Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Hurricane preparation
time is now

Who says Hawaii doesn't have seasons?

For boaters here there are at least two: whale and hurricane. And while the former has ended, the latter has just begun.

It's been quite a while -- almost 12 years -- since a hurricane (Iniki) actually made a direct hit. Still, as meteorologists always tell us, it's not a question of if we'll have another one, it's just a matter of when.

The concern is, when hurricanes aren't frequent visitors to our islands, we tend to forget their ferocity.

An article in Marina Dock Age magazine last fall described the experiences several marinas suffered from the effects of Isabel, a 160-mph hurricane that struck the East Coast in September.

"The water came with such force that it lifted the concrete slabs of the boat ramp like they were made of paper," one marina owner said. "Once the ramp went, the water started digging out the parking lot.

"Nothing short of a dam erected in front of the marina would have stopped that water."

Another owner said that although most bulkheads remained, the water would surge over them and scoop out 10-by-20-foot holes in the land behind them.

Many docks were damaged or completely destroyed and there was considerable damage to the boats that tried to weather the storm.

One marina manager pointed out that many boat owners -- about 60-65 percent -- didn't take the necessary measures to secure their vessels and instead, assumed their insurance policies would protect their investments.

As another marina representative noted, damage to an owner's vessel isn't the only concern because there's also the question of liability for the property of others when reasonable and prudent actions are not taken.

For boaters in Hawaii, it is extremely easy to learn all about the precautionary measures they need to take prior to a hurricane.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources, in cooperation with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program, has a comprehensive guidebook -- the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Safety Manual -- and it's available at all small boat arbor offices for free.

This manual addresses the whys and the how-tos of hurricane survival for boat owners -- from small trailered boats to luxury yachts. As is often the case, the most important advice is to plan ahead.

The time to prepare is not when the first hurricane watch notice is issued, but right now while there's lots of time to plan for covering all options.

After explaining why a hurricane poses a double threat to boaters with extremely high winds and a storm surge much higher than a normal high tide, the manual makes the planning process as simple as possible by providing a two-page worksheet designed to be filled in by a boat's owner.

The owner is asked to provide a description of the boat, its location, the emergency gear on-hand and what equipment should be removed prior to a hurricane's arrival.

The worksheet then provides a final checklist to remind the owner, or another authorized person, what needs to be done in the final hours before the hurricane strikes.

Making a plan such as this might not save your boat, but it could go a long way in convincing your insurance company you did everything possible to avoid disaster.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at


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