March 4, 2012

Get Out of the Box

I frequent some online cruising forums and there are often long discussions about how and where to leave one's boat during hurricane season, or how to cruise hurricane-prone waters during the season. 

The real answer is simple--don't! I was involved in one such online discussion the other day and someone linked to NOAA's online historical database of hurricane tracks. Fascinating stuff! Go over there and play with it a bit to see how your area has made out, but please don't use it to determine whether or not it is "safe" to be in a particular harbor during hurricane season.

Insurers study this stuff for a living, and you can tell what they think about the idea by the dramatically different insurance rates they charge above and below Cape Hatteras during hurricane season. There are slight variations in policies, but generally you can count on your deductible doubling when a named storm is coming, and/or your premium going up for that period. That should tell you all you need to know about the dangers of being in what some folks call "the box."

The box is the region that insurers use to determine what constitutes a special hurricane rate area. Inside the box you pay more. Outside the box you pay less. Stay outside the box and you and your boat are safer during hurricane season.

It doesn't matter how few or how many hurricanes have hit a particular harbor or area. They are inherently unpredictable, even with today's excellent weather services. This unpredictability means that even if the storm is hundreds of miles away you have to make preparations and/or run to your hurricane hole. You don't know if this next one will follow the historical tracks, or be the exception that proves the rule. Sure, you can roll the dice and take your chances, but it is gambling.