If you have lived aboard in a colder climate then you know what can happen if you aren’t prepared for a storm. I had to learn the hard way, my first year as a liveaboard, in Boston during the harsh winter of 2015.
It wasn’t until my sink was full of dishes and I was getting ready to take a quick shower that I realized my water tanks were empty. Worse yet, when my boyfriend and I went to fill them, we were the first on our dock to discover that the water line had frozen solid. Our marina couldn’t fix it at the time, and so we began a two-month waterless saga that involved a lot of hand sanitizer, bottled water and takeout food.
Now that I’m on my third winter and second storm of the 2016-17 season, preparation is becoming second nature and it feels good. I’m at a point where the only things I need to worry about are out my control regardless of what I do, like other people’s boats, freak accidents or power-loss.
As the weather advisories came pouring in over the past couple of days I began going through my mental checklist of precautionary measures and thought I would put it down on paper as an additional reminder to myself, as well as share it, especially for people who might be experiencing their first winters aboard.
Before I go through the list I want to mention one other thing. It is of the utmost importance if you liveaboard as a couple, that both parties know how to complete the tasks on the list and what to do in case of an emergency. My boyfriend flies out of town tonight (perfect timing, of course) so I will be managing any issues that come up on the boat by myself. While he will be accessible by phone, that doesn’t mean I will be able to reach him 100 percent of the time, and who knows if I will even have time to pick up the phone if my shrink wrap is in the process of blowing off. Better that we have a plan and I know what to do in that kind of worst-case scenario.
Winter Storm Checklist
- Check the levels of your water tanks and propane: refill if necessary
- Check your dock cleats and line: double-up if necessary
- Check your neighbor's boats and dock lines
- Check your shrinkwrap: secure any questionable areas if possible; remove items from the deck
- Secure things belowdecks: to some this may sound like taking storm prep one step too far, but you would be surprised what a strong gust of wind can do, even at the dock. It only takes one shattered rum bottle before you won’t make this mistake again
- Touch base with the rest of your marina: we have a Facebook group where people post updates as well as monitor channel 16 during storms
- Charge up: should you lose power in the storm having a fully charged cell phone battery and laptop will prevent last minute issues
- Check your bilge: (you should be doing that anyway)
- Keep essentials on the ready: things like a flashlight, extra fender and shovel will only help not hurt when you need them
- Tidy up and take care of chores: it’s a lot easier to do the dishes when the boat isn’t swaying side to side in 30-knot winds. Likewise, taking out the trash and recycling, even showering is much easier before the weather takes a turn for the worse
- Know your plan B: while I’ve never left my boat in a storm, I do know where I will go and how I will get there. For example, if the marina lost power, I wouldn’t choose to stay on the boat. With just a propane heater left for warmth, that I only use while I am awake, it wouldn’t make a viable option. I have a set of keys to a friend’s house nearby, as well as a hotel within walking distance, that I know I can get to should it be necessary
- And just like the landlubbers, make that dreaded trip to a grocery store: stock up on any essentials that you may not be able to (or want to) run grab on a whim if the weather won’t permit. Don’t forget that extra bottle of rum either, you know, just in case