the area, you should consider the surroundings too. You can’t survive a hurricane on your own you need to take some help from nature. Check for these kinds of places that I mentioned on the list.

While selecting the area for anchoring your boat, be careful to check whether you are entering any other country’s waters.

  • Check for the area that is surrounded by mountains
  • Move away from the neighbor boats around you(if any)
  • Check the depth of the water

1. Check for the area that is surrounded by mountains (cove)

  • The hurricane survival depends on the area you selected for anchoring your boat. Try to look for an area that is surrounded by mountains or hills. The mountains will help in decreasing wind speed.
  • If the boat is surrounded by mountains, the mountains will decrease the wind speed by half. The mountains will act as a barrier in protecting your boat by blocking most of the winds caused by the hurricane.

2. Move away from the neighbor boats around you (if any)

  • If there are any other sailboats anchored near you, you should be careful. Have some extra dock bumpers attached to your boat. If your neighbor boat starts swinging, your boat is sitting beside to get a hit form them.
  • If there are any other boats around you, try to maintain enough distance between your boat and their boat. So, there is enough space for anchoring safely.
  • If there are so many boats near your boat, then tie some dock bumpers around your boat. Just in if case any other boat swings or came close to your boat. The dock guards will help you to avoid the damage.

3. Check the depth of the water

  • Don’t forget to check the depth of the water, because the whole anchoring process depends on the water depth. Make sure that the depth is not too high or low.

2. Anchoring your boat in a hurricane

sailboat in a hurricane

After finding the area for anchoring your boat. Anchor your boat with 1 or 2 anchors to avoid the swing.

Now you need to do the essential step for hurricane survival that is anchoring your boat. Since you are facing a hurricane, you need to increase your anchor scope from normal 5:1 to 7:1 or 8:1 or more, depending on the hurricane strength.

Anchor as though you plan to stay for weeks, even if you intend to leave in an hour. Lee Allred

Achor scope refers to how much longer rope or chain you need to use for anchoring your boat. If it is 5:1 anchor scope, then for every 1-meter depth in the water, you should use 5-meters long length rope or chain for anchoring your boat.

Check my article on Choosing a perfect anchor for your boat (don’t worry, it will open in a new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the things you need to consider while buying an anchor for your boat based on the bottom types.

While anchoring your boat in a hurricane, follow these steps

  • Check the surroundings
  • Use hurricane anchor for anchoring in hurricanes
  • If possible, use extra anchors to avoid the swing of the boat

1. Check the surroundings

  • While anchoring your boat, make sure that your boat is far away from other boats or ophiolite (An ophiolite is a sequence of rocks that appears to represent a section through the oceanic crust) in the sea.
  • Sometimes the boat will swing around the single point (the main anchor) if you are using only one anchor. During the swing, if there are any boats or ophiolite near your boat, you may get hit them with your boat.
  • Which might damage your boat. So, try to maintain some distance between them.

2. Use hurricane anchor for anchoring in hurricanes

  • Don’t use the same anchor all the time for anchoring your boat. Dedicate one anchor for hurricanes and one for everyday use.
  • Try to maintain a separate anchor (strong anchors like Mantus, Manson Supreme, Rocna, etc) for anchoring during a hurricane, and use a normal (small) anchor for general anchoring a boat. It is good to maintain a separate anchor for different needs.
  • While buying the anchor, buy an anchor that you can dismantle the anchor into separate parts. So, you can carry big anchors in the boat.

3. If possible, use extra anchors to avoid the swing of the boat

  • Use extra anchors to avoid swing around a single point (single anchor). If you anchored your sailboat with a single anchor, it might swing around the point if the wind speed increases or changes the direction.
  • To prevent that swing around a single anchor, use an extra 1 or 2 anchors for holding the boat strongly.
  • Mostly 2 anchors are sufficient, no need to use 3 anchors.

3. Keep your objects inside the boat during a hurricane

After anchoring your boat, 50% of the work is done. Now, it’s time to pack all the objects which are outside the boat and keep them inside the boat.

Now in this step, you need to do only one thing, just pack the necessary belongings and keep it inside the boat. While doing this step, don’t pack unnecessary belongings and dump them inside the boat, because again you should unpack them after the hurricane. Then you will face difficulty.

Follow these basic steps to do that.

  • Keep your belongings which are inside the boat safely
  • Then keep the belongings inside, which are outside the boat

1. Keep your belongings which are inside the boat safely

  • Before packing up all the outside belongings, and keeping them inside the boat, make sure that the belongings inside the boat are properly packed.
  • Keep them inside the cupboard or somewhere to avoid falling off when the boat moves up and down in the waves. Avoid keeping anything in an open cupboard during the hurricane.
  • If you have an open cupboard, then remove your belongings from the open cupboard and keep them somewhere else or on the floor.
  • They might fall from the cupboard on your body or somewhere else in the boat due to the big waves.

2. Then keep the belongings inside, which are outside the boat

  • First, remove the objects that will fly off the boat due to the wind. Like a dinghy, jib sail, and mainsail, etc. So, that nothing will fly off from the boat.
  • So pack the belongings which are valuable and keep them inside. The first thing you should do is pack the mainsail and jib sail. This is the second most important thing you should do after anchoring your boat.
  • If you are having a big boat, the mainsail will be heavy, and it’s hard to remove by a single person. In that case, just take the mainsail off and tie it to the boom itself.
  • And try to remove solar panels, if you have any. Keep them inside the boat if possible, else, tie them outside the boat with extra protection. If the wind speed is around or less than 70 mph, then it is fine to leave them on the boat itself.

You can eliminate all the fears by eliminating all the dangers. Dangers like anchor failure, boat drag, etc. If you can eliminate all these things, then you can be safe inside a boat.

Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear. Buzzy Trent

After packing everything and keeping them inside the boat, now there is nothing more to do. You just need to wait until the hurricane passes away.

Things to do during a hurricane in a sailboat

Now comes the essential part. During a hurricane, stay inside the boat, and stay calm. Most of the time, you should check the boat conditions and act accordingly. Checking the boat regularly during the hurricane is very crucial.

Eat a limited amount of food during a hurricane and try to use less power during the hurricane, because you might not know how long the hurricane will last.

Follow these steps to ensure that your boat is doing well or not?

  • Bilge pump checking
  • Mainsail checking
  • Checking the neighbor boats(if any)

1. Bilge pump checking

  • During the hurricanes, however, you locked the doors the water can come inside the boat. So, you should pump them out with the bilge pump.
  • Ensure whether your bilge pump is working properly or not, because they often fail. The boat can sink in the water if the bilge pump is not working properly.
  • Sometimes, the bilge pump might stop working due to any disturbances outside due to hurricanes. If you are using a manual bilge pump, then it is fine because every time you will check the water level, and you will turn on the pump switch.
  • If you using an automatic one, which will detect the water level and automatically turn on the bilge pump switch, to pump the water out.
  • The problem with this automatic water detection is it fails so many times. It may fail due to many reasons
  • So, every time don’t forget to check the water level in the bilge and don’t forget about the water level detector too.

2. Mainsail checking

  • If you already kept the mainsail in the boat, then there is no need to check. You need to check the mainsail if you tied it to the boom and kept it outside the boat
  • Tie the mainsail to the boom strongly so that it won’t come out or fly off in the air.

3.Checking the neighbor boats (if there is any boat near you)

  • If there are no boats near you, then no need to worry about this.
  • If there are any sailboats anchored near you, you should be careful. Have some extra dock bumpers attached to your boat. If your neighbor boat starts swinging, your boat is sitting beside to get a hit form them.
  • If there are so many boats near your boat, then tie some dock bumpers around your boat. If in case any other boat swings or came close to your boat. The dock guards will help you to avoid the damage.

Post-hurricane work in a sailboat

  • The worst part of the hurricane is over. Now you need to put all the things back on the boat and start the journey.
  • Now you need to check the boat and clean the boat if there is any waste on the boat. Then place the solar panels back on the boat to get power.
  • After that, remove the anchor and put on your mainsail and jib sail back.

That’s it, you have successfully defeated the hurricane, and now it is time to start your journey. Check this cool video on how to prepare your boat for a hurricane? She explained it very well.

Bottom line

The essential thing for sailing is to practice all the things in advance. You should be aware of what to do during a hurricane, harsh weather, etc. You should have one hurricane plan, and you should practice it regularly.

The essential work you should do when you heard about the hurricane is to move away from the hurricane area, if possible. No matter what, just sail away from the area for 50 km or 100 km. That is the best way to protect yourself and your boat from a hurricane.

Sometimes you might be stuck at someplace, in the sea, it can be due to any reason (engine failure or mainsail damage or something else), during that time, you cant sail the boat, then you need to implement the hurricane survival plan.

If you are in the middle of the hurricane, then it is very hard for survival. The wind speed will be so high, like around 200 mph. At that speed, you can’t control the boat.

So finally, follow some apps or websites like the windy app or AccuWeather website or some other websites for the broadcasting news.

Check my article on Safety tips for boating: A detailed guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the safety tips for boating in detail.

Related questions

1. What essential things do you need to sail around the world?

There are some essential things you need to have with you, while you are sailing around the world on a sailboat.

  • An International Certificate of Competence (ICC) certificate
  • A good sailboat (that can withstand extreme weathers)
  • Source of passive income
  • Passport and visa

If you are interested in that, then check my article on Without these, you can’t sail around the world (don’t worry, it will open in new tab)

2. What is the ideal kind boat to sail around the world?

The best kind of boat for sailing around the world would be Sailboat or yacht.

My name is Mahidhar, and I am passionate about boating. Every day I learn some new things about boats and share them here on the site.

Recent Posts

How Much Does a Houseboat cost? 14 Examples (Various models)

Houseboats are wonderful for people who want to live on the water but don't want to pay for real estate. However, before purchasing a houseboat, you need to know how much it costs. On average,...

How Much Does a Bass Boat Cost? 15 Examples (Details included)

Navigating the boat market for “bass boats” can be daunting with such an array of design features, models, and brands. Bass boats are perfect for fishing. However, before purchasing a bass boat,...

  • Subscribers

<span class="main-color"></span>

What to Do With Your Sailboat During a Hurricane

'  data-src=

It’s that time of year when the air temperature cools down and the warm temperatures of the water cause a slurry of tropical storms and hurricanes. Since we are staring into the face of some big hurricanes and tropical storms on both coasts this month, we thought now would be a great time to go over some things you’ll need to know about what to do with your sailboat during a hurricane.

What to do with your sailboat during a hurricane if it is on land

keep your sailboat on a trailer during a hurricane

  • Sailboat on its Trailer – Inspect the boat and trailer and make sure everything is working properly. Check all the tires, spare tire, lights and signals, wheel bearings and tow hitch. If possible, keep it as far away from the coast as possible and put it in a garage or under sturdy protection. You’ll also want to weigh down your boat. Leave the drain plug in and fill it with fresh water if you have an outboard motor. If you have an inboard motor you can place wood blocks in between the trailer and the springboards to help weigh down the boat.

What to Do if Your Sailboat Has to Stay in the Water

  • Sailboat At the Dock – If possible berth your boat at a dock that has some sort of shelter and isn’t located in the low lands. Make sure to pull out all the bumpers, fenders and fender boards and place them in crucial places were your boat might bump or wear. Double up on the mooring lines but leave enough slack so that boat can rise with the surges.
  • Sailboat at Anchor – If your boat has to be in the water, anchoring or mooring your boat tends to be safer than at the dock since ideally, there is less chance that your boat will run into anything. Dig out your strongest anchor for the storm. In fact, you should probably place a few anchors and face your boat into the wind. The ratio you are looking for on each line attached to each anchor is 10:1.
  • Sailboat in a Hurricane Hole – This is the most ideal place for your boat during a storm. When trying to locate a good hurricane hole, you’ll want one that has several good sturdy trees to attach your boat to. You are also looking for one more upland and inland. Generally, the farther away from the coast you are, the safer your boat will be. If possible, look for a cove or inlet designated as a hurricane hole that generally blocks wind coming from the direction of the hurricane. For example, most hurricanes on the East coast tend to come from the southeast, so finding a hurricane hole that blocks a southeast wind is best. For Virginia boaters, read this article by Tom Hale and Sail Magazine for the best hurricane holes.

Sailboat Safety First

  • It NOT a good idea to stay with your boat. Make sure you have taken down and put away anything that is not directly attached to your boat.
  • Check the weather forecast before setting out. Hurricanes should not be taken lightly and your safety and the safety of those on board comes first.
  • Keep a radio on board and know what frequency you can use to transmit a distress call with the coast guard or lake patrol and hear the weather forecast.
  • Always wear a life jacket and make sure you have enough jackets for each person on board.

Hopefully this will help you have a better idea of what to do with your sailboat during a hurricane. Let us know if you have tips or tricks to keeping your sailboat safe during a hurricane. Stay safe sailors!

If you are an inland and lake sailor see our article on what to do on sailboat during a storm .

Everything you need to know about what to do with your sailboat during a hurricane both on land and in the water.

Chesapeake Bay Hurricane Holes by Tom Hale, Sailfeed from Sail Magazine

Protecting Your Boat During a Hurricane

Related posts

  • No related posts.

'  data-src=

The Best Men’s Boat Shoes 2018

Sailing in the Fall

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Any Sailor on Your List

How to Order New Sails – Ullman Sails Review

Your email address will not be published.

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Boating Etiquette – A Sailor’s Guide to Rules on…

Interview with Sailaway Game Developer Richard Knol

Hobie Sailing Gear-Righting Line

  • Featured Featured
  • Sailing Gear
  • Privacy Policy
  • Affiliate Disclaimer and Disclosure/Privacy

Welcome, Login to your account.

Recover your password.

A password will be e-mailed to you.

The Worldwide Leader in Sailmaking

  • Sail Care & Repair
  • Sailing Gear
  • Sail Finder
  • Custom Sails
  • One Design Sails
  • Flying Sails
  • New Sail Quote
  • 3Di Technology
  • Helix Technology
  • Sail Design
  • NPL RENEW Sustainable Sailcloth
  • Sailcloth & Material Guide
  • Polo Shirts
  • Sweaters & Cardigans
  • Sweatshirts & Hoodies
  • Accessories
  • Mid & Baselayers
  • Deckwear & Footwear
  • Luggage & Accessories
  • Spring Summer '24
  • Sailor Jackets
  • NS x Slowear
  • Sailor Jacket
  • Sustainability
  • North Sails Blog
  • Sail Like A Girl
  • Icon Sailor Jacket
  • Our Locations
  • North SUP Boards
  • North Foils
  • North Kiteboarding
  • North Windsurfing







Popular Search Terms


Sorry, no results for ""

How To Sail Safely Through a Storm

How to sail safely through a storm, tips and tricks to help you get home safe.

sailboat in a hurricane

Compared to the quick response and sudden nature of a squall , sailing through a storm in open water is an endurance contest. In addition to big wind, you’ll have to deal with big waves and crew fatigue.

Sailing in Waves

Sailing in big waves is a test of seamanship and steering, which is why you should put your best driver on the helm. Experienced dinghy sailors often are very good at heavy air steering, because they see “survival” weather more often than most cruisers.

Avoid sailing on a reach across tall breaking waves; they can roll a boat over. When sailing close-hauled in waves, aim toward flat spots while keeping speed up so you can steer. To reduce the chance of a wave washing across the deck, tack in relatively smooth water. A cubic foot of water weighs 64 pounds, so a wave can bring many hundreds of pounds of water across the deck.

Sailing on a run or broad reach in big waves is exhilarating, but be careful not to broach and bring the boat beam-to a breaker. Rig a preventer to hold the boom out.

sailboat in a hurricane

Storm Sails

If reefing isn’t enough to reduce power, it’s time to dig out your storm sails — the storm trysail and storm jib. They may seem tiny, but since wind force rises exponentially, they’re the right size for a really big blow. Storm trysails are usually trimmed to the rail, but some modern ones are set on the boom. The storm jib should be set just forward of the mast to keep the sail plan’s center of effort near the boat’s center of lateral resistance. This helps keep the boat in balance.

Storm Strategy

The first decision before an approaching storm is the toughest: Run for cover, or head out to open water for sea room? With modern forecasting, a true storm will rarely arrive unannounced, but as you venture further offshore the chances of being caught out increase. While running for cover would seem the preferred choice, the danger lies in being caught in the storm, close to shore, with no room to maneuver or run off.

Two classic storm strategies are to try to keep away from land so you’re not blown up on shore, and to sail away from the storm’s path — especially its “dangerous semicircle,” which is its right side as it advances.

Storm Tactics

Storm tactics help you handle a storm once you’re in it. There are several proven choices, all of which aim to reduce the strain and motion by pointing one of the boat’s ends (either bow or stern) toward the waves. No one tactic will work best for all boats in all conditions.

Sail under storm jib and deeply reefed mainsail or storm trysail. This approach provides the most control. Sails give you the power to steer and control your boat in the waves.

Run before the storm with the stern toward the waves, perhaps towing a drogue to slow the boat. This tactic requires a lot of sea room, and the boat must be steered actively. Another concern is that you will remain in front of an approaching storm, rather than sailing out of its path.

