With all the bright sunshine Maine has experienced this summer, the thought of a tropical storm or hurricane might be far from boaters’ minds.

But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration still expects an active Atlantic hurricane season. It also warns that La Nina has formed in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

While the southern Pacific is thousands of miles away, the weather pattern there favors lower wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storm clouds to grow and organize. Add that warmer-than-average water in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, and weather experts say we can expect a more active storm season.

While the hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, late August through October is considered the peak.

“All indications are for considerable activity during the next several months,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “As we’ve seen in past years, storms can come on quickly during the peak months of the season. There remains a high likelihood that the season could be very active, with the potential of being one of the more active on record.”

While Maine doesn’t see as much tropical activity that’s experienced in southern states, it’s not immune, either. People who keep their boats on Maine’s coastal waters would be wise to pay attention to the forecasts and take action to protect their boats if a storm is headed in our direction.

Preparing a boat for a bad storm — whether it’s a hurricane in the late summer or a northeaster in the spring — is largely a matter of common sense.

BoatU.S., a membership organization that provides services and advocacy for boat owners, offers the following storm-preparation advice.

People who keep their boats in marinas should know the establishment’s policy for dealing with major storms.

Some marinas haul as many boats as possible and store them ashore, while securing the rest. Read your contract, know the policy, and be ready to take necessary steps when a storm approaches.

If your boat must stay in the water, a snug, sheltered harbor is preferable to a more exposed area. But the local reality is that more protected harbors like South Freeport cannot accommodate an influx of boats in a storm, so boat owners must secure their craft at their regular locations.

Still, there are steps that can be taken to reduce potential for storm damage.

For boats at docks:

Try to position your boat so that the bow is facing toward the least protected direction — this reduces windage.

Storm dock lines should be longer and of a larger diameter than regular dock lines (one rule of thumb is that they be at least as long as the boat itself).

Look for pilings, dock cleats, or anything sturdy that could be used for securing extra dock lines.

Because you might want to use other boat owners’ pilings (and vice versa), storm preparations at marinas call for a good deal of planning and cooperation with slip neighbors and marina management.

For boats on moorings:

Have your mooring inspected periodically to ensure that it is sound. Most harbors now require mooring permit holders to provide periodic proof of inspection.

Install a second mooring pennant for use during the storm and secure both pennants to your bow cleat. Many boat owners prefer that their storm pennant be a few feet longer than the primary pennant. That way, if the primary pennant parts, the storm pennant is free of chafe and ready to take the load.

For all boats:

Install anti-chafe gear to protect dock lines and mooring pennants from excessive wear. Tubular material made of polyester is considered preferable over PVC and other non-breathable materials, which can cause the line to heat up and fail from the inside out.

Strip all material above deck that increases windage, including sails (especially roller-furling headsails), dodgers, biminis, canvas enclosures and liferings.

Remove valuables from below, including electronics, personal belongings, and any loose gear that could get tossed around and break or create a mess. Ship’s documents like registration and insurance certificates should also be removed for safekeeping.

The above list is by no means all-inclusive, as storm preparation can be extremely involved and should be undertaken well in advance, if possible. Boat owners can get additional information from their insurance company or from organizations like BoatU.S. (www.boatus.com).

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]


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