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For those impacted by Hurricane Dorian, we hope you and your loved ones are safe. Policyholders with damaged boats, easily file your claim online. Learn More

What To Do After A Hurricane

When the worst is over, here's what you need to do.

Mark Corke BoatUS Editor using a cellphone next to his boat

After a storm has passed and authorities are allowing travel, get to your boat quickly. It's your responsibility to protect your boat from further damage, and its equipment from theft, regardless of its condition. An important task is calling your insurance company. The company will need to know the exact location and condition of the boat and will assist you in what steps to take. The BoatUS Emergency Dispatch phones are manned 24 hours a day and are heavily staffed after a storm to assist those with GEICO/BoatUS Marine Insurance. Start the claim process by logging into your account to save time. You can also use the BoatUS App to file a claim.

Don't Take Chances

A marina can be a hostile environment after a storm. Leave children, pets, and sightseers at home. Be cautious of leaking fuel, exposed electrical lines (make sure the dockside power is off if there is any chance of dangerous leaking current), sewage backups, missing dock boards, and other dangers. For example, often snakes will come to higher ground if their normal habitat is flooded. Don't venture out onto docks until it is safe to do so. And don't mind if you are challenged to show proof of ownership or asked to keep out of damaged areas. Marina management and authorities should restrict access to damaged and undamaged boats.

Some things to initially take to the boat include duct tape to secure broken rigging or railings and to seal cracks or holes, some basic tools, extra line; pencil and paper along with a camera to inventory damage; and lots of cleaning gear and anti-corrosion spray. Removing salt, mud, and moisture should begin as soon as it can be done safely. Take trash bags to remove debris that could clog bilges and pumps. Don't forget bug spray, boots, and gloves.

If the boat appears undamaged or has only minor scrapes, inspect for chafed lines and broken ports or hatches where rain can enter. Monitor the water level in the bilge in the event there is underwater damage. Make sure the galley and engine fuel systems are undamaged and the bilge pump is working. Report damage right away to the insurance company.

If the boat is sunk, beached, or otherwise in need of salvage, contact your insurance representative for instructions on how to proceed. While you have the right to salvage your boat, contracting with salvors can be tricky business and is best left to insurance professionals. Inexperienced, poorly equipped, or overpriced crews can cause delays and additional damage that may keep you ashore longer than necessary. If the marina wants to act as a contractor, it should have your permission and the agreement of your insurance company before moving or salvaging your boat.

Boat owners insured with BoatUS should call the 24-hour Emergency Dispatch Center at 800-937-1937 before contracting for salvage or removal work. If communications are impaired, look for BoatUS Catastrophe Team field people who will be in the area immediately after a major hurricane. Whoever raises a sunken boat should begin cleaning the boat and "pickling" and preserving the engine and machinery immediately. Flush everything with freshwater, remove cushions and clothing to dry, and dry out the interior. Your yacht policy should cover the reasonable cost of any steps you take to reduce further damage.

Your policy should also reimburse for any reasonable costs incurred for security you may hire if the boat is exposed. After the storm passes, boats thrown onto beaches or parking lots can fall victim to looters. In one sad case, a classic yawl cast onto a New England beach by a storm was dismembered by souvenir hunters with chain saws. After Wilma, boats stranded in marshes were stripped clean before salvors could reach them. After Andrew, someone painted a claim on a large yacht, mistakenly thinking that an "abandoned" boat was up for grabs. Police will be occupied with higher priorities; it's up to you to protect your damaged boat and its equipment.

BoatUS: Here for you 24/7

Visit our Hurricane Tracking and Resource Center to read more damage-avoidance articles to help prepare your boat for a hurricane, and download the entire 2019 BoatUS Hurricane Prep Guide here. Our site includes up-to-date information on active hurricanes, including tracking models and NOAA forecasts. Plus, we've added a library of new videos to show you how to perform many of the tasks outlined in this article.

Also, download our BoatUS App, which can send you hurricane updates and even allow you to quickly file a claim using your mobile device.

BoatUS Editors

Award-winning BoatUS Magazine is the official publication of Boat Owners Association of The United States. Published six times a year, it provides boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety, news and more from top experts.