Heave-to on a close reach with the jib trimmed to windward. Heaving-to can be an excellent heavy weather tactic, though some boats fare better than others.

Deploy a sea anchor while hove-to or under bare poles. A sea anchor is a small parachute set at the end of a line off the bow. A sea anchor helps keep the bow up into the waves so the boat won’t end up beam to the seas. One concern is the load on the rudder as waves push the boat aft.

Another alternative is lying ahull, simply sitting with sails down. This passive alternative is less reliable than the other tactics, as you lose the ability to control your angle to the waves and may end up beam to the seas. Furthermore, the motion of the boat rolling in the waves without the benefit of sails can be debilitating.

Want to order a storm trysail or storm jib for your boat? Contact a North Sails Expert here .

How to Heave-To

Wouldn’t it be great if, during a heavy air sail, you could just take a break, and relax for a bit? Imagine a short respite from the relentless pitching and pounding: a chance to rest, take a meal, or check over the boat in relative tranquility. Well, you can. The lost art of heaving-to allows you to “park” in open water.

To heave-to, trim the jib aback (i.e., to the wrong side), trim the main in hard, and lash the helm so the boat will head up once it gains steerageway. As the jib tries to push the bow down, the bow turns off the wind and the main fills, moving the boat forward. Once the boat begins to make headway, the lashed helm turns the boat toward the wind again. As the main goes soft the jib once again takes over, pushing the bow down. The main refills, and the rudder pushes the bow into the wind again.

The boat won’t actually stop. It will lie about 60 degrees off the wind, sailing at 1 or 2 knots, and making significant leeway (sliding to leeward). The motion will be much less than under sail, and dramatically more stable and pleasant than dropping all sails and lying ahull. You will also be using up less sea room than if you run before the storm at great speed.

Achieving this balance will require some fine tuning, depending on the wind strength, your boat design, and the sails you are flying. Also, fin-keeled boats do not heave to as well as more traditional designs.

In storm seas, some boats will require a sea anchor off the bow to help hold the boat up into the waves while hove-to.

sailboat in a hurricane

Alternate Storm Strategy: Don’t Go

If conditions are wrong, or are forecast to worsen, don’t go. If you can avoid the storm, then do so.

If you’re at home, stay there. If you’re mid-cruise, button up the boat, make sure your anchor or mooring or dock lines are secure, and then read a book or play cards. Relax. Enjoy the time with your shipmates. Study the pile of Owners’ Manuals you’ve accumulated with each piece of new gear. Tinker with boat projects.

Put some soup on the stove, and check on deck every so often to make sure the boat is secure. Shake your head as you return below, and remark, “My oh my, is it nasty out there.”

If your boat is threatened by a tropical storm or hurricane, strip all excess gear from the deck, double up all docking or mooring lines, protect those lines from chafe, and get off. Don’t risk your life to save your boat.

Misery and Danger

Although everyone will remember it differently years later, a long, wet, cold sail through a storm can be miserable. As the skipper, you need to make the best of it: watch over your crew, offer relief or help to those who need it, and speak a few words of encouragement to all. “This is miserable, but it will end.”

Take the time to marvel at the forces of nature, and at your ability to carry on in the midst of the storm. Few people get to experience the full fury of a storm. It may not be pleasant, but it is memorable.

While misery and discomfort can eventually lead to fatigue, diminished performance, and even danger, do not mistake one for the other. Distinguish in your own mind the difference between misery and danger. Don’t attempt a dangerous harbor entrance to escape misery; that would compromise the safety of the boat and crew, just to avoid a little discomfort.

Interested in a new sail quote or have questions about your sails? Fill out our Request a Quote form below and you will receive a reply from a North sail expert in your area.



27 February


Npl renew faq, flying sails 101.

  • Refresh page
  • New Sailboats
  • Sailboats 21-30ft
  • Sailboats 31-35ft
  • Sailboats 36-40ft
  • Sailboats Over 40ft
  • Sailboats Under 21feet
  • used_sailboats
  • Apps and Computer Programs
  • Communications
  • Fishfinders
  • Handheld Electronics
  • Plotters MFDS Rradar
  • Wind, Speed & Depth Instruments
  • Anchoring Mooring
  • Running Rigging
  • Sails Canvas
  • Standing Rigging
  • Diesel Engines
  • Off Grid Energy
  • Cleaning Waxing
  • DIY Projects
  • Repair, Tools & Materials
  • Spare Parts
  • Tools & Gadgets
  • Cabin Comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Footwear Apparel
  • Foul Weather Gear
  • Mailport & PS Advisor
  • Inside Practical Sailor Blog
  • Activate My Web Access
  • Reset Password
  • Pay My Bill
  • Customer Service

sailboat in a hurricane

  • Free Newsletter
  • Give a Gift

sailboat in a hurricane

How to Sell Your Boat

sailboat in a hurricane

Cal 2-46: A Venerable Lapworth Design Brought Up to Date

sailboat in a hurricane

Rhumb Lines: Show Highlights from Annapolis

sailboat in a hurricane

Open Transom Pros and Cons

sailboat in a hurricane

Leaping Into Lithium

sailboat in a hurricane

The Importance of Sea State in Weather Planning

sailboat in a hurricane

Do-it-yourself Electrical System Survey and Inspection

sailboat in a hurricane

Install a Standalone Sounder Without Drilling

sailboat in a hurricane

Rethinking MOB Prevention

sailboat in a hurricane

Top-notch Wind Indicators

sailboat in a hurricane

The Everlasting Multihull Trampoline

sailboat in a hurricane

In Search of the Snag-free Clew

A lithium conversion requires a willing owner and a capable craft. Enter the Prestige 345 catamaran Confianza.

What’s Involved in Setting Up a Lithium Battery System?

sailboat in a hurricane

Reducing Engine Room Noise

sailboat in a hurricane

Breaking Point: What Can Go Wrong With Your Yanmar?

sailboat in a hurricane

Mildew-resistant Caulks for Boats

sailboat in a hurricane

Can We Trust Plastic Boat Parts?

sailboat in a hurricane

Repairing Molded Plastics

sailboat in a hurricane

Mailport: Marine plywood, fuel additives, through bolt options, winch handle holders

sailboat in a hurricane

The Day Sailor’s First-Aid Kit

sailboat in a hurricane

Choosing and Securing Seat Cushions

sailboat in a hurricane

Cockpit Drains on Race Boats

sailboat in a hurricane

Rhumb Lines: Livin’ the Wharf Rat Life

sailboat in a hurricane

Safer Sailing: Add Leg Loops to Your Harness

sailboat in a hurricane

Resurrecting Slippery Boat Shoes

sailboat in a hurricane

Tricks and Tips to Forming Do-it-yourself Rigging Terminals

marine toilet test

Marine Toilet Maintenance Tips

sailboat in a hurricane

Learning to Live with Plastic Boat Bits

sailboat in a hurricane

The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Clear Plastic

  • Inside Practical Sailor

Choosing the Perfect Hurricane Hole

Florida boaters should brace now for ian, projected to become a major hurricane wednesday..

sailboat in a hurricane

With Tropical Storm Ian entering the Gulf of Mexico and the projected path bringing storm force winds to the Florida Keys by as early as Monday night, boaters there should be activating their hurricane strategy. If this strategy involves moving to a more protected “hurricane hole” they should plan to be safely secured there at least two days before the arrival of storm force winds in their area. Current projections show Ian becoming a hurricane a landfall somewhere along Florida’s West Coast near Tampa Bay late Wednesday night, but this is subject to change.

Waiting too long can bring conditions that will make it much more difficult to secure the boat. And you want to be sure to allow plenty of time for evacuation, if needed. The storm’s intensity can change as it moves up the Gulf, but current projections show Ian to become a major hurricane by the time it crosses the island of Cuba. Boaters in Florida and the Gulf States should monitor updates on Ian at the National Hurricane website.

Keep in mind that there is no guarantee your boat will survive a hurricane, even in the most protected hurricane hole. In a direct hit, your preparation may only mitigate the damage. It is up to the captain to choose a location that will best avoid a direct hit, and offer good protection should the storm swerve in your direction.

No matter how much protection you have, it is not worth the risk to stay on your boat during a hurricane. I’ve done that— as have many cruisers who’ve survived to tell the tale—but I would not do it again. Ultimately, if you’ve done your homework and preparation, there is not much more you can do when the eye-wall arrives.

The problem with staying aboard, even in an ideal location, is that you will find it hard to resist the urge to go on deck when things really get nasty, and the risk of flying projectiles is very real. Two men who stayed on a power boat during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 were swept overboard. During my own brush with Super Typhoon Paka in Guam , a cruising sailor was seriously injured when he tried to tend to his lines at the height of the storm. Going out in the storm for any reason puts you at much higher risk of getting hurt or killed.

Hurricane Preparedness

First and foremost, check with your insurance policy to see if anchoring or shore-tying your boat in a hurricane hole will negate coverage. Some policies stipulate that you stay in a marina ( a risky option ), on a hurricane mooring, or most commonly – haul completely out of the water, a choice which comes with its own unique risks. My own policy is simply a liability policy to cover any damage my boat might cause, so, like many sailors in Florida, my own boat is self-insured. Her survival depends on my preparation. And my hurricane hole.

This article addresses three typical hurricane hole types – storm moorings, creeks and canals where shore-tying is possible, and well-protected waters where you must rely on your own ground tackle. If none of these options appeal to you, see our reports on hurricane storage ashore and preparing for a storm in a marina . This blog focus on selecting a hurricane hole. It does not address the gear, or procedures for securing your boat in the hurricane hole. For that, you can turn to one of our many reports on preparing your sailboat for a tropical storm .

Other Practical Sailor resources include our e-book on Hurricane Preparedness , which cover the topic from every angle, as well as our e-book on Anchors , which includes dozens of anchor tests in various bottoms and specialty ground tackle for storms.

Choosing the Perfect Hurricane Hole

Mooring Fields

Many islands throughout the world have fields of hurricane moorings in coves or harbors that are nearly surrounded by land or breakwaters to protect against breaking seas. These can provide effective protection, especially in smaller, steep-to islands which are not so susceptible to storm surge. In places like Guam, where Typhoons commonly bring 120 mile-per-hour winds at ground level, the hurricane refuge’s mooring system is a four-point system that allows closely spaced boats, and keeps catamarans from going para-gliding. Other refuges use single-point moorings which allow the boats to weathercock toward the wind.

Although not technically regarded as hurricane moorings, the single-anchor elastic mooring systems (lines, buoy, and anchors) found in Florida and other states are often tested to withstand the winds loads (not waves) of a tropical storm. In September 2017, this strength requirement was throughly tested by Hurricane Irma in Boot Key Harbor in The Florida Keys . Although most of the mooring anchors and downlines held, chafed mooring pendants resulted in the loss of many boats.

There are many downsides to a mooring field. The most worrisome risk is that another boat will break free and bear down on yours. This a big concern in any hurricane hole, but mooring fields that pack boats like sardines increase the chance of this. The images take after Hurricane Irma raked the charter fleet in the British Virgin Islands show how this can end.

To conserve space, some mooring fields limit the length of the mooring pennant, the line you supply between the boat and the mooring. As Practical Sailor’s study on hurricane moorings showed, an extra-long mooring pennant protected from chafe is often a key to survival. Using high-quality, new, or nearly new rope for mooring  pennants also increases the odds of survival. If another boat collides with yours– all bets are off no matter how many precautions you took.

The upside of a tested and monitored mooring field is that the equipment has been tested to a published working load limit (WLL). Having a screw-type embedment anchor that has been pull-tested offers confidence in areas of poor holding (rock, grass, soft mud, mud over limestone – etc.) where your own anchors might not hold well. Regardless of how new or reputable the mooring field is, you should carry out a thorough inspection of your own mooring well before the start of hurricane season.

A well-protected creek or canal where you can shore-tie is my preferred type of hurricane hole. Securing the boat with a multiple lines to trees ashore is a usual approach in these areas. You can often add anchors (including ground anchors for ashore) – but the holding is often extremely poor in the creeks or canals.

The advantage of such a location is that you have multiple points to tie into, and if you get pushed onto shore, the mangroves provide a relatively soft landing for your hull. Canals with seawalls do not share this advantage, but a well-fendered boat will have better survival odds.

The disadvantages to this approach are many. Your boat is physically closer to shore and the hard stuff that can hole your boat. Most mangrove areas are routinely inundated by storm surge, reducing much of your protection against the wind and swell. Chafe is an ever-present risk. Some big trees lining canals have weak root systems and are likely to topple.

The canal or creek that is used as a hurricane hole can also increase the risk of a storm surge pile-up. Boats are usually spaced at regular interval along the creek, so if lines part on one of the boats, it can be pushed up or down the creek onto other boats—potentially starting a chain reaction similar to what happens in a mooring field.

Being the first to arrive at a spot well upstream will reduce your vulnerability to this, but it also puts you first inline for downstream debris which can increase the load on your shore-ties.

Another problem in some creeks is that your spider-web of ropes will block traffic up and down the creek, so out of courtesy, you may have to tend your lines, or wait to set them until the approaching storm has put navigation to a stop. On a related note, if there are drawbridges between you and your hurricane hole, operators may stop or limit openings due to high winds and to allow for evacuation by car, so plan accordingly.

If your canal or creek is adjacent to private property, you may be sued for any damage your boat causes. The laws dealing with this are complicated and vary by state, so you’ll want to do your homework. Check with the regulatory agency charged with navigation enforcement in the area, and double-check your insurance policy.

In addition, many of these areas are in protected environmental areas, so, you might also be fined and held liable for environmental harm if you’re found to have neglected your responsibility. Again, if you have any doubts, check with the agency in charge of enforcement in the area. In general, when storms threaten, the law allows individuals take all necessary measures to protect their property, so long as this is not unduly endangering others or their property.

Choosing the Perfect Hurricane Hole

The hurricane strategy of anchoring in a well-protected lagoon, cove creek, or estuary is a common in many areas of the country and in the Caribbean. These hurricane holes have been a savior for cruisers stuck in the hurricane belt during high season. They also yield some of the most dramatic images of post-storm damage. The hurricane holes used for anchoring are very similar to the mooring field option, with the added risk of having your anchor drag. There might be a slightly lower risk of collision from a stray boat – it will depend on the number of boats.

Your success in this type of hurricane hole will rely greatly on how well you and your neighbors set and manage your ground tackle. Some boaters like to make their own “hurricane mooring” using multiple anchors. If it is a river or creek, the influence of floodwaters and strong tides is an added danger. Storm debris can quickly wrap around a rode and dislodge your anchor.

Prepare Now

Which type of hurricane hole, if any is best for you? Clearly this will vary by location. You may have very few options within easy reach. Or you might have several. Whatever you choose, the time to start preparing is now, well before hurricane season.

Dedicate some time early this summer to take a dry-run to your chosen spot. Strip the boat and deploy the gear as you would use it. This will give you a clear picture of how much time you need.

Despite the advanced warnings for named storms, there never seems to be enough time to make all the necessary preparations. And once the weather starts to deteriorate, setting storm gear becomes difficult and exhausting – if you can reach the hurricane hole at all.

Your chances of survival will depend greatly on the path of the storm. There is a big difference in a direct impact and a glancing blow. Ideally, you should have two or more spots chosen. This allows you flexibility to stay out of the hurricane’s direct path. Most cruising guides in tropical areas identify popular hurricane refuges, but local sailors often know some off-the-beaten track places where the risk of collision with another boat is lower.

For a complete guide to preparing your boat for a hurricane, where ever you are, Practical Sailo r’s new four-volume “ Hurricane Preparedness Guide ” ebook explores in-depth the gear and best practices for securing your boat in a hurricane hole, on a mooring, or in a marina. Provided detailed explanations of the specialized equipment, and anchoring and mooring techniques proven to keep your boat safe when you have no choice to “weather the storm” in harbor, it deserves a place on every voyaging sailors digital bookshelf.


Everything you say here makes perfect sense and reflects my experience of decades of cruising and living aboard in hurricane prone waters. Yes, I stayed onboard for a class 1+ hurricane. And NO I would not do it again. I also had the total loss of my live aboard cruising boat/home. Note: I lost my beloved boat but not by beloved Wife’s life nor mine! You just don’t mess with class 5! Or any hurricane. The best strategy by far is any way possible, get the heck out of the way! I adopted a strategy in the E Caribbean that worked. Every hurricane season we sailed south to Trinidad. They are south of the hurricane belt. I had friends that would go to well known “hurricane holes” Like Simpson Bay St Maartin. I was in Trinidad when hurricane Lewis hit St Maartin and surrounding area. Thousands of boats lost and hundreds of lives of sailors many who were never found. The loss of my boat was terrible as I had put years of sweat, blood and money into her. A year later we were fully alive and well to continue our cruising life in another boat. Had we stayed on board, like so many, we would have died and the boat would not have mattered one iota.

