Preparing a floating dock and watercraft for a potentially damaging storm? The best defense is often a good offense.

Is a hurricane, tropical storm, or other wind or water event looming on your horizon? Is your area a potential target? You need to do some careful preparation to ensure your floating dock, boat and watercraft are as well protected as possible. Keep in mind there is never such as thing as “perfect preparation” when it comes to unpredictable storms. However, there are things you can do to likely limit any potential damage. Let’s start with preparing a floating dock before the storm hits.
The good news starts with the fact that you do own a floating dock. As Commuter Cruiser says (http://commutercruiser.com/10-tips-for-revisiting-dock-lines-for-hurricane/):  “First, if you have any choice, consider a floating dock… Theoretically, a floating dock will float up and down with the surge.”
BoatUs has also analyzed hundreds of insurance claims from boat owners across the US after hurricanes, tropical storms, and other nature-related disasters. They concur that floating docks often fare best during storms.
From the BoatUs website regarding floating docks and storm preparation:

There have been instances where boats at floating docks have been largely unaffected by hurricanes, while some boats at nearby marinas with fixed docks were badly damaged.

(Caveat: The study by BoatUS said that if a significant surge is anticipated, boats at floating docks with shorter pilings should be hauled out of the water and moved to high ground. Or, they should be moved to a more sheltered location for the highest level of potential security.)

Step One: Get your lines right!

This includes both your floating dock to shore anchoring and your boat to dock lines, too.
How is your dock anchored to the shore? Make sure to account for high waves and increased surge with whatever anchoring method your floating dock utilizes. You may need to let out some slack but not too much. Otherwise, you will run the risk of your dock banging into other docks or even shore structures.
Something to also think about is whether to incorporate – or switch to – spring lines. Spring lines – such as our Wahoo Ocean Spring – offer the greatest flexibility. Ocean Spring affords superior shock absorption and maximum strength. This helps keep your dock in place, resulting in greater security for your dock and your boat(s).

Now take a look at how your boat is secured to your floating dock.

Remembering the potential for stretch, are your lines adjustable from the boat only or from the dock? Are you are in a hurricane-prone area? Or one where you may expect high levels of surge? Lines that are adjustable from the dock are best. This way you can make adjustments “on the fly” easier if needed. But only so long as the storm is still far out enough for it to be safe for you.
Again, with a floating dock this isn’t as critical but still a consideration. But speaking of lines – check the condition of your lines. Any frays or existing weaknesses in your boat lines will almost certainly be exploited by any level of storm surge.
Finally, ensure that any removable / portable components and/or furniture and accessories for your dock are taken down. Move them to a secure location. They could potentially fly away in high winds and become lost or worse, projectiles. Also, remove any easily removable ‘sails’ such as retractable awnings.

Step Two: Secure Your Boat

Once you know your dock will be as secure as possible, then prepare your boat. This not only protects your boat but also your dock from unnecessary damage that could be done by your boat due to surge and volatile currents and waves.
Use chafe gear wherever your boat may rub up against or come into contact with your dock. Chafe protection can be bought commercially or you can use old rubber hoses if necessary. For a Wahoo floating dock, we also have dock accessories that help protect your dock (and boat) from damage due to wave fluctuation such as dock edging, dock mainframe bumpers, and dock bumper poles.

One thing to be mindful of with very high waves is the potential for your boat getting caught under the frame of the dock if the rise and fall of the dock and boat get out of phase.  Again, proper line tension can reduce the risk of this.

Of course, don’t forget to take valuables off your boat such as your fish or depth finder, stereo, and other electronic equipment. Then, duct tape anything that could pop open with high force – glove compartments, cubby doors, etc.

Step Three: Document Your Dock and Watercraft With Photos

Despite your best preparation, storms can carry an incredible wallop and sometimes have a “mind” of their own or some fluke accident could happen. In the case you have to file a claim after the storm, it will go much smoother (and often result in more accurate damage estimation) if you can show the adjustor photos of your dock, boat, permanent accessories and/or furniture that couldn’t be removed in advance, and moorings.
In fact, it is really a good idea to keep up with these photos often – when a storm isn’t on the horizon. That way, there is one less thing to do when the pressure is on to secure your boat and prepare your floating dock for a storm, sometimes very quickly and with little notice.
Be sure to take pictures of all upgrades and extra features that your dock or boat might incorporate, as well.

Step Four: Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best, and Get Out of the Way

The above statement sounds like common sense. Yet, a lot of dock and boat owners have invested quite a bit of money and/or care in their waterfront lifestyle, making it tempting to want to hang out during the storm and keep an eye on things—even trying to deal with potentially damaging issues that may arise.
This really isn’t wise. The weather that accompanies such storms can be not only rough for your dock and boat, but lethal for you. Whether objects from nature – or someone else’s unsecured belongings – even seemingly harmless items can be turned into projectiles. Not to mention… from extremely fast winds, to waves and surge that rise higher and quicker than expected, to just the general increase of the basic water level, these types of storms are simply unpredictable. You don’t want to get caught in Mother Nature’s way when she’s in full force.
Nothing – nothing at all – is worth your life. Just do your best to prepare your floating dock and watercraft for the storm and then get out of the way.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

This advice is not intended to be comprehensive. It should not be a substitute for other expert advice and/or common sense. This advice should also be considered “general” in the event of storm potential. Is a hurricane, tropical storm, or other wind/water event definitely heading your way? It is almost always advisable to remove all boats and watercraft from your dock completely and move to higher ground and/or another secure location. This is especially important if your dock is cable-anchored. Finally, the best advice – just as with a boat in a big storm’s path – is to completely move the dock.