Symposium: rethink hurricane prep

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The 2005 hurricane season cost U.S. pleasure boating — boaters and businesses — more than $1 billion, and that has been reflected in rising slip fees, insurance rates, boatyard bills and yacht club dues.

The 2005 hurricane season cost U.S. pleasure boating — boaters and businesses — more than $1 billion, and that has been reflected in rising slip fees, insurance rates, boatyard bills and yacht club dues.

“We’ve got to figure out, as a community, how to lessen the damage, how to mitigate the loss,” Bill Oakerson, CEO of BoatU.S., told an audience at a hurricane preparation symposium March 1 and 2 in Orlando, Fla.

Many Florida marinas were built 10 to 30 years ago, before the current 25- to 40-year cycle of increased hurricane activity, says Mark Pirrello, a Tampa, Fla., engineer. “Inadequate design and construction,” he concludes.

Pirello and fellow engineer Gary Smith say new marinas must be built stronger and maintained better. They should be located in protected waters. Where breakwaters and wave attenuators are needed, engineers must factor in big surges and waves. Floating docks require pilings tall enough so that docks don’t float up and away in a 12-foot surge, and strong enough to withstand big loads.

In storm preparation, marina and boatyard owners stressed the importance of getting boats off docks and secured elsewhere before a hurricane to protect both the marina and the boats. In Florida, a marina cannot force a boat out of its facility after a hurricane watch or warning is issued. However, it can require the owner to secure the boat, or the marina can secure it — even take it out of the water — and charge the boat owner, says Melbourne attorney Ted Shinkle. “But you need to have a dockage contract and spell these things out,” he says.

Look for more on hurricanes in the June issue of Soundings.