Fred Read’s comment is valuable, especially “get the heck out of the way!”. Leading from this, to offer an alternative to yachtsmen (under sail ; I have no idea how to deal with this situation without sails) who have no suitable bolt-hole ; could you add some advice about sailing around the edges ? With modern weather information giving hour-by-hour advice about the storm’s progress towards the boat, would it be possible to wait for the wind to strengthen and start to back northwards (northern hemisphere, it’s the other way round down south of course) ; then use the strengthening wind to sail out to sea, and head south under only a storm headsail/jib ? Plan a route which gives sea-room, particularly if there are surrounding islands or coastlines. Keep the wind broadly astern over the port quarter, and sail around the fringe of the rotating storm by continually heading slightly to port. Be prepared for very large waves, but given a well-prepared and seaworthy boat, with a crew who can adapt to such frightening seas, would it be possible to sail around ‘behind’ the storm and so come back to port, eventually, after it has tracked through ? Of course, there’s the risk that the storm’s direction of travel (I don’t mean the wind direction) could change. Take a spare GPS chart-plotter, plus a spare handheld GPS, and paper charts of the extended region. If you allow your position to be governed by the wind direction (as above) any shift in the storm’s direction of travel should be apparent as your position advances, and navigation allowances made as necessary. To those who enjoy sea-sailing this could be a very rewarding experience, and it removes the boat from most of the threats which you list in your excellent-as-always article. Keep the VHF on channel16 and transmit a position report every half hour, both to inform others and to reduce collision risk (visibility will be low). Unless I’ve overlooked some major stupidity in this suggestion, it’s one which would appeal to me. I should add that it’s probably suitable only for liveaboards, or for those with time to spare and live ashore very near to their boats. I hope this helps someone, but I realise that most boats will have to accept the risks of the best-available mooring and hope that the insurance will pay up !. Rob Neal.

In answer to Rob, as a former CG pilot who rescued a delivery crew from a 40ft sailboat during the 1991 Halloween Hurricane (later changed to the Perfect Storm), most modern boats are built well enough to survive a hurricane in the open ocean. In general, the crew isn’t. Severe seasickness, bruises and possible broken bones, dehydration, and significant degradation of your mental capabilities should be expected during the normal 3-4 days of hurricane passage. And in general, CG (or anybody else) rescue during the hurricane isn’t practical – the odds of your boat remaining intact are substantially better than your chances of a successful helicopter hoist – which will have to be done after you jump overboard because the swinging of the masts and rigging make threading the hoist to the deck impossible.

I liken the mental challenge of a hurricane in a sailboat to the more severe “Naked and Afraid” challenges, but with no tap out available if things go really wrong. Some are mentally strong enough, many are not.

Great article.

Rio Dulce, Guatemala ………. hauled out…………… with me safe in Antigua ahore in my opinion is safest place to be with threatening hurricaine in W Caribbean. Then, I would worry about a earthquake.

Actually, one of the better articles on hurricanes and hurricane holes, made even better by the replies. As a California, now Washington, sailor, I do not know much about hurricane holes, except what I have read over the years.

To me, the biggest missing piece of information is the location of such holes in places where they are needed and to be found. For example, know of no hurricane hole guide to the Carribean let alone any place therein. Ditto mainland Mexico, and the Gulf Coast. Need I mention Florida? My general feeling is the locals know, but letting the information out may increase the danger that results from overcrowding the already overcrowded.

Starting and updating a guide to hurricane holes sounds like a wonderful thing for someone with knowledge to accomplish.

And I forgot to mention the Pacific, or more specifically the west coast of Mexico and central America, as well as the islands all over the place there.

I won’t be the only one hoping that my preparations are adequate. I’m in Largo, Fl in a bay off the ICW. The bay is 11′ deep, about half a mile diameter. 8 other boats well-spaced but some not well tended. I have a 60 lb. anchor on 180′ of 5/16 chain and snubber. I stripped the three booms (Dickerson 36 ketch) and sails and stowed them below. A devout atheist, I try not to pray.

LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply

Log in to leave a comment

Latest Videos

sailboat in a hurricane

Island Packet 370: What You Should Know | Boat Review

sailboat in a hurricane

How To Make Starlink Better On Your Boat | Interview

sailboat in a hurricane

Catalina 380: What You Should Know | Boat Review

  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell My Personal Information
  • Online Account Activation
  • Privacy Manager

Hurricanes of Data: The Tiny Craft Mapping Superstorms at Sea

By Porter Fox May 9, 2023

  • Share full article

The Tiny Craft Mapping Superstorms at Sea

Hurricanes of Data

By Porter Fox

Illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook

Infographics by La Tigre

Throughout history, most sea captains have tried to steer their vessels out of extreme weather, but the whole purpose of SD 1045 was to steer into it. “The goal was not just to get into the hurricane but to get to the strongest quarter,” Jenkins said as we watched a video of the storm, shot from SD 1045’s masthead camera. “The big engineering challenge was to create enough sailing power to get in front of the storm, but not so much power that the storm destroys the boat.”

Jenkins and a crew of pilots in Saildrone’s cavernous mission-control room, set in a 1930s Navy hangar on the shores of San Francisco Bay, had been using a satellite link for months to maneuver SD 1045 and four sister ships into North Atlantic hurricanes. The boats were frequently caught in doldrums and set back by powerful ocean currents skirting the East Coast of the United States. That August, a sister ship, SD 1031, successfully entered Tropical Storm Henri, but only in its early stages. With a few weeks left in the 2021 hurricane season, SD 1045 appeared to be the last opportunity to get a Saildrone inside a major hurricane, where it would try to harvest data that could help scientists develop a more sophisticated understanding of why such storms’ intensity has spiked over the last half-century.

As climate change has accelerated, warmer atmospheric and ocean temperatures have increased the likelihood of a hurricane developing into a Category 3 storm or higher by 8 percent per decade . While the total number of tropical cyclones — including “typhoons” and “cyclones” — around the world has dropped over the last century, in the North Atlantic more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes made landfall in the United States from 2017 to 2021 than from 1963 to 2016. Globally, the number of major hurricanes, including a new breed of ultraintense Category 5 storms with winds of at least 190 m.p.h. , could increase by 20 percent over the next 60 to 80 years. Once-established storm tracks are simultaneously changing as hurricanes last longer and penetrate deeper over land . According to a 2021 study by Yale University researchers, warmer waters will soon draw extreme storms north as well, threatening to inundate densely populated cities like Washington, D.C.; New York; Providence, R.I.; and Boston .

Storm surges now ride on an elevated sea level, flooding coastlines with walls of water more than 25 feet high (Hurricane Katrina, 2005). Because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, storms can now dump more than 60 inches of rain on a single region (Hurricane Harvey, 2017). Hurricanes over the United States have also slowed more than 15 percent since 1947 , contributing to a 25 percent increase in local rainfall. One example of how the compounding forces of climate change, like sea-level rise, and more intense storms are overwhelming coastlines, according to Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: If Superstorm Sandy had occurred in 1912 instead of 2012, it may not have flooded Lower Manhattan .

Humans didn’t always settle in a manner so disconnected from the planet: Overlay storm tracks from the last two centuries on a map of the world, and you’ll notice how, throughout history, most major cities were built outside their reach. As that reach and intensity grows farther and faster than any time in the last three million years, another reality becomes painfully evident: Civilization can’t relocate as it once could, leaving millions of people smack in the cross hairs of severe storms with little to no resiliency, warning or even plan.

At risk on the U.S. mainland are 60 million coastal residents from Texas to Maine . Along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, you will find a dozen major seaside cities, thousands of coastal towns, half of the nation’s oil-refining business and major infrastructure like highways, airports, freight-rail lines and much of the shipping industry, which is already backed up globally with supply-chain issues as it transports, by tonnage, 90 percent of all trade across the ocean. A recent N.P.R. analysis of National Hurricane Center data revealed that 720,000 residents of Miami, Washington and New York are in danger of being flooded by rising sea levels and storm surge. In the last four decades alone, hurricanes cost the United States more than $1.1 trillion and nearly 7,000 lives. By the end of the century, they could set the United States back over $100 billion annually.

Jenkins knows firsthand the ferocity of maritime storms. His windswept hair and tanned crow’s feet are more befitting a sea captain than a San Francisco tech entrepreneur. He grew up building boats in Southampton, England, then sailed yachts around Europe and the Mediterranean as a delivery captain. He prefers two-dimensional landscapes to the hustle of the city. After studying mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, he spent a decade car-camping in salt flats and dry lake beds around the world, trying to best the obscure (yet highly competitive) land-speed record for a wind-powered vehicle. When he finally broke it — and almost himself, while steering the land yacht at 126 m.p.h. across the Mojave Desert — he pivoted his design to ocean sailing and a new mission: building the first unmanned boat to sail around the world.

Jenkins found an unlikely partner in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the sprawling parent organization of all U.S. weather agencies. Hurricane research, modeling and forecasting requires many terabytes of data for every square mile the storm passes through, including vitally important sea-level data from inside a storm. This has, for obvious reasons, been nearly impossible to obtain. Several generations of automated buoys, subsurface sea gliders and dropsondes — launched from turboprop Hurricane Hunter aircraft in the middle of a storm — have been employed to measure the “planetary boundary” between sea and sky, where a hurricane gets its power. But most of the devices offer only a snapshot of conditions. Jenkins’s contribution to the endeavor is a Swiss Army knife of oceanic observation that can maneuver into a storm and measure air, surface and subsea data in real time, without the cost of fuel, provisions or human lives.

Jenkins walked me around the Saildrone factory floor that morning, speaking quickly, often without pausing for minutes or even an hour at a time. He plays the role of engineer, chief executive, inventor, climatologist, oceanographer, naval architect and captain on any given day — a corporeal C.P.U. of the company. He touched on everything from hydrodynamics to hurricane structure to electrical engineering and bathymetry — ocean mapping — as we wandered among four neat rows of gleaming Saildrone hulls. Gunmetal-gray steel racks and wheeled carts held appendages and instruments, all fabricated in-house and “ruggedized” by Saildrone and NOAA. The company is based in Alameda Point, a hub of the techno-utopianism that has swept through the Bay Area. (Jenkins occasionally commutes by motorboat from his home in Alameda.) Just down the block, researchers are developing a safer nuclear reactor. A few doors away is the former factory of Makani, a project founded by a consortium of kite-surfing inventors who added wind turbines to giant kites to create energy, à la Ben Franklin.

A half-dozen workers meandered between boats as Jenkins took me to the boardroom to watch the video of SD 1045. Wind gusts hit 120 m.p.h. in what would become one of the longest-lasting North Atlantic hurricanes on record. Hurricane Sam had recently reorganized and ratcheted up from Category 3 to the upper range of Category 4. Sea spray and rain turned the air into a foggy emulsion; breaking waves slammed the boat with the force of a tractor-trailer. Two hours later, on the edge of the eye wall, the scene on Jenkins’s screen became otherworldly, with 143-m.p.h. gusts and 89-foot waves.

Few vessels could withstand the vectors moving through the North Atlantic that day. (In 2015, Hurricane Joaquin’s monster waves severed the top two decks of the steel freighter El Faro’s superstructure, sending the 790-foot ship to the bottom of the ocean along with all 33 crew members.) But SD 1045 persevered, its gauges recording multiple knockdowns, 360-degree capsizes and a 30-m.p.h. sleigh ride down the back of a giant wave.

As the pilot managed to maneuver the ship closer to the storm’s eye — a Dantesque arena of minitornadoes, falling sheets of ice, hot tower thunderheads and torrential wind and rain bands — Jenkins and a dozen NOAA scientists across the country turned to a never-before-seen stream of data broadcast from the heart of the hurricane: air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, water temperature, salinity, sea-surface temperature and wave height. Watching it was like watching transmissions from a Mars rover — columns of numbers and decimal points broadcast from an alien world gradually sketching a detailed picture of the cyclone. If this level of data could consistently be harvested from hurricanes at sea, Jenkins and his colleagues realized, it could very well change our understanding of one of the most damaging, costly and deadly forms of natural disaster in the world.

It stretches for 139 million square miles and is on average more than 10,000 feet deep. Anyone who has spent time on or near it knows that watching the sea is like watching a fire: It is always transforming, moving, reordering as it mixes and flows. It is no more a “thing” than deep space is a thing — more conceptual than it is representational. It is physis , as the ancient Greeks wrote, translated as “nature,” “creation” or “growth.”

The quest to study the sea and its storms predates Aristotle, who hypothesized that Earth’s oceans were frigid at the poles and too hot to inhabit near the Equator. Half a century before Christopher Columbus’s first voyage across the Atlantic, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal dispatched a series of expeditions along the coast of Africa in what was in part one of the first Western maritime data-harvesting missions in history. (Keep in mind that sea monsters were considered a navigational hazard by many at the time.) His captains returned with observations detailing sea temperature, zoological discoveries and curious and persistent winds and currents, the volta do mar , that allowed them to sail with the breeze behind them in a giant circle from Portugal down to the Canary Islands, up to the Azores and home. Over the next 400 years, these and other “trade winds” and the currents they pushed would carry human civilization around the world, along with a breed of superstorm unknown to Westerners.

Only satellite images can give a true sense of the symmetry and stunning size of a mature tropical cyclone: a vortex of wind and moisture up to a thousand miles in diameter that bends with the curvature of the planet. A single storm can blot out the coastline between Maine and Florida and generate more than 200 times the energy that the world’s power plants create in a single day. (Or the power of 240 10-megaton nuclear bombs detonated every 20 minutes; take your pick.) Over millions of years, these storms have carved coastlines and ocean basins. They have wiped out entire ecosystems and redistributed others across oceans. They can even transport their own avian community of shearwaters, frigatebirds, petrels and songbirds that may fly above or become trapped in the relatively calm eye of the storm for many miles, only to be unceremoniously dumped on the shores of a distant place.

The Gulf Coast, with its warm, shallow water and troublesome Loop Current, has seen more than three dozen major hurricanes since 1851. But it is Florida that holds the distinction of being the most hurricane-prone state in the country. More than 100 tropical cyclones have made landfall there in the same time span, making locals who experienced some of those storms wonder if the current influx of newcomers to the Sunshine State will pack up and leave after their first hurricane season.

Greg Foltz of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (A.O.M.L.) lives on relatively high ground among the neat, terra-cotta-capped bungalows of Coral Gables. He met me at a concrete picnic pavilion on Miami’s Virginia Key, a hundred yards from the Bauhausian A.O.M.L. campus. Foltz is a willowy 46 years old, soft-spoken, with a salty nerdiness that perhaps only an oceanographer can achieve. He grew up with the thrum of nor’easters, squalls and the occasional hurricane outside Boston before joining NOAA in 2010. He is now lead principal investigator of the Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic (PIRATA) Northeast Extension and its array of red-and-white research buoys, outfitted for oceanographic observation and hurricane forecasting.

One of Foltz’s duties is finding new tech to expand and improve the observation system. After colleagues at his former lab, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (P.M.E.L.) in Seattle, told him about Saildrones, he set up a meeting to discuss building a drone that could record the inner workings of a hurricane. Jenkins had been collaborating with NOAA for four years, fine-tuning instruments and redesigning the hull and sail plan. Foltz wrote a grant and secured SD 1045 and four other drones for the 2021 hurricane season. The morning of Sept. 30, he watched from a makeshift home office as SD 1045 sailed into Hurricane Sam.

Amid a flurry of congratulatory text messages that morning, Foltz homed in on an anomaly in the drone’s data stream. Sam had undergone rapid intensification, during which a storm’s maximum winds increase 35 m.p.h. or more in 24 hours. The phenomenon, which is difficult to forecast and often occurs just before landfall, has become a priority for U.S. weather agencies, as it often leaves coastal residents expecting a mild storm only to be walloped by a Category 3 or 4 hurricane. Rapid intensification used to spin up once a century, but studies show that in the future, it could occur more frequently — especially in waters bordering the East Coast. In 2020 alone, 10 Atlantic hurricanes underwent rapid intensification . The next year, Hurricane Ida’s winds jumped to 150 m.p.h. from 85 just before making landfall in New Orleans and Alabama, ominously on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The readings Foltz noticed indicated that surface temperatures beneath Sam were higher than normal. Typically, evaporation and ocean mixing beneath a hurricane cools surface water near the eye. But SD 1045 indicated that the surface was not cooling. It was warming up, creating a storm with no bridle.

The readings were so off that Foltz assumed a gauge had broken. He checked SD 1045’s wind-speed figures against a nearby research buoy and saw similar numbers. He also noticed low salinity in the water and confirmed those readings with satellite data. Weeks later, after poring over the data, Foltz and his colleagues concluded that a pool of fresh water — which is less dense than salt water and floats on top of it — had likely blocked upwelling currents from cooling the surface.

The discovery provided further evidence in an area that had confounded meteorologists for decades. Two months after Hurricane Sam veered northeast and sputtered out southeast of Greenland, NOAA sent out a news release titled “Measuring Salt in the Ocean May Be Key to Predicting Hurricane Intensity.” The release outlined how the outflow of the Amazon, Orinoco and Mississippi Rivers could potentially obstruct upwelling and ocean mixing beneath storms. Further study the next spring illustrated how increased rainfall in today’s supersaturated storms could also dump enough freshwater to reduce upwelling and ocean cooling, making intensification more likely.

Foltz took a summary of his findings to the National Hurricane Center. “Now they’re starting to appreciate that salinity can affect hurricane intensity,” he says.

A month after SD 1045 safely sailed back to port, a disturbance in the Pacific Ocean developed into a tropical depression. The storm was named Rai, and two days later it became a Category 1 typhoon. As the storm bore down on the volcanic ridgelines and montane rainforests hemming the Philippines, rapid intensification took it from the equivalent of a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane to a supertyphoon, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 m.p.h.

In 48 hours, Rai decimated thousands of villages, killed more than 400 people, drove seven million from their homes and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage — including postponing a mass coronavirus vaccination effort. Rai was not the first storm to hit the Philippines in 2021. Fourteen other gales overran the islands earlier that year, sometimes just weeks apart. And four months later, Tropical Storm Megi killed more than 150, wiped out several villages with landslides and displaced more than a million people.

With their billions in damages and clever National Hurricane Center tweets — “Kate Still a Poorly Organized Depression” — Atlantic hurricanes represent just 16 percent of all annual tropical cyclones. Hurricane basins in the Pacific that border Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Japan and the Philippines get 60 percent of the storms, while 24 percent roam the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific . Called typhoons when they originate in the Northwest Pacific and cyclones in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the storms are identical in all but name to hurricanes. They are also growing stronger as the ocean warms beneath them.

Nowhere is this incongruity more evident than in weather- and climate-related natural disasters — which increased fivefold globally from 1970 to 2019 , with 91 percent of associated deaths occurring in the developing world. The proportion of Category 4 and 5 typhoons making landfall in East and Southeast Asia appears to have increased, with storms lasting longer, penetrating farther inland and causing vastly more damage. A 2016 study found that the average intensity of all typhoons in the region had grown by 12 to 15 percent from 1977 to 2014. Typhoon Koppu in 2015 dumped 35 inches of rain on the Philippines, and Cyclone Freddy in February became the longest, most powerful tropical cyclone in any ocean basin in history after destroying large swaths of Madagascar and Mozambique. There is no longer respite from typhoon season in the western North Pacific, either. Storm season now essentially lasts all year .

Damage and loss of life on the low-lying, densely populated coastlines of Asia and Africa — typically with little to no resiliency or early-warning systems — is beyond compare. Some of the most infamous storms in history made landfall there: the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which pushed a 33-foot-tall storm surge across the Ganges Delta in what is now Bangladesh, with an estimated death toll as high as 500,000; Typhoon Nina in 1975 and a resulting dam failure, which took more than 150,000 lives in China’s Henan Province; and Myanmar’s Cyclone Nargis in 2008, with more than 100,000 dead or missing after a 13-foot storm surge swept across the Irrawaddy Delta.

Lack of data and accurate forecasting is largely to blame for the high casualty rate. Much of the region still uses weather balloons to gauge atmospheric conditions, and a lack of reliable electricity makes automated weather stations and data transmission difficult. About one-third of the world’s population has no access to extreme-weather early-warning systems — including a stunning 60 percent of people in Africa. A 2019 report by the Global Commission on Adaptation addressed the shortfall, outlining how an $800 million investment in forecasting could avoid up to $16 billion in weather-related damage. The United Nations took up the challenge in 2021 at its climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow. The next year it promised technology within five years that will deliver storm warnings to every region on the planet.

One presentation at COP26 addressed the scarcity of ocean-data collection vital to understanding tropical cyclones and climate change in general — not just in the developing world but everywhere. More than 80 percent of the ocean has yet to be mapped in high definition, and hardly any of it is being empirically monitored and measured regularly . Oceanographers often point out that appropriations for NASA’s deep-space exploration outpaces ocean exploration by more than 150 to 1 — to the point that scientists know more about the surface of Mars than they do about our own seas, which play an outsize role in the climate crisis and are far more important to the survival of our species. Forecasters and climate modelers, who rely heavily on ocean data, may have to use estimated numbers in their calculations, opening the door to potential large-scale errors in the planet’s carbon budget and all-important global-warming estimates.

The presenter, the NOAA oceanographer Adrienne Sutton, argued that this “black hole of data” is hampering our understanding of how the ocean is changing and how those changes affect food webs, carbon sequestration, weather and storms. To date, the world’s oceans have taken in around 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and more than 30 percent of carbon dioxide emitted by human activity. This role as buffer, which has most likely saved humanity from certain and swift extinction, has come with consequences, including sea-level rise, ocean acidification, coral die-offs, shifting global circulation currents and a rise in intense tropical cyclones.

“During the winter, the Southern Ocean was a carbon source — which threw the entire carbon budget into disarray,” Richard Jenkins says. “Where is that 30 percent of carbon emissions going? No one has an answer for that, which is a phenomenally poor understanding of our planetary systems. Our goal is to get enough data to get the models to reduce the margin of error so that everyone can agree on our trajectory.”

As another hurricane season approaches, much of the U.S. coast remains unprepared. Flood insurance for millions of Americans living near the ocean is still optional. Some federal disaster loans to rebuild after a storm are contingent on credit; consumer-protection laws do not rein in corrupt contractors who flock to disaster areas; and many state governments lack the funds and staffing necessary to manage recovery.

Eighteen years after Hurricane Katrina rolled over the clapboard shacks and corner stores of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, the population is still around 30 percent of what it was in 2000 — with only a handful of businesses to serve residents. Communities in the nine states that experienced Hurricane Ida’s torrential wind and rain in 2021 are still rebuilding, and parts of Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy 11 years later — all while New York City repeatedly delayed and rewrote its plans to fortify and protect Lower Manhattan from another direct hit.

On the streets of Fort Myers, Fla., where Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, killed more than 150 people and caused an estimated $112.9 billion in damages in September , many residents remain displaced, and even more are still waiting on insurance checks. Full recovery could take up to a decade, disaster experts say, assuming another storm does not hit before then.

What worries tropical-cyclone modelers like Hiro Murakami, a project scientist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., are regions with little to no experience with major storms being drawn into tropical-cyclone territory. Warming water off the coast of Europe over the last 20 years has opened the door to storms like ex-Hurricane Ophelia in 2017, which grazed Ireland with gusts up to 119 m.p.h. The next year, Hurricane Helene followed a rare path, traveling north from Africa, instead of west, eventually affecting the United Kingdom. Other regions being drawn into cyclone territory include India’s west coast, eastern Japan, Hawaii and the sprawling agrarian-industrial coastline that wraps around northeastern China.

Storms are even hitting the Middle East with more power, Murakami says, like Cyclone Shaheen in 2021. The storm took a remarkable path from the Bay of Bengal across India and the Arabian Sea and made landfall in Oman as a severe cyclone, the first one there in recorded history. “They have no experience with it,” Murakami says. “No dikes. No defenses.”

Another concern is the overall rise of extreme weather. Just look at 2022: Extreme rainstorms flooded the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro; low rainfall in Iraq resulted in a huge dust storm that shut down most of the country; heat waves in India and Pakistan brought temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some places, followed by exceptionally rainy monsoon seasons; and freak tornadoes tore through New Orleans. The opening months of 2023 had a parade of atmospheric rivers — made wetter and more intense by climate change — dump more than 30 trillion gallons of water on California.

Gore-Tex-clad meteorologists clinging to seaside piers have popularized a vibrant vocabulary for our new meteorological reality: bombogenesis, polar vortex, vapor storm, wave overtopping, sting jets, megadroughts. It is a dangerous game relating all weather disasters to climate change, but when one considers the complex and interrelated nature of climate and weather systems on Earth, there’s no denying that they must be linked to some degree. Adding an estimated 0.7 watts of heat to every square meter of land and water on the planet is influencing pretty much everything in the ocean and sky, even the poofy thunderheads that glide over your backyard on a summer afternoon.

Such are the perils of disturbing the equilibrium that Earth has maintained for millions of years, Murakami says. With average atmospheric CO2 content topping 417 parts per million for the first time in more than four million years, he points out another often overlooked and underreported fact: If we stopped burning fossil fuels today, additional warming would begin to flatten within a few years, as would the escalation of tropical-cyclone intensity.

“If we can successfully constrain emissions in the middle of the 21st century, and CO2 emissions decrease afterward, hurricane activity will also go back to present-day,” he says. “Cyclone activity largely follows the path of CO2 levels.”

Colorado State University released its annual hurricane outlook in April, anticipating 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes in 2023. Foltz and Saildrone were already preparing a new fleet of drones. The plan was to match them with aerial drones launched from Hurricane Hunter aircraft and subsea gliders so researchers could analyze the architecture of a storm from hundreds of feet beneath the ocean’s surface to thousands of feet above it.

Foltz will watch their progress from his office in NOAA’s A.O.M.L. lab. It will most likely take each drone a month to navigate into position and then a few weeks to coordinate with the gliders and aerial drones. Then Foltz, Jenkins and a crew of NOAA scientists across the nation will wait patiently — watching the skies, monitoring the Atlantic’s ever-warming temperature and waiting for a line of thunderheads to be hooked and whirled into a perfect storm.

Porter Fox is a writer in New York and the author of a forthcoming book from Little, Brown and Company, “The Great River of the Sea,” which is based on reporting from this article.

Wesley Allsbrook is an illustrator known for bold movement, saturated palettes and a strong sense of narrative in their art.

Learn More About Climate Change

Have questions about climate change? Our F.A.Q. will tackle your climate questions, big and small .

To decarbonize the electrical grid, companies are finding creative ways to store energy during periods of low demand in carbon dioxide storage balloons .

MethaneSAT, a washing-machine-sized satellite , is designed to detect emissions of methane, an invisible yet potent gas that is dangerously heating the world.  Here is how it works .

Two friends, both young climate researchers, recently spent hours confronting the choices that will shape their careers, and the world. Their ideas are very different .

New satellite-based research reveals how land along the East Coast is slumping into the ocean, compounding the danger from global sea level rise . A major culprit: overpumping of groundwater.

Did you know the ♻ symbol doesn’t mean something is actually recyclable ? Read on about how we got here, and what can be done.



Where to Sail During Hurricane Season

Where to Sail During Hurricane Season | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Sailing during hurricane season is possible with planning, technology, and the right location. However, many safer locations exist for summer sailing.

Hurricane season is a hazardous time for sailors in gulf and Atlantic-coast states such as Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas. Despite this, sailors still venture out during peak tropical storm season. Sailing during hurricane season is safer in northern latitudes and inland areas, such as the Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast.

Table of contents

‍ Why are Hurricanes Dangerous to Sailboats?

Hurricanes are enormous tropical storms that can stretch over 300 miles across. They develop and intensify, gaining strength and moving (most often) northeast from the Gulf of Mexico or South Atlantic to the North.

High Winds and Rough Seas

Hurricanes are dangerous to sailboats for a few reasons. The most destructive force of a hurricane is its wind, which can exceed 157 mph in major Category-5 storms. High winds and perilous seas can effortlessly founder and sink a large boat and positively erase a small sailboat .

Storm Surge

Hurricanes tend to stall and weaken over land, at which point they devolve into less intense bands of thunderstorms and rain clouds. However, docking your boat close to shore doesn't mean it's safe from the effects of a strong hurricane.

A storm surge often closely follows a hurricane. During a storm surge, large waves beat down anything along the coast that isn't bolted or cemented into bedrock.

Seawater floods inland and overflows rivers, lakes, and neighborhoods with up to 30 feet of water. Boats caught in a storm surge get washed inland and pounded to bits against buildings, cars, trees, and infrastructure.

How to Protect your Sailboat from Hurricanes

The best way to protect your sailboat from a hurricane is to get out of its way. Depending on the strength of the storm, this won't always be necessary—but it's wise to seek shelter whenever a powerful hurricane tracks towards your home port.

When is Hurricane Season?

Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th. Hurricane season is when tropical storms are most common, but cyclones occur year-round on the Atlantic ocean.

Hurricanes have occurred in March, December, and virtually every month in between. The reason why hurricane season starts during the summer is that temperature and pressure conditions are prime for storm development.

Hurricane season timing is unfortunate, as the summer months are prime sailing season in the coastal states. As a result, thousands of sailboats take to the water during hurricane season and sometimes encounter extreme conditions.

What States Should Worry about Hurricanes?

Hurricanes primarily affect the gulf coast, and Atlantic states, as tropical conditions further south produce northward-moving storms during the peak months.

Most Hazardous Hurricane States

The most hazardous states for hurricanes are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. These states take a direct broadside from hurricanes, which often make landfall on their shores wreak havoc inland.

Additional Hurricane Threat States

States further north also have hurricane-related hazards, especially on the coast. These states include Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, a tiny sliver of New Hampshire, and Maine.

Inland Hurricane Hazards

Inland states such as Arkansas and Tennessee are sometimes affected by flooding after a hurricane makes landfall, which can make river and lake conditions hazardous as well. This effect is much less significant inland.

Where are Hurricanes Dangerous to Sailboats?

Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina have the most dangerous hurricane activity for sailboats. This is due to storm surges, high winds, and other phenomena that can damage boats both at sea and in the marina.

The most hazardous places to be during hurricane season is the southeastern tip of Florida. This also happens to be a common starting point for boats sailing to the Bahamas during the summer months.

South Texas is a fairly rough spot during hurricane season as well, with the most dramatic storm surges occurring around the Houston and Galveston area. The southernmost coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi tend to experience frightening conditions as well.

Sailing in these areas (or simply mooring your sailboat) during hurricane season is precarious and risky compared to safer northern and inland areas.

Hurricane-Safe Sailing Areas

If you live in one of the hurricane-prone coastal states and want to minimize the risks, there are locations you can retreat to and still continue to sail. Here are two alternatives to bluewater sailing during hurricane season.

Lakes are an excellent option for summer sailing, especially if you have a trailerable sailboat. Inland lakes exist in almost every hurricane-prone state, and they offer protection from devastating hurricane storm surges.

Marinas are available on most larger lakes, and fees are similar to coastal yacht clubs and docking facilities. Many of these marinas are also covered, which offers additional protection from rain, hail, and other storm-related hazards.

Rivers like the Mississippi are wide and deep enough for sailboats to traverse. Rivers, while not as protected as lakes, offer some protection from the open-water hazards of hurricane season.

Rivers are a great way to relocate when storm season comes, as you can simply sail upstream and dock far away from meteorological hazards. River sailing is challenging and still prone to storm surges, but the dangers are much lower than in the immediate path of the storm.

Intracoastal Waterways

The United States Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is one of the most useful coastal features in hurricane-prone states. It offers a unique level of protection from bluewater hazards along with ports, haulouts, and other amenities for sailors.

The Intracoastal Waterway system is a combination of coastal inlets, sounds, channels, and artificial canals that run from Boston, Massachusetts, all the way to Brownsville, Texas. The massive waterway consists of more than 3,000 miles of almost entirely protected navigable water.

Intracoastal Waterways are a fantastic way to tour the United States during hurricane season. In addition to an increased level of protection from the open sea, the ICW system runs along more than a dozen major tourist cities and cultural centers. Safe harbors and overnight stops are abundant, and provisions are never in short supply.

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway system begins in Brownsville, Texas, and runs down the western coast of Carrabelle, Florida. Along the way, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway connects to major coastal cities such as Corpus Christie, Galveston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mobile, Panama City, and Pensacola.

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway connects the Gulf ICW to the eastern United States via the southern coast of Florida. Fort Lauderdale, FL, is one of the primary southern points of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway runs all the way to Boston, but not all of the waterway is close to the open sea. During hurricane season, an additional level of safety can be found north of the Manasquan Inlet in New Jersey. The inlet connects the northern parts of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway with the inland Manasquan river.

Major port cities along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway include Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, Georgetown, Cape Fear, Wilmington, Norfolk, New York City, Albany, Cape Cod, and Boston.

Intracoastal Waterway during Hurricane Season

Few sailors would recommend sailing in the Intracoastal Waterway during an active hurricane. That said, if you must travel, it's safer to stay inland and away from the driving seat.

However, sailing and mooring in the Intracoastal Waterway during hurricane season is probably much safer than cruising in open water or anchoring in an exposed cove.

The Intracoastal Waterway offers protection from the other unpredictable weather hazards that are common during hurricane season. These include explosive thunderstorms that occur in the afternoon and the occasional low-visibility rainstorm.

Safety Benefits of the Intracoastal Waterway System

For sailors in hurricane-prone states, the Intracoastal Waterway can lay a lot of fears to rest when traveling between destinations. The Intracoastal Waterway is a heavily-traveled shipping lane, which means towing and emergency services are never far away.

Additionally, there are hundreds of marinas, restaurants, boatyards, and fueling docks dotted around the shores of the Intracoastal Waterway. In the event of storm damage, it's much easier to get repairs and find land-based shelter in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Navigation is also easier, as the channels are clearly marked, and landmarks are everywhere. The Intracoastal Waterway makes sailing between coastal states simple and direct.

Sailing out of State

If you decide to avoid hurricane-prone areas during the summer season, there are plenty of places to sail to far out of range of tropical storms. Sailing or towing your boat away from the Atlantic and Gulf states is a popular option for hurricane season, especially if there's a storm on the way.

The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are an excellent destination for sailors during the summer. Though famous for their rough weather, the Great Lakes are calmer during the warm months. Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario are the largest lakes of their kind in the world.

St. Lawrence Seaway and Ocean Access

The St. Lawrence Seaway allows commercial vessels and private boats to access the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean. Combined, the seaway and the lakes are one of the largest surface navigable waterways on the planet and features some of the largest marine locks as well.

Fresh Water, Fair Weather, and Easy Maintenance

The Great Lakes offer another hidden benefit that's great for your sailboat: freshwater. The Great Lakes are freshwater lakes, which means you'll have an entire season to avoid the corrosive qualities of saltwater and the worst kinds of marine gunk.

When to Leave the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes offer safe and interesting refuge during hurricane season, but they're not fair and friendly year-round. During the fall, conditions on the Great Lakes get stormy and hazardous.

Additionally, winter temperatures in the region frequently freeze the lakes, making them totally impassable to small boats. It's best to vacate the Great Lakes area and return home before October, which is right at the end of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Tourist Locations

Great cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Duluth border the lakes, and they're easily accessible from the water. If you're looking to get out of the Atlantic coast during hurricane season, consider taking a trip through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes.

International Voyages

Looking to do some international travel by boat? The Great Lakes border the United States and Canada, making it easy to visit our northern neighbors and stay far from the weather during hurricane season.

Pacific Coast

The Pacific Coast is another popular option for sailors during hurricane season. There are two primary ways to get from an Atlantic state to the pacific coast: You can transit via the Panama Canal or haul your boat out and tow it to the other side of the country.

Atlantic to Pacific Sailing via the Panama Canal

Larger boats are generally too expensive to ship or haul, making the Panama Canal the most convenient option. Contrary to popular belief, it's relatively easy to transit via the Panama Canal. Private sailboats tie side-by-side and get towed through the locks.

Pacific Coast Destinations

The Pacific Coast is hurricane-free, and typhoons (Pacific hurricanes) rarely make it to the US West Coast. Unlike the Atlantic and Gulf coast, there aren't a lot of harbors on the jagged and inhospitable western coastline.

However, there are numerous destinations on the West Coast that are worth your while. San Diego and its islands are a popular spot for sailboats, along with Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay.

Further north, Portland and Seattle are accessible from the Pacific. Vancouver, Canada, is another popular sailing destination for those escaping hurricane season out west.

Sailing around Cape Horn

Sailing around Cape Horn is another way to escape to the Pacific Ocean during hurricane season. Cape horn rounds the southernmost tip of Chile and connects the two great oceans via a treacherous antarctic passage.

Cape Horn is known for rough weather that intensifies during the summer, so escaping hurricane season this way may cause more problems than it solves.

Is it Safe to Sail during Hurricane Season?

Each year, thousands of people set sail from Atlantic states during the summer. And each year, thousands of sailors return without ever encountering a problem.

Unlike many other kinds of natural disasters, hurricanes often give several days of warning before making landfall near major sailing hubs. As a result, sailors who properly prepare and monitor weather data can almost always avoid getting caught in dangerous situations.

However, the farther out from shore you sail, the greater likelihood you have of encountering an issue. Your ability to receive and react to new information is compromised if you're too far from shore to take shelter.

How to Be Safe During Hurricane Season

The best thing you can do to stay safe during hurricane season is to be informed. Modern weather prediction methods are remarkably effective at detecting and tracking hurricanes, and advanced warning can help you steer clear of a storm's path.

Monitor weather patterns and stay vigilant for weather alerts, and always check for potential meteorological hazards before setting sail. The NOAA and the National Weather Service are a great place to start, along with Weather Band (WB) radio.

Thunderstorms are also a hazard during the summer months, so use resources like the Storm Prediction Center's convective and thunderstorm outlooks to see if you're likely to encounter foul summer weather during your trip.

Related Articles

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

by this author

Where To Sail

Most Recent

What Does "Sailing By The Lee" Mean? | Life of Sailing

What Does "Sailing By The Lee" Mean?

October 3, 2023

The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings | Life of Sailing

The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings

September 26, 2023

Important Legal Info

Lifeofsailing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Similar Posts

How To Choose The Right Sailing Instructor | Life of Sailing

How To Choose The Right Sailing Instructor

August 16, 2023

Cost To Sail Around The World | Life of Sailing

Cost To Sail Around The World

May 16, 2023

Small Sailboat Sizes: A Complete Guide | Life of Sailing

Small Sailboat Sizes: A Complete Guide

October 30, 2022

Popular Posts

Best Liveaboard Catamaran Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Best Liveaboard Catamaran Sailboats

December 28, 2023

Can a Novice Sail Around the World? | Life of Sailing

Can a Novice Sail Around the World?

Elizabeth O'Malley

Best Electric Outboard Motors | Life of Sailing

4 Best Electric Outboard Motors

How Long Did It Take The Vikings To Sail To England? | Life of Sailing

How Long Did It Take The Vikings To Sail To England?

10 Best Sailboat Brands | Life of Sailing

10 Best Sailboat Brands (And Why)

December 20, 2023

7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat | Life of Sailing

7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat

Get the best sailing content.

Top Rated Posts

Lifeofsailing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies. (866) 342-SAIL

© 2024 Life of Sailing Email: [email protected] Address: 11816 Inwood Rd #3024 Dallas, TX 75244 Disclaimer Privacy Policy

Better Sailing

Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane?

Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane?

Are you about to set sail but you check the forecast and learn that your boat is in the path of an impending hurricane? So, what exactly do you have to do? Slack the lines, and seek for a hurricane hole where you can ride out the storm? On the other hand, if you don’t have time, you may have no choice but to tow the boat. Or perhaps you believe you’re safe on the dock and your only option is to double the dock lines and pray for the best. All sailors must be able to properly prepare for a storm, but what is the best technique? In this article, I’m going to analyze this subject as well as answer if a sailboat can survive during a hurricane. So, keep reading!

Hurricane Information

A hurricane, sometimes known as a cyclone or typhoon, is a tropical rotating storm in the North Atlantic Ocean. They also occur in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. Hurricanes only form over warm tropical oceans, usually above 27°C (81°F). You might also wonder when hurricanes strike. Hurricanes are known to strike the Northern Hemisphere during the months of June and November. Hurricanes, on the other hand, are more common in the Southern Hemisphere between December and May. The ‘hurricane season’ for a certain region is defined as the time of year when hurricanes strike that area.

Strong winds spiral inward and upward at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. And, they can be up to 600 miles across. Each hurricane lasts about a week and travels at 10 to 20 miles per hour over open water. Hurricanes gain energy and heat by interacting with warm ocean waters. The evaporation of seawater boosts hurricanes’ strength. In the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise around an “eye,” while in the Southern Hemisphere, they rotate clockwise. The calmest area of the storm is the center, or “eye.” There are only low winds and pleasant weather in the center. Heavy rain, strong winds, and enormous waves can cause damage to buildings, trees, and automobiles when they arrive on land.

Hurricanes only form over extremely warm ocean water, at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The atmosphere (air) must cool down quickly as you go higher. In order to force air upward from the water surface, the wind must also be blowing in the same direction and at the same speed. Above the storm, winds blow outward, allowing the air below to rise. Hurricanes are most common between the latitudes of 5 and 15 degrees north and south of the equator. The Coriolis Force creates the spin in a cyclone, but it is too weak near the equator to create storms.

Although hurricanes and cyclones occur all around the world, some locations are more vulnerable than others. When a hurricane strikes the North Atlantic, the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as the Caribbean Sea, are likely to be affected as well. Hawaii and the western coast of Mexico will be affected if it occurs in the Eastern Pacific. Typhoons that form in the western Pacific are more likely to strike Japan, China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Cyclones from the Indian Ocean regularly hit Southeast Asian countries, including the Indian subcontinent. Tropical cyclones in the southern Indian Ocean might hit Madagascar and countries along Africa’s east coast in the Southern Hemisphere. Cyclones that originate in the southeastern Indian Ocean are more likely to hit Australia’s northern coast.

Plan Ahead and Know the Facts

Actually, if you receive a hurricane warning, you usually only have 72 hours to prepare. As a result, having a plan in place before a hurricane strike is crucial. One of the greatest solutions is to find a hurricane hole away from the storm. But, this requires planning and the capacity to jump on your boat and relocate it. And any time you decide to get in the water, you must rely on every boat upwind of you to stay put. And, this can be risky. You must be quite cautious about where you choose to be. And, if the wind direction does not match the forecast, you may find many boats upwind of you that you did not expect to see.

The truth is that you are completely reliant on others. While taking your boat to a hurricane hole to ride out the storm is an option for some, there are two major considerations. Firstly, you must have enough time to move your boat and place your anchors before the storm hits. And, you must trust the other boaters who are holed up with you. If these issues are a problem, you may need to consider other solutions. Hauling the boat is one apparent option. Having the boat out of the water significantly improves your chances of survival. If something goes wrong when the boat is on the hard, the damage is most likely repairable.

When a boat is damaged in the water, it usually sinks. Again, this will require planning and time. But, carrying your boat is usually easier than heading to a storm hole. Also, most boatyards will be able to help you if you get in line early enough. However, being hauled out does not guarantee your safety. You must still prepare the boat for the approaching storm. You should remove all canvas, sails, bimini tops, and other accessories, as well as everything else off the deck, and make sure the boat is watertight.

Can Sailboats Survive Hurricanes

>>Also Read: Why Do Boat Insurance Companies Require Hurricane Plans?

What to Do To Avoid Hurricanes

In an ideal situation, you should relocate your boat and sail away from the hurricane. Keep in mind that the hurricane’s center has winds of 200 mph or more. Also, note that the wind increases less the further you sail from the hurricane’s center. So, if you sail 50 to 100 miles away, you’ll be in a safer location.

One thing about storms is that you know what is their direction at least a week ahead of time, so you’ll have plenty of time to get out before the hurricane arrives. This ensures that both you and your boat are safe and secure. During severe storms, the second option is to seek shelter in a hurricane hole. Hurricane holes are bays and harbors, or deep, narrow coves or inlets covered by trees. They provide the finest spots to tie off your anchor lines and prevent the wind and waves. The finest hurricane holes are uncrowded areas that are far enough inland. They’re able to avoid wind and surges while still being close enough to be easily reached from the land. Hurricane holes exist in places like Guatemala, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Haiti. It’s of great importance to locate a protected hurricane hole in the area where you will be sailing ahead of time.

Secure the Boat with Anchors

The anchors and anchor rodes are subjected to severe forces during strong storms and hurricanes. So, you have to choose a reliable anchor. Helix Anchors are one of the best on the market, according to BoatUS, since they screw into the water surface. Note that Helix Anchors are far more powerful than Mushroom or other forms of anchors. They can hold between 12,000 and 20,000 pounds of weight that cannot be wrenched free. To have sufficient protection from the hurricane’s enormous wind surges, it’s critical to employ several anchors. You can also use Setting Tandem Anchors or anchors in several directions. If you have two large anchors, space them about 90 degrees apart in the direction of the expected wind.

Reduce Windage

Whether your boat is at anchor, moored, docked, or even hauled out, decreasing windage is critical. This is because it reduces stress on the boat and its attachment points. Even when the boat is at anchor or moored, it virtually never rests precisely head to wind. You can almost always be sure it won’t be facing directly into the wind if you’re at a dock, tied to mangroves, or in a boatyard. Note that the narrower the boat’s profile, the less surface area for the wind to hit it. Overall, the rig is less stressed, and the boat heels less. This will also reduce chafing on lines, and lower the load on the anchor, mooring, dock, or whatever else the boat is linked to. Keep in mind that you have to remove canvas, dodgers and biminis, dinghy, and the genoa as well. Remove and stow the mainsails as well.

Plan Wisely

Always stay informed on hurricanes and heavy storms wherever you sail. Use resources like Boatus.com and Global Weather Tracker to acquire the most up-to-date information on hurricanes. If you intend to haul or relocate your boat, make sure to notify your marina operator ahead of time. It is common knowledge that boats kept on land are far safer than those kept in the sea. In addition, it is important to understand the insurance policy as well as the marina contracts. For example, prior to a storm or hurricane, it is usual for insurance companies to reimburse up to 50% of the cost of carrying or transferring your vessel.

If your boat must be in the water, you have to relocate it to a hurricane hole or other location with the least amount of storm damage. Canals are ideal hiding spots since they allow you to tighten lines on both sides of the boat, preventing it from moving and wobbling. When a storm or hurricane looms, you have to take the necessary precautions ahead of time. Plan ahead of time and think of where your vessel will best survive the storm. Prepare a hurricane hole where you may dock your boat throughout the storm. You can minimize the risk of damage by picking the most storm-safe position well before the forecast predicts the hurricane, according to insurance claim files.

Bear in mind that the captain’s seamanship is the most important factor. In other words, if he or she is far from land or other hazards and knows how to steer the boat through the hurricane or storm. A large and seaworthy sailboat that is mostly for cruising rather than racing is also much better to have.

How To Prepare for Hurricanes

If you’re going to stay on a dock, you’ll want to go to a marina with large pilings. Nowadays, and especially in vulnerable hurricane areas, many marinas are working to raise piling heights. The boats are better placed where they can be contained in the marina, as compared to those on the hard who can be hoisted up and swept away by the surge. Many marinas and boatyards are implementing a new approach that is a variation of the classic method. This method refers to hauling out and tying down the boat using construction-style tow straps tied to firm points on the ground. This keeps the boats in their jack stands regardless of how high the storm surge reaches.

Many marinas now have hardpoints to which straps can be fastened. This secures down the boats when they’re on the hard. And the standard has been that boats are either stored in storm-resistant storage structures or are tied down. If the boats don’t lift off the jack stands then the water level isn’t high enough to flood the boats. For sailors hauling out their boats, this combination of hauling the boat, sealing it tight, and tying it down appears to be the best solution.

Finding a hurricane hole is one possibility, but you’ll need the time to do so and be continuously mindful of other vessels around and their capacity to hold their ground. You can keep your boat lashed to the dock at the marina, but if the storm surge becomes too high, your boat may float away. You can tow the boat, but you must ensure that it’s well-secured so that the rain doesn’t flood it. Bear in mind that you must contend with the potential of a storm surge sweeping your boat away.

Again, sailors must be aware of everything. In other words, ensuring that everything is watertight, clearing everything off the deck, and stripping all canvas. When you do that leave the boat on the hard tied down to several hardpoints and physically anchor it to the pavement. This will keep it secure and give you the best chance of making it through the storm.

Being Onboard During the Hurricane

Keep in mind that you are on your own during the hurricane. There is no one to assist you, and you will be unable to assist others. Of course, you have your crew but still, everyone has to take care of themselves before assisting others. Because the status of the boat and the storm might alter in just a second, make sure you have everything you need on hand and ready.

Note that you should wear appropriate gear. During the hurricane, it will be damp, rainy, and possibly cold. Wetsuits, waterproof shoes, or boots are a must during a storm. If you’re on the deck, make sure you’re wearing a life jacket and harness. Using your snorkel masks is quite practical because it is much easier to keep watch and breathe during a severe storm.

Don’t omit to check your anchor lines and chafe gear for safety on a regular basis. Make sure they’re in good working order and don’t have damages. High waves and rain will fill your boat with water, so keep in mind that you might need to use the bilge pump occasionally. Keep an eye on the deck as well as the radar or GPS during the storm. Lastly, consider if you’re dragging or whether another boat is dragging towards you.

Can Sailboats Survive Hurricanes? – The Bottom Line

Bear in mind that it is not just the sailor who must adapt to a hurricane, but also the infrastructure for protection that has to improve. And it’s a problem that we’ll almost certainly see more of in the future. Based on rising sea levels and storm concentration, we’re fairly confident that surges will become a more essential feature of storms. Moreover, if global warming continues at its current rate, sea levels and storm strength will grow, making this a bigger problem.

When hauling your boat and preparing for a hurricane, there are a few things you should do. Firstly, remove everything on your canvas, including sails, coverings, biminis, and seat cushions. Make sure your boat is completely watertight by closing all hatches and sealing any leaks. There is going to be a lot of rain, so you must be well-prepared. If possible, use tow-straps to secure the boat to hardpoints on the ground. Furthermore, turn off all of your boat’s electronics and disconnect the batteries. In case your boat fills up with water, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid damages to the electronics. If you have a propane burner, turn it off and disconnect and remove the tank. And, this applies to any additional oil cans, gas cans, or other combustible items from the boat.

I hope that this article has answered your questions and provided all the adequate information you need to know about hurricanes. I wish you all safe & pleasant voyages!


Peter is the editor of Better Sailing. He has sailed for countless hours and has maintained his own boats and sailboats for years. After years of trial and error, he decided to start this website to share the knowledge.

Related Posts

Atlantic vs Pacific: Which is More Dangerous for Sailing?

Atlantic vs Pacific: Which is More Dangerous for Sailing?

Why Do Sailboats Lean?

Why Do Sailboats Lean?

How Does a Boat Sail Upwind? Unveiling the Mechanics of Against the Wind Sailing

How Does a Boat Sail Upwind? Unveiling the Mechanics of Against the Wind Sailing

How Does Sailing Work? The Physics of Sailing

How Does Sailing Work? The Physics of Sailing

  • Buyer's Guide
  • Destinations
  • Maintenance
  • Sailing Info

Hit enter to search or ESC to close.

Real-time intelligence and insight for for maritime security, seafloor mapping, and ocean research.

Defense & Security

Enhanced mission efficiency for maritime defense and law enforcement.

Ocean Mapping

Real-time high-resolution bathymetry data available anywhere in the world.

Ocean Research

Scientific-grade mission data gathered in the most extreme environments.

Explore the various applications of Saildrone's autonomous surface vehicles in different industries and sectors.

sailboat in a hurricane

Weather & Climate

sailboat in a hurricane

Homeland Security

sailboat in a hurricane

Offshore Wind

sailboat in a hurricane

Transocean Cables

With industry-leading hardware, proprietary software, and advanced machine learning, Saildrone delivers solutions for a wide range of critical maritime applications.

A saildrone sailing in the ocean

Learn more about Saildrone or join our team.

Featured science, mapping, and defense operations.

Latest news, announcements and thought leadership.

Featured headlines from around the world.

Scientific Papers

Established scientific confidence in our data.

Saildrone sailing under the San Fransisco Golden Gate Bridge

“Hurricane Sam” Saildrone Sails Back into the Eye of the Storm

sailboat in a hurricane

SD 1045 bravely sails toward weather offshore from Charleston, SC.

Published on

In the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 2021, the Saildrone team—mission managers, pilots, and software and hardware engineers—along with our science partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), anxiously watched as Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 sailed closer and closer to a category 4 hurricane. They didn’t make any effort to direct the saildrone away from the storm—their goal was to get the vehicle inside it.

Battling massive waves and winds over 100 mph, SD 1045 not only survived Hurricane Sam intact but collected important data about the physical interactions between the ocean and atmosphere that revealed new insights about hurricane intensification.

This summer, SD 1045 has been redeployed for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season to continue its mission at the forefront of cutting-edge hurricane research.

A massive wave captured by SD 1045’s onboard camera during Hurricane Sam.

“SD 1045 sailing through the eye of Hurricane Sam was really a seminal moment for this field campaign with NOAA, proving that we actually could sail into a major hurricane and deliver data in near real time to scientists to help them improve weather forecasting,” said Matt Womble, Sr. Director of Ocean Data Programs. “To redeploy SD 1045 this year for the same mission demonstrates the endurance, durability, and reliability of the vehicles Saildrone has built.” 

Hurricane track forecasting has steadily improved in recent years. However, predicting rapid intensification—when wind speeds increase at least 35 mph over a 24-hour period—is still a significant challenge. To understand how these large and destructive storms grow, scientists need to collect data about the surface fluxes—the exchanges of energy in the forms of heat and momentum—a task that Saildrone’s uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) are uniquely equipped to perform.

SD 1045 is one of 12 vehicles Saildrone has deployed for NOAA this summer. The saildrones will transmit high-frequency metocean data continuously through tropical storms and hurricanes, including air temperature and relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, water temperature and salinity, sea surface temperature, and wave height and period to scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL).

Saildrone in ocean at sunset

While Saildrone has sailed vehicles through Hurricane Sam and Hurricane Fiona, data from one or two hurricanes is not enough; scientists need data from multiple storms, big and small, to draw robust conclusions about how they intensify.

After deployment from Charleston, SD 1045 began sailing ESE to a mission domain area that spans North and South Carolina, where it will be stationed for the duration of the mission. NOAA has identified areas where the saildrones have a high probability of intercepting a storm, as indicated by historical data. 

“Off the coast of South Carolina is a particularly complex area of the ocean with relatively shallow waters combined with the strong, warm currents of the Gulf Stream that supply energy to a storm. When hurricanes go over these warm waters, they often intensify, potentially right before they make landfall, so it’s really important to understand how the ocean interacts with the storms in this area,” said Greg Foltz, a NOAA oceanographer and one of the mission’s principal investigators.

SD 1045 in Charleston Harbor with the Cooper River Bridge in the background.

Saildrone’s environmentally friendly uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) are designed to perform multiple long-endurance missions over many years. Powered exclusively by the wind for propulsion and solar energy for onboard computers and sensors, the 23-foot Saildrone Explorer can deliver maritime data continuously for up to a year to meet a variety of science, mapping, and security objectives. 

Prior to the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane mission, SD 1045 sailed from San Francisco to Eugene, OR, to San Diego, and back to San Francisco on a 60-day NOAA mission to assess stocks of Pacific hake and five coastal pelagic species along the US West Coast. Saildrones SD 1031 and SD 1040 have been deployed for all three hurricane missions, among others—SD 1031 previously completed a fisheries mission in the North Sea , and SD 1040 was also used for the 2019 West Coast Fisheries mission.

Read more: More Saildrones Than Ever Deploy for the 2023 Hurricane Season!

For media assets or interview requests, use our media contact form.

Gregory R. Foltz, Chidong Zhang, Christian Meinig, Jun A. Zhang, and Dongxiao Zhang, "An Unprecedented View Inside a Hurricane," Eos , May 6, 2022

Porter Fox, “The Tiny Craft Mapping Superstorms at Sea,” The New York Times Magazine , May 9, 2023 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “NOAA Predicts a Near-normal 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season,” noaa.gov, press release, May 25, 2023

NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, “Five Ways NOAA’s Research Improves Hurricane Forecasts,” aoml.noaa.gov, blog post, May 23, 2023

NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, “2023 NOAA-Saildrone Atlantic Hurricane Mission,” pmel.noaa.gov, web page, accessed June 29, 2023

NOAA Research, “NOAA Deploys Drones in the Ocean and Atmosphere to Advance Hurricane Forecasting,” research.noaa.gov, blog post, June 28, 2023

NOAA Research, “Measuring Salt in the Ocean May Be Key to Predicting How Hurricanes Strengthen,” article, December 16, 2021

sailboat in a hurricane

The New Gold Standard for Autonomous Systems: Saildrone Voyager Is First USV to Earn Formal Classification

The American Bureau of Shipping issued the first-ever classification for a commercial autonomous, uncrewed vehicle to Saildrone for the 10-meter Voyager.

sailboat in a hurricane

Closing Ocean Exploration Gaps in Remote Waters

The Saildrone Surveyor, the world’s largest uncrewed ocean mapping vehicle, has mapped more than 45,000 square kilometers (17,375 square miles) of previously unexplored ocean floor during a months-long survey around Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and off the coast of California.

sailboat in a hurricane

A New Era of Hurricane Observing and Forecasting

NOAA and Saildrone sent five autonomous vehicles into the Tropical Atlantic and successfully collected data of ocean-atmospheric interaction inside a major hurricane, which had never been done before by any uncrewed surface vehicle.

sailboat in a hurricane

Never Miss an Update

Stay informed with the latest research findings and updates.

By clicking Sign Up you're confirming that you agree with our Privacy Policy

BoatUS Boating Association Logo

Service Locator

  • Angler Endorsement
  • Boat Towing Coverage
  • Mechanical Breakdown
  • Insurance Requirements in Mexico
  • Agreed Hull Value
  • Actual Cash Value
  • Liability Only
  • Insurance Payment Options
  • Claims Information
  • Towing Service Agreement
  • Membership Plans
  • Boat Show Tickets
  • BoatUS Boats For Sale
  • Membership Payment Options
  • Consumer Affairs
  • Boat Documentation Requirements
  • Installation Instructions
  • Shipping & Handling Information
  • Contact Boat Lettering
  • End User Agreement
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Vessel Documentation
  • BoatUS Foundation
  • Government Affairs
  • Powercruisers
  • Buying & Selling Advice
  • Maintenance
  • Tow Vehicles
  • Make & Create
  • Makeovers & Refitting
  • Accessories
  • Electronics
  • Skills, Tips, Tools
  • Spring Preparation
  • Winterization
  • Boaters’ Rights
  • Environment & Clean Water
  • Boat Safety
  • Navigational Hazards
  • Personal Safety
  • Batteries & Onboard Power
  • Motors, Engines, Propulsion
  • Best Day on the Water
  • Books & Movies
  • Communication & Etiquette
  • Contests & Sweepstakes
  • Colleges & Tech Schools
  • Food, Drink, Entertainment
  • New To Boating
  • Travel & Destinations
  • Watersports
  • Anchors & Anchoring
  • Boat Handling
  • ← Safety & Prevention

Moorings That Can Stay Put in a Hurricane


Toppled Boats

As far as moorings are concerned, the times they are a changing. Ten years ago, Hurricane Bob swept up the New England coast destroying hundreds of boats, most of which had been on moorings. Some of the damaged boats came to grief because lines chafed, but many more were wrecked because the mooring anchors—half-buried mushrooms and inadequate dead weight anchors—proved to be woefully inadequate in the face of Bob's wind, waves, and tidal surge. Then, as a sort of meteorological one-two punch, the Halloween Northeaster pounded the New England coast, popping out even more moorings.

The past decade has seen many technological advances in boating, not the least of which is a greatly improved anchor for moorings—the helix. Depending on the harbor bottom, traditional mooring anchors, both mushroom and dead weight, had tended to sit on top of or just below the surface. Theoretically, the holding power of a mushroom anchor can be increased up to tenfold once it becomes buried sufficiently in mud. In most harbors, though, a mushroom anchor might be buried a foot or two in a mud bottom and is usually canted to the prevailing winds. If a storm comes out of a different quadrant, the mushroom is easily popped out. Mushrooms also don't do well in silt bottoms or in denser bottoms, like sand or clay. In the latter, the mushroom tends to sit on or near the surface and must rely solely on its weight to anchor the boat.

A dead weight anchor may gain some advantage from suction in a mud bottom, otherwise it's holding power is completely dependent on its weight, or more exactly on it's submerged weight, which in the case of a concrete anchor is almost half its dry weight.

Another factor is scope, which has as much to do with holding power of a mooring as the anchor itself. Studies have found that when the angle of pull increases to 25°, a mooring's holding power begins to weaken precipitously. So in shallow harbors, where a scope of 3:1 can be had with, say, 20' - 30' of chain, the advantage of scope is all but eliminated in a storm by a combination of tidal surge and the high, pumping motion of waves.

Advantages of the Helix

Comparing the holding power of a helix anchor to a traditional mushroom or dead weight anchor is like comparing a wood screw to a thumbtack or paperweight. A study by the BoatUS Foundation, Cruising World magazine, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that a 500 lb. buried mushroom could be pulled out with 1,200 pounds of pull (supplied by a 900 h.p. tug); an 8,000 pound dead weight (concrete) anchor could be pulled out with 4,000 pounds of pull. The helix, however, could not be pulled out by the tug and the strain gauge recorded 12,000 pounds of pull—its maximum—before a shackle was burst apart by the strain. Scope in each case was slightly less than 3:1. (In an earlier test, a strain gauge had registered 20,800 pounds before the hawser snapped.)

Installation of the Helix: The Key to Success

Installation of a helix, unlike a traditional mooring, requires expertise and special hydraulic equipment. The anchors are made by A. B. Chance Co. of hot-dipped galvanized steel with 1 3/4"shafts and either 8", 10", 12", or 14" diameter helices. Extenders can be used to drive the mooring further into the seabed for additional holding power. Royce Randlett, Jr., president of Helix Mooring Systems Inc., says the company has installed over 3,000 helix anchors plus a similar number of a smaller (5' 6" with a round shaft) "lighter load helix anchor with a single helice. The latter is installed by a diver and is only suitable for smaller boats.

Helix Anchor Installation

The helix isn't infallible; there have been several cases where helix anchors have pulled out. In one case, the helix was being used to secure a 72' sailboat in Marion, Massachusetts during an especially fierce northeaster. While a helix requires less scope than a conventional mooring, this helix had almost no scope because of the storm's surge, according to George Jennings, who was then the harbormaster in Marion, and was pumped out of the bottom by the boat's fore-and-aft rocking motion.

In another case, a helix let go because it was installed by someone who was inexperienced and drove it only part of the way into a rocky bottom. One of the problems has been that the number of people who are qualified to install helix anchors; there are only 20 installers, mostly in the Northeast, with a handful in other states—Maryland, Florida, and Washington. Ham Gale, who installs helix anchors in the Annapolis , Maryland area, uses a specially-designed platform—a raft—for the hydraulic installation equipment that can be towed to the spot where the mooring will be installed. Two long metal pipes—called spades—at the ends of the platform are then lowered into the harbor bottom to anchor the platform and prevent it from twisting while the helix is being screwed into the bottom. The holding power of a helix is ultimately based on the density of the bottom and it's depth into the bottom. Using a pressure gauge, an installer can estimate a helixes holding power by translating pounds per square inch to torque. If a helix goes into the bottom too easily, Gale says the installer can add an extender to take it down further to firmer soil. Most installations take about an hour. The cost for a large helix is about $2,000 and about $1,500 for a medium helix. In his case, Gale has installed over 300 helix moorings, including 48 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Gale says he's never had one pull out.

BoatUS Members save at Boat Shows

Make sure to mark your calendars for two exciting events – the New England Boat Show, Chicago Boat Show, and Atlanta Boat Show. Don’t miss out on these incredible shows! BoatUS Members save 25% with code BOATUS25.

Here are the dates for each show:

Related Articles

The truth about ceramic coatings for boats.

Our editor investigates the marketing claims of consumer-grade ceramic coatings.

Fine-Tune Your Side Scan Fishfinder

Take your side-scanning fishfinder off auto mode, and you’ll be spotting your prey from afar in no time

DIY Boat Foam Decking

Closed-cell foam flooring helps make boating more comfortable. Here’s how to install it on your vessel

Click to explore related articles

BoatUS Editors

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

Award-winning BoatUS Magazine is the official publication of Boat Owners Association of The United States. The magazine provides boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety, news and more from top experts.

BoatUS Magazine Is A Benefit Of BoatUS Membership

Membership Benefits Include:

Subscription to the print version of BoatUS Magazine

4% back on purchases from West Marine stores or online at WestMarine.com

Discounts on fuel, transient slips, repairs and more at over 1,200 businesses

Deals on cruises, charters, car rentals, hotel stays and more…

All for only $25/year!

We use cookies to enhance your visit to our website and to improve your experience. By continuing to use our website, you’re agreeing to our cookie policy.

  • Paddle Board

Boating Beast

How to Secure Your Boat for Hurricanes: Here’s All You Need To Know

John Sampson

Have you ever witnessed the power of a hurricane? It’s one of nature’s most destructive forces, and they hammer the eastern seaboard and Gulf coast each year. From the Caribbean to the Florida Keys and Panhandle and the BVIs, hurricanes cause catastrophic damage when they reach category four or five wind speeds.

Even small hurricanes with a two or three rating will cause severe problems onshore. The storms knock out power lines, destroy buildings, and flood streets and homes. While hurricanes are a problem for homeowners, they are even more hazardous for boat owners.

Whether you have your boat tied up at the marina for use on the weekends, or you live on a vessel full time, when a hurricane starts to form, it’s time to swallow your panic and prepare for the worst.

It’s a good idea for boat owners to have an action plan ready to go if they reside on the eastern seaboard of the US or around the Gulf Coast. This post gives you everything you need to prepare for the next major storm season.

Prepping Your Safety Gear

Boating is all about safety . Even though you’re expecting the hurricane, it’s a good idea to have all your safety gear on board the vessel if the storm takes you by surprise while you’re still on board at the marina handling your preparations.

It’s common for the weather to get very bad before a major hurricane makes landfall. Never work on your boat in the water without wearing a life jacket . Debris, or vessel components, could move around in the high winds, knocking you on the head, sending you overboard.

If you’re lying face down in the water, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll drown and sink. With the life jacket securely in place, you float face-up on the surface, giving you the best chance of being seen by others in the marina.

15 Boat Safety Tips & Safety Checklist to Keep You Safe on the Water

Create a Hurricane Evacuation Action Plan

Those that fail to plan, plan to fail. To keep yourself and your family safe when a hurricane approaches your marina, you’ll need to have an evacuation plan in place ahead of the event. Planning when the storm is only a few hours from making landfall is a bad idea.

Leaving everything to the last minute is dangerous, and it’s a surefire way to end up panicking if something goes wrong. If you keep your boat in a marina, speak to the harbormaster about the recommended evacuation plan for the marina.

You’ll also have to devise a Plan A and Plan B for your evacuation.

Haul the boat to a storage facility or as far inland as possible, preferably at home in the garage or the driveway.

Don’t panic if the storm arrives earlier than expected and you run out of time with your preparations. Panic is what gets people killed in dangerous scenarios. Secure the boat in the water as best you can.

Whether you’re using plan A or B for your evacuation, there are several preparations you need to make to the boat to ensure the vessel makes it through the storm.

Under no circumstances should you try to wait out the storm onboard the vessel. If you’re running late, secure the boat as best as you can, and then take immediate shelter at the marina office or head home if there is time.

Staying on the boat means you have the risk of the water sinking the boat, with you inside the vessel, or the violent storm surge could end up tossing the boat around like a toy, with you inside the vessel. Either situation is hazardous, and there’s a good chance that you won’t make it out of the situation alive.

How to Secure Your Boat for Hurricanes

Check Your Insurance Policy for Hurricane Coverage

When you take out your insurance policy, many boat owners make the mistake of assuming that they have cover to protect their boat in the event of a hurricane damaging or sinking the vessel. However, the reality is that standard policies typically don’t offer you hurricane protection.

To get the cover you need, you’ll have to take out an additional policy protecting the boat from hurricane damage and liability. Review your policy as soon as you finish reading this post, and check to see if you have hurricane cover mentioned in your policy.

BoatUS and Geico offer you specialist insurance policies for boats, protecting you from all hazardous events, including hurricanes.

Stay Aware of Storm Surges

When the storm forms miles out to sea, the wind creates huge waves in the ocean. The waves will travel from the storm’s epicenter towards the coastline, forming a “storm surge.” The storm surge forces more water inland, causing flooding events.

The surge from a category four or five hurricanes can completely submerge marinas and docks. Some storm surges can raise the water level by 10-feet or more, causing boats to end up floating around the marina, coming to rest all over the place as the storm surge subsides.

Take Down the Sails

If you have a yacht, remove all the sails or take them down and tie them up. This procedure goes for Bimini tops and other shade canopies as well.

When the Rain Starts

Hurricanes are violent storms, creating wind speeds up to 180-mph or more. Along with the high winds, hurricanes can dump a huge amount of water on land. It’s common for large hurricanes to produce anywhere between six to 12-inches of rainfall in just a few hours.

Torrential rains can invade the cabin and leak down into the hull and berth, sinking the boat. So, it’s always the best option to remove the boat from the marina and store it further inland, away from the danger of the storm.

Wave Height

Storm surge presents a huge problem for boaters that leave their vessels in the marina. However, the surge only describes the water moving inland to the shore. Along with the surge, you get huge waves. Waves form at the storm’s epicenter and fan out to the coast.

Large cat five storms could produce waves as high as 10 to 15-feet, depending on the bathymetry of the ocean floor and its depth. For instance, hurricane waves will be larger in the Carolinas than around Florida due to the bathymetry of the seafloor.

Watch for Waterspouts

Hurricanes cause major changes in the wind. It’s nature’s fury in full effect, and these storms can sometimes splinter into waterspouts. Waterspouts are like tornadoes out at sea. They are incredibly rare, but they can occur.

How Much Does Boat Insurance Cost

Executing the Evacuation Plan

Now that you know the specific dangers presented by hurricanes, it’s time to formulate your evacuation plan.

Where Will You Go?

Where will you take your boat to hide away from the hurricane? If you have the space at home, store it in the garage or the driveway. If you’re keeping it outdoors, we recommend avoiding using a cover as the high wind speeds will rip it from the boat and carry it miles away.

If you don’t have the space at home, look for secure boat storage facilities close to you and as far inland as possible. You’ll also need to plan the route as the traffic can get bad when a storm is approaching.

Keep the Trailer Maintained

Trying to outrun a hurricane with your boat on a dodgy trailer will result in an accident. When a hurricane is close to shore, the traffic on the roads is chaotic as people try to escape the storm. Maintaining your trailer ensures that you don’t have to worry about it when hauling the boat.

If you’re leaving the boat on the trailer during the storm, and the wind speeds are high, moor the trailer and the boat to a tree to prevent the wind from lifting it away. If there aren’t any trees around, you can anchor it using an auger.

Boat Trailer Tire

Look for Shelter

If you’re taking the boat home and have a garage, we recommend storing the vessel inside the unit, even if it means leaving your car in the driveway during the storm. Cars are much heavier than boats, and there’s less chance of the storm blowing it away.

Avoid Using Use Jack Stands

Many boaters decide to keep their boat on jack stands during a storm rather than on the trailer. The bad news is that the high winds can shift the stands, causing your boat to crash to the ground, damaging the hull. To keep the stands in place, you’ll need to reinforce them with chains and plywood.

Avoid Lifts and Davits

We recommend avoiding storing your boat on a lift or davit for the duration of the hurricane. There’s a good chance the wind will blow it off the cradle or hoist, severely damaging the boat.

How to Prepare If You’re At Sea or the Marina During a Hurricane

Sometimes, it’s not possible to retrieve your boat from the water. You might not have enough time to complete the task, or your boat might be too big to pull from the water without hiring a company to do it for you. Follow these tips to make it through the storm.

Anchoring and Mooring

You’ll need to know how to moor and anchor your boat successfully to wait out the hurricane. Practice your technique during calm days to ensure you have it ready to go when the storm does arrive.

Use Long Dock Lines

The hurricane’s strong winds and storm surge will test your dock lines and knots. If the boat comes loose, expect it to end up somewhere to the front of the harbor, and you’ll find it run aground after the water subsides.

If you have to tie off to the dock, we recommend you use the longest dock lines you can find. The BoatUS Cat team estimates around 50% of all boat damage could be avoided with the use of proper dock lines when preparing for the storm.

The more space the boat has in the slip, the better its chances of making it through the hurricane undamaged.

How to Secure Your Boat for Hurricanes

Secure Dock Lines using the “Spider Web” Method

If you’re on the water and you don’t have time to remove your boat to the storage facility, you can always look for a “hurricane hole.” These venues provide secluded protection from the wind and the waves. However, the storm surge may still increase the water level.

If you’re hiding out in a hurricane hole, secure the boat in the center of the hole using docking lines. Secure the dock lines to both sides of the hurricane hole using the spider-web method to prevent the vessel from clashing into either side.

Securing the boat in mangroves works quite well, but you run the risk of the storm surge pushing the boat into the mangroves, leaving it stranded when the water subsides. Utilize multiple anchors at the stern and bow for optimal stability.

Will the Mooring Hold Up?

A hurricane can drag a mooring, so you’ll need to secure the boat to ensure it holds. If you have to leave the vessel in the water, then learn how to hook onto a mooring ball and ensure you have the mooring’s chain periodically inspected.

Ask the harbormaster if you have questions; they are usually keen to help you. If you have to anchor and moor the boat , we recommend going with helix anchors and moors for the best holding power in a hurricane.

The Final Word – Watch the Weather and Get Advanced Warning

Most hurricanes take days to form, and meteorologists watch them closely. As a result, you’ll usually get at least 48-hours’ notice before the hurricane makes landfall. Don’t wait to see if the storm dissipates or changes direction – take action.

Avatar photo

John is an experienced journalist and veteran boater. He heads up the content team at BoatingBeast and aims to share his many years experience of the marine world with our readers.

What to Do If Your Boat Engine Won’t Start? Common Problems & How to Fix Them

How to launch a boat by yourself: complete beginner’s guide, how to surf: complete beginner’s guide to get you started.

Comments are closed.

Type above and press Enter to search. Press Esc to cancel.

sailboat in a hurricane

Can A Sailboat Survive A Hurricane?

sailboat in a hurricane

As a beginner sailor, I used to wonder a lot if one could survive a hurricane while aboard. This was the reason behind writing this article. In this post, I will try to share with you everything I found during my research on the topic.

So, Can A Sailboat Survive A Hurricane? Yes, sailboats can make it through a hurricane strike without any major issues depending on a few factors such as taking necessary precautions, the strength of the wind, boat’s location and the position of the vessel in the hurricane, etc.

Every year an average of two hurricanes makes landfalls in the US alone and causes a tremendous amount of damage.

However, boat owners can take precautions that will reduce the likelihood of damage, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in harm’s way.

Read on below as I go over these crucial factors that can impact the safety of you and your boat before, during and after a hurricane. I will also share with you some practical precautionary tips and tactics that can make your boat hurricane proof.

So, let us discuss the topic in more details.

What is a hurricane?

Hurricane, also called cyclone or typhoon, is a tropical rotating storm with high winds that consistently blow 74 mph or more in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricanes only occur over warm waters in the tropics usually above 27°C or 81°F.

When Do Hurricanes Occur?

You might ask when do hurricanes occur?. It is known that in the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes occur between the months of June and November.

In the Southern Hemisphere, on the contrary, hurricanes form prominently between December and May.

The time of the year when hurricanes occur in a particular region is considered the ‘hurricane season’ for that region.

Countries Most Vulnerable To Hurricane

Although hurricane and cyclones are a worldwide phenomenon, some areas are more susceptible to them than others.

When a hurricane hits the North Atlantic, it is likely to affect: the USA, Canada, and Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. When it occurs in the Eastern Pacific, it will affect Hawaii and the western coast of Mexico.

When typhoons originate in the western Pacific, it is likely to affect Japan, China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian countries including the Indian subcontinent, are regularly affected by cyclones from the Indian Ocean.

sailboat in a hurricane

In the Southern Hemisphere, the tropical cyclones of southwestern Indian Ocean might strike Madagascar and countries along the east coast of Africa.

If cyclones originate from the southeastern Indian Ocean, they are likely to affect the northern coast of Australia.

How to avoid getting caught in a hurricane?

Ideally, the best choice you can make is to move your boat and sail away from the hurricane’s path. Bear in mind that wind blows at about 200 mph or more in center of the hurricane.

However the further you sail from the hurricane’s center the weaker the wind becomes. So, you only need to sail away about 50 to 100 miles to be in a much safer location.

One thing about the storms though, you know where it is going at least a week in advance so, you will have plenty of time to sail out before the hurricane hits. By doing this you make sure you and your boats are safe and protected.

The second and my favorite choice is staying in a hurricane hole during heavy storms.

Hurricane holes are bays and harbors or deep, narrow coves or inlets that are surrounded by trees which block the wind and surges and provide best locations to tie off your anchor lines.

The best hurricane holes are places that are not crowded and are far enough inland to avoid wind and surges but at the same time close enough to be reached easily from the land.

Places such as Guatemala or in the Caribbean, Cuba, and Haiti have well-protected hurricane holes. I highly recommend you to find protected hurricane hole in the area you are sailing ahead of time.

sailboat in a hurricane

How to prepare for a hurricane?

Hurricanes could be extremely destructive, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even advance planning cannot guarantee your vessel will survive.

However preparation and planning can improve your chance to survive and this makes all of the effort, time and money worthwhile.

let’s start with our preparation.

Create A Plan In Advance:

In this step, you will mention what protective measures you need to take when a hurricane threatens in advance. Plan, where your vessel will best survive the storm ahead of time. Have a hurricane hole in mind to moor your boat during the hurricane.

Insurance claim files have shown that the risk of damage can be minimized by choosing the most storm safe location long before the hurricane is forecasted.

Read and Understand Your Insurance Policy:

It is extremely important to understand the insurance policy and marina contracts. For instance, it is common for insurance policy providers to pay you to 50% of the cost of hauling or moving your vessel, prior to a storm or hurricane. So, it is best to read these documents once again.

Coordinate With Your Marina:

If you do plan to haul or move your boat, make sure you arrange this in advance with your Marina operator. It is well known that the boats stored on land are much safer than boats kept in the water.

Relocate Your Boat To Safe Water:

If your boat has to be left in the water, now it is the time to relocate your vessel to your ideal hurricane hole or other places with minimum hurricane hit. Canals are great places to hide out since they generally allow lines to be tightened to both sides, so the boat doesn’t move and budge.

sailboat in a hurricane

Be An Educated Storm Tracker

As soon as a hurricane or strong storms are forecasted in your area, stay informed about it by using resources such as Boatus.com and Global Weather Tracker to get the updated information on the hurricane track.

Secure Your Boat At A Dock:

sailboat in a hurricane

When fastening your lines to fixed docks and pilings that don’t float with tide or surge, you must use long lines so that your boat can float up as water height rises. Short lines can break or pull pilings out of the water which causes damage.

The pilings at the Marina must be hight enough to withstand a storm surge. Choose pilings that are 15 feet high or more as storm surges could easily reach 10 -15 feet high.

By choosing high pilings you will avoid floating off the top of the piling and ending in the harbor. Similarly, you need to reduce windage by directing the boat bow to the anticipated wind direction.

Secure Your Boat On Multiple Anchors:

Strong storms and hurricanes place an extreme force on the anchors and anchor rodes. Choose a high-quality anchor. Research by BoatUS has shown that Helix Anchors one of the best on the market as they screw into the sea surface.

Helix Anchors are much stronger that Mushroom or other types. According to BoatUS testing Helix Anchors can hold between 12,000 – 20,000 pounds of weight unable to be pulled free.

It is crucial to use multiple anchors to be protected from the powerful wind surges of the hurricane.

sailboat in a hurricane

You might want to use either Setting Tandem Anchors or in multiple directions.

If you have 2 large anchors set them apart about 90 degrees the anticipated wind direction. 3 anchors can be set 120 degrees apart.

Your lines should be New And In Good Condition:

Hurricanes can put an enormous amount of force on your boat and especially on lines and anchor. So, you want to make sure your lines are thick, undamaged and in a good condition.

A recent test by Practical Sailor Magazine showed that old lines lost 49 to 75 percent of their strength due to lack of lubricity in addition to chafe, dirt, and salt.

Reduce Windage By All Means:

You should try to minimize windage to reduce the force put on your boat during the big storms and hurricanes. Additionally this also Basically this means that you remove everything that comes loose or fly off.

Things such as canvas, dodgers and biminis, dinghy and genoa. Mainsails should also be removed and stowed.

Start Preparation In Advance:

Prepare your vessel for the hurricane early and do not delay any of the steps I have discussed above.

Stay On the Boat or Not

It really depends on your situation, area and your option of shelter ashore. I have to admit it is a hard decision to make for any sailor.

However, my rule of thumb is: Leave your boat and find shelter somewhere safe if possible, only stay aboard if that is the safest thing to do at that moment.

If staying on the boat is the safest option for you to do, then there are certain precautionary measures that you need to take to make sure your boat alongside its passengers are safe.

What should you do when aboard during the hurricane?

If you have decided to stay aboard during a hurricane, then here are a few important things to do to keep you safe and protected.

  • Bear in mind that during the hurricane you are on your own. There is no one there to help, nor you will be able to help others.
  • The boat and the storm’s condition can change in a split of a second, make sure have everything you need at hand and ready.
  • Wear proper clothing. It’s wet, rainy and probably cold during the hurricane. Wearing your wetsuits is a must. Wear proper shoes and avoid wearing slippers and flipflops in case you have to evacuate the boat. If you find yourself on the deck, make sure you wear a life jacket and harnesses.
  • It is super practical to use your snorkel masks, as it is much easier to keep watch and breath during a heavy storm.
  • Check your anchor lines and chafe gear from time to time if it is safe. Make sure they are properly fixed and not damaged.
  • High waves and rain will fill your boat with water, be ready to run the bilge pump every now and then.
  • During the storm, keep watch on deck as well as on radar or GPS. You can not afford to neglect the storm. Ask yourself: Are we dragging or is another boat dragging towards you? If yes, then there are things you can do to keep your boat safe.

What To Do Straight After Hurricane?

When you are sure that storm has died down, make sure that the other boats’ people are safe and protected and check if anyone needs any assistance.

High waves and rain might have filled your boat with water, be ready to run the bilge pump now to dry your boat.

Examine your boat and the gear for any signs of damage and if you find any fix things straight away.

Raise your anchor: This will take anywhere from 1/2 to 4 hour to raise the anchors. This is because your anchors may be buried deep in the seabed.

Last but definitely not least, watch out for floating debris.

I hope this post has been helpful and I also hope that you never face a situation where you have to use it. However, should get a catch in a hurricane your advanced preparation and knowledge can dramatically reduce the likelihood of damage.

I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

Recent Posts

How To Sail From The Great Lakes To The Ocean

It’s a feat in and of itself to sail to the Great Lakes. Now you want to take it one step further and reach the ocean, notably, the Atlantic Ocean. How do you chart a sailing course to get to the...

Can You Sail from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by Boat? 

You have years of boating experience and consider yourself quite an accomplished sailor. Lately, you’ve been interested in challenging yourself and traveling greater distances than ever before. If...

sailboat in a hurricane


Why the 2024 hurricane season could be especially active

Record warm ocean temperatures and a potential La Niña may create a “perfect storm” of conditions needed for major hurricanes, experts tell Nat Geo.

Two and a half months before the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins, and almost six months before it enters its typical peak, forecasters are already predicting that it could be particularly active.

Although it is too early for any models to offer an official prediction—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ) won’t be issuing a forecast until May 23—experts who spoke with National Geographic warned that warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and the development of a La Niña in the Pacific may create a “perfect storm” of the conditions needed for major hurricanes.

How hurricanes form

Key to the formation of any tropical cyclone—known variously as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones depending on their location—is the combination of warm ocean temperatures and the absence of what is known as wind shear.

Alex DaSilva, lead hurricane forecaster with AccuWeather, explains that wind shear occurs when wind changes direction and speed at different heights in the atmosphere. That affects tropical cyclones, he says, because such storms “like their cloud structures to go straight up into the atmosphere. But when there's a lot of wind shear, when there are changing winds with direction and height, they essentially knock over those clouds so they cannot grow straight up. And so that kind of prevents typically tropical systems from really intensifying.”

( Why hurricane categories don't tell the whole story. )

They also need surface water to be at a temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) or higher . That warm water, and the warm air just above it, provides fuel for the storm; as warm air rushes upward, it creates a low-pressure system beneath the hurricane, into which more warm air rushes, allowing the storm to keep growing.

The intensity of an individual storm owes more, however, to the heat content of the ocean’s top 330 feet or so, explains Matt Rosencrans of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.


Get a FREE tote featuring 1 of 7 ICONIC PLACES OF THE WORLD

“If that water is very shallow, you'll stir that all up and maybe pull up some cold water. But if you have a large reservoir of warm water, the storm will keep pulling the water,” he says.

Record warm waters

Officially, hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November, with storms at their most intense and numerous from August into October. One reason why some forecasters are anticipating an active season is that sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are already at record highs.

“Sea surface temperatures in what we call the main development region of the Atlantic…., off the coast of Africa to off the coast of Central America, are 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 F) above normal,” says Rosencrans. “That’s a record value for February.”

That means that, if those waters continue to warm at the usual rate as the year progresses, there will be plenty of fuel from which any potential storms can draw.

You May Also Like

sailboat in a hurricane

Extreme weather is coming for our homes. Experts weigh in on how to prepare.

sailboat in a hurricane

A rare and puzzling ‘domino effect’ triggered 4 powerful quakes in Afghanistan

sailboat in a hurricane

Which cities will still be livable in a world altered by climate change?

Meanwhile, another significant potential factor in this year’s hurricane season is taking shape thousands of miles away in the Pacific.

How La Niña affects hurricanes

Over periods ranging from three to seven years, the waters of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean alternately warm and cool as a result of a recurring climate pattern called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO ). During an El Niño, sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific increase, and those warmer temperatures affect the path of the Pacific jet stream, which in turn brings drier, warmer weather to the northern United States and Canada, and wetter conditions to the Gulf Coast and southeast .

El Niño also makes Atlantic hurricanes less likely to form because it generates more wind shear and suppresses hurricane activity.

La Niña has the opposite effect , reducing wind shear, and aiding the formation of hurricanes.

During the 2023 season, ENSO was in an El Niño phase. Changes in water temperature and other clues suggest strongly that, by the time the 2024 season starts, it will have transitioned into a “neutral” phase, but that by the peak months, it is likely to have shifted fully into a La Niña.

“How quickly that transition occurs can affect everything as well,” says DaSilva. “There's a lag time, so it can take a month or two for the full effects of the pattern to settle in. So, while we expect the transition to occur in mid-summer, it may not be until late summer or fall where we really see those effects across the Atlantic basin.”

( Hurricanes are escalating more quickly than ever. Here's why. )

As a result, he says, this year’s hurricane season could remain particularly active deep into November.

As for what exactly an active season would entail: while early for any predictions, DaSilva notes that an average season sees 14 named tropical storms in the Atlantic, with seven reaching hurricane category; last year, when waters were warm in the Atlantic but an active El Niño provided unfavorable wind shear conditions, there were 20 storms and seven hurricanes.

Of course, no long-range forecast can predict when individual storms will arise or the paths they will take, but DaSilva cautions that those who live in areas prone to hurricanes, especially around the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, should prepare.

“If a tropical storm system comes into this area, it could rapidly intensify, potentially close to land,” he cautions. “And that's why people need to be on alert and have their hurricane plans ready. Because any system with these kinds of conditions can explode very quickly. That's what we're concerned about.”

Related Topics


sailboat in a hurricane

What was lost in Lahaina, a glittering jewel of the Hawaiian Kingdom

sailboat in a hurricane

Remember when NASA crashed into an asteroid? It had some unintended consequences.

sailboat in a hurricane

The Galapagos penguin, one of the world's rarest, sees a glimmer of hope

sailboat in a hurricane

3,600-year-old tsunami ‘time capsule’ sheds light on one of humanity’s greatest disasters

sailboat in a hurricane

How animals are adapting to the rise of wildfires

  • Environment

History & Culture

  • History & Culture
  • History Magazine
  • Mind, Body, Wonder
  • Paid Content
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

2024 expected to be La Niña year. What that means for hurricane season, Florida residents

sailboat in a hurricane

All signs continue to point to the formation of La Niña this summer.

That's not good news for Florida residents and the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season , especially when combined with record warm water temperatures.

While La Niña is a natural occurrence that happens in the Pacific Ocean its formation has a huge impact — including its counterpart, El Niño — on weather in the U.S., and those impacts include affecting the formation of hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic basin.

Here's what La Niña is and why Florida residents should care, especially when preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.

What is La Niña?

La Niña  is a natural climate pattern marked by cooler-than-average seawater in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

It is one of the main drivers of weather in the United States, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring. It's the opposite to the more well-known El Niño, which occurs when Pacific Ocean water is warmer than average. 

La Niña is coming: It could worsen hurricane season and affect US weather, forecasters say

What impact does La Niña have on the Atlantic hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

La Niña can bring more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin by weakening wind shear. The Atlantic basin includes the northern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

When there is no or reduced wind shear, that allows tropical cyclones to develop and intensify. 

Wind shear, when present, tears apart developing storms or can even prevent them from forming.

La Niña, El Niño strongest during the fall, busiest portion of hurricane season

Both La Niña and El Niño tend to reach peak intensity from fall through winter, according to AccuWeather.

The busiest portion of the Atlantic hurricane season occurs from August through October, with the peak being Sept. 10.

Warm water, La Niña are not good combination when it comes to tropical cyclones

In February, AccuWeather started "sounding alarm bells for a  supercharged season in 2024  with a risk for many storms," said Jon Porter, AccuWeather chief meteorologist.

The combination of a building La Niña and historically warm water will lay the groundwork for a blockbuster season, AccuWeather said.

Besides La Niña, adding to forecasters' concerns are the record high water temperatures, which help fuel tropical cyclones.

In early March, the  European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts  was predicting a "very busy" Atlantic hurricane season through September — two months short of the entire season — with about  17 named storms  and nine hurricanes, according to a tweet from Philip Klotzbach, meteorologist at Colorado State University specializing in Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts.

La Niña and its impact on prior hurricane seasons

Both 2005 and 2020 were La Niña years.

Hurricane Katrina, which struck the coasts of Mississippi and Louisiana, was one of 27 named storms that developed in 2005 , which broke the old record of 21 named storms set in 1993, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It's not the only record set in 2005:

  • 14 hurricanes
  • 8 major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher
  • 7 storms made landfall in the U.S., just behind the record of 8 storms set in 1916 and 2004.
  • Most destructive in U.S. Damage estimates are more than $100 billion.

The 2005 hurricane season also was the first time the entire list of Atlantic hurricane names was used and forecasters dipped into Greek letters to name storms. Tropical Storm Zeta formed on Dec. 30.

The same thing happened in 2020, when there were 30 hurricanes, breaking the 2005 record . Of those 30 storms, 13 were hurricanes, six of which were major hurricanes.

Twelve named storms made landfall in the contiguous U.S., breaking a record held since 1916 of nine storms, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The strongest of the storms making landfall in the U.S. was  Hurricane Laura , which made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. Laura was the third of five named storms to make landfall in Louisiana in 2020, the most on record for any state in one year.

What happened to Greek alphabet names for tropical storms and hurricanes?

In March 2021, the World Meteorological Organization announced  Greek names would no longer be used.

The use of Greek alphabet names "creates a distraction from the communication of hazard and storm warnings and is potentially confusing," the WMO said.

The decision was made after a  record-breaking season  in the Atlantic basin in 2020, which not only used the entire list for the year but also used  Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota.

Contributor: Doyle Rice, USA Today

Watch CBS News

Record ocean temperatures could lead to "explosive hurricane season," meteorologist says

By Kerry Breen

Updated on: March 12, 2024 / 3:14 PM EDT / CBS News

Rising air and ocean temperatures around the world could set the stage for an "explosive hurricane season," meteorologist Stephanie Abrams of The Weather Channel told "CBS Mornings" on Tuesday. 

In February, the average global sea surface temperature was the highest ever recorded, at 69.9 degrees. It's a trend that's picking up steam, especially in the Arctic , where temperatures are warming the fastest , causing the region to lose its ice. Researchers from the University of Colorado say that by the 2030s, the Arctic could have less than 400,000 square miles of ice coverage at times — just a quarter of today's coverage. 

Closer to home, ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic are much warmer than usual. In the North Atlantic basin, the current average temperature is slightly above 68 degrees, which is more typical of May. It's been the warmest start to the year on record. 

Water temperatures can have a significant impact, especially as hurricane season approaches. La Niña , when winds near the equator blow away from the Americas and cause colder water to rise to the surface, is also expected to develop during the upcoming hurricane season. The weather phenomenon results in less wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean, and typically makes for a more active hurricane season. 

"The combination of La Niña and record warmth in the Atlantic could make for an explosive hurricane season," Abrams told "CBS Mornings." 

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean officially runs from June 1 to November 30, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says . The season typically peaks in mid-September, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.  

  • Weather Forecast
  • Climate Change
  • Atlantic Ocean

Kerry Breen

Kerry Breen is a reporter and news editor at CBSNews.com. A graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism, she previously worked at NBC News' TODAY Digital. She covers current events, breaking news and issues including substance use.

More from CBS News

U.S. drops from top 20 happiest countries list, new data shows

How 2 companies are approaching carbon capture

Should you use home equity to buy a second home? Experts weigh in

Abandoned slate mine in Wales now world's deepest hotel


  1. Out sailing Hurricane Matthew in a 39 foot sailboat!

    sailboat in a hurricane

  2. Hurricane Julio Spares a Tropical Iselle-Damaged Hawaii

    sailboat in a hurricane

  3. How to Prepare a Sailboat for Hurricane Season

    sailboat in a hurricane

  4. Sailboat Ashore: A Year After Hurricane Michael

    sailboat in a hurricane

  5. Sailboat in a hurricane stock illustration. Illustration of salvage

    sailboat in a hurricane

  6. What to Do With Your Sailboat During a Hurricane

    sailboat in a hurricane


  1. How to Prepare your Boat if It's in the Path of a Hurricane

    Feb 22, 2024 Original: Sep 15, 2015 You're watching the weather, you see the announcement and your heart sinks—your boat is in the path of an oncoming hurricane. What do you do? Head to the boat, throw off the lines and find a hurricane hole where you can weather the storm? Maybe you don't have time, and the only option is to haul the boat.

  2. 'Saildrone' Footage Offers Rare Peek Inside a Category 4 Hurricane

    Saildrone The vehicle that made it into Sam is one of five "Saildrones" that have been gathering data in the Atlantic during hurricane season to better understand the storms. The hurricane...

  3. A Complete Guide To Sailing In A Storm

    In preparing for sailing in a storm, there is certain sailboat equipment needed. The equipment needed for sailing in a storm includes a storm sail, heaving lines, sailing jackets, life jackets, life buoys, liferafts, first aid kit, Chartplotter/GPS, fire extinguishers, VHF radio, and flares.

  4. Surviving a hurricane in a sailboat: Essential things to do

    Anchoring your sailboat in a hurricane Keep your objects inside the sailboat during a hurricane 1. Finding a perfect area for anchoring your sailboat The first essential thing you should do while preparing for a hurricane survival in a sailboat is to find a good area for anchoring your boat.

  5. What to Do With Your Sailboat During a Hurricane

    Sailboat in a Hurricane Hole - This is the most ideal place for your boat during a storm. When trying to locate a good hurricane hole, you'll want one that has several good sturdy trees to attach your boat to. You are also looking for one more upland and inland. Generally, the farther away from the coast you are, the safer your boat will be.

  6. How To Sail Safely Through a Storm

    Sails give you the power to steer and control your boat in the waves. Run before the storm with the stern toward the waves, perhaps towing a drogue to slow the boat. This tactic requires a lot of sea room, and the boat must be steered actively.

  7. Choosing the Perfect Hurricane Hole

    For that, you can turn to one of our many reports on preparing your sailboat for a tropical storm. Other Practical Sailor resources include our e-book on Hurricane Preparedness, which cover the topic from every angle, as well as our e-book on Anchors, which includes dozens of anchor tests in various bottoms and specialty ground tackle for storms.

  8. How to Secure Your Sailboat for a Hurricane

    While moving your sailboat ashore is the best way to secure your sailboat for a hurricane, you will have to prepare it regardless by removing as much gear as possible, moving it if possible, and using as many lines and anchors as you can as well as installing fenders.

  9. The Hurricane and the Saildrone

    Shortly after dawn on Sept. 30, 2021, Richard Jenkins watched a Category 4 hurricane overrun his life's work. The North Atlantic storm was a behemoth — 50,000 feet tall and 260 miles wide ...

  10. A Guide to Preparing Marinas and Boats for Hurricanes

    Smaller sailboats were laid on their sides. Recent storms have proven that high-rise storage racks are vulnerable in a storm's high winds. Several have been completely destroyed in recent hurricanes. If possible, boats on storage racks should be placed on trailers and taken home. READ MORE at boatus.com Boat damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

  11. Hurricane Storm Sailing, 10 days at sea! Bahamas to Newport ...

    0:00 / 32:34 Jump to halfway through the video for the storm action. Started out as a pleasure cruise in the Bahamas, to outrunning a hurricane around cape hatteras. Afte...

  12. Where to Sail During Hurricane Season

    June 15, 2022 Sailing during hurricane season is possible with planning, technology, and the right location. However, many safer locations exist for summer sailing. Hurricane season is a hazardous time for sailors in gulf and Atlantic-coast states such as Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas.

  13. Hurricane precautions and anchor handling

    Planning shoreside precautions. Hurricane-force winds (over 64 knots, or 74 mph) and the resulting storm surge are serious business. If your boat is in an area that might see hurricane conditions, you need to know what action to take. If possible, get the boat out of the water and remove the rig. If the boat has its own cradle, tie the hull ...

  14. Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane?

    Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane? By Peter 21 mins read Are you about to set sail but you check the forecast and learn that your boat is in the path of an impending hurricane? So, what exactly do you have to do? Slack the lines, and seek for a hurricane hole where you can ride out the storm?

  15. How to Prepare a Sailboat for Hurricane Season

    Preparing a sailboat for hurricane season, three ways to come out of the storm intact. Hurricane season is a time of high risk for sailboat owners, especially those who live in coastal areas prone to storms. Hurricanes can cause severe damage to boats, docks, marinas, and anchorages, as well as endanger the lives of boaters and their families.

  16. "Hurricane Sam" Saildrone Sails Back into the Eye of the Storm

    ‍ "SD 1045 sailing through the eye of Hurricane Sam was really a seminal moment for this field campaign with NOAA, proving that we actually could sail into a major hurricane and deliver data in near real time to scientists to help them improve weather forecasting," said Matt Womble, Sr. Director of Ocean Data Programs.

  17. Moorings That Can Stay Put in a Hurricane

    Ten years ago, Hurricane Bob swept up the New England coast destroying hundreds of boats, most of which had been on moorings. Some of the damaged boats came to grief because lines chafed, but many more were wrecked because the mooring anchors—half-buried mushrooms and inadequate dead weight anchors—proved to be woefully inadequate in the ...

  18. Weather Caught On Camera: Sailboat vs. Hurricane

    52 29K views 9 years ago A family decides to ride out Hurricane Ivan on their sailboat. See more on Weather Caught on Cameral at Sunday 8pm only on The Weather Channel. Show more Show more

  19. How to Secure Your Boat for Hurricanes: Here's All You Need To Know

    Secure the dock lines to both sides of the hurricane hole using the spider-web method to prevent the vessel from clashing into either side. Securing the boat in mangroves works quite well, but you run the risk of the storm surge pushing the boat into the mangroves, leaving it stranded when the water subsides.

  20. Can A Sailboat Survive A Hurricane?

    Ideally, the best choice you can make is to move your boat and sail away from the hurricane's path. Bear in mind that wind blows at about 200 mph or more in center of the hurricane. However the further you sail from the hurricane's center the weaker the wind becomes. So, you only need to sail away about 50 to 100 miles to be in a much safer ...


    In today's sailing vlog we prepare our sailboat for a Category 1 hurricane at anchor in North Carolina (Isaias). We share step by step our storm survival tactics to make it through this...

  22. Safety 101: How To Prepare Your Boat for a Hurricane

    Using tandem anchors increases the boat's chances of staying put. Chafe gear is essential. In a "hurricane hole": Make sure your boat is protected on all sides from open fetch and unrestricted storm surge. Avoid a location with a rocky bottom. Trailerable boats: Inspect your trailer to make sure it's operable. Store in a garage, if ...

  23. What sailboats could survive a full blown hurricane at sea?

    #3 · Oct 12, 2013 The Westsail 32 in the book/movie The Perfect Storm survived. But, survival also depends on how well the boat was maintained. That same Westsail in poor condition may have had a different ending. Donna Halcyon Catalina 30 Rock Hall, MD KB3ZCB

  24. Why the 2024 hurricane season could be especially active

    In 2018, Hurricane Florence was a Cat 4 that grew after passing over warm Atlantic Ocean waters. Forecasters think this season could be particularly active thanks to record warm waters and a La ...

  25. 2024 Atlantic hurricane season and what La Niña means to Florida

    The 2005 hurricane season also was the first time the entire list of Atlantic hurricane names was used and forecasters dipped into Greek letters to name storms. Tropical Storm Zeta formed on Dec. 30.

  26. Record ocean temperatures could lead to "explosive hurricane season

    Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean officially runs from June 1 to November 30, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says. The season typically peaks in mid-September, with most ...