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Outdoors

Preparation vital ahead of a storm

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - Hurricane Isabel likely will miss Florida, with the National Weather Service predicting it to turn north before landfall, but now is a good time for boaters to evaluate their watercraft.

Are you ready for the torrential rain and 160 mph winds associated with a Category 5 storm, which Isabel was Saturday?

If Isabel, which computer models showed to be turning toward the Carolinas in the National Weather Service's 5 p.m. report, or any other major hurricanes were to cut across the state or slip through the Florida Straits into the Gulf of Mexico, boaters must be prepared.

Tropical systems typically affect boats in five ways.

Storm surge can raise water far above normal high tide. Winds can range from 70-200 mph, and as wind speed increases the damage caused increases at a much greater rate. Waves, even in harbors, build to surprising heights. Most hurricanes bring 6-12 inches of rain in 24 hours and spawn tornadoes.

Extra-long "spring" lines, designed to keep a boat secure during major tidal fluctuations (hence the name spring, as in spring tides), can keep your boat from becoming a pile of trash.

Move your boat inland (if it is trailerable) well ahead of the storm so you won't have to contend with clogged roadways.

Remember, drawbridges are authorized to lock down eight hours before the arrival of gale-force winds.

Boat Owners Association of the United States, a leading recreational boating organization, offers these tips:

Strip all Bimini tops, sails, antennas, life rings, outriggers, booms and dinghies off the boat.

Remove cowl vents and seal the openings.

Secure halyards at the masthead with a single line.

Use duct tape and plugs to seal hatches, ports and doors.

Take valuable gear - especially electronics - and important documents off the boat.

Go home. No one should stay aboard during a hurricane.

If you are trapped on your boat as the storm approaches, put on a life jacket. Make it to safety as quickly as possible.

And remember that after a big storm, aids to navigation, particularly buoys, may be swept from their chartered position or may be damaged, destroyed, have their lights extinguished or otherwise be inoperative.

For more information check out the BOAT/U.S. Web site at www.boatus.com It has the latest storm advisories, strike probabilities, satellite maps and tracking charts. The site also tells you how to get a comprehensive guide to hurricane preparation. You can also call 1-800-395-2628.

BUILD YOUR OWN BOAT: Readers frequently call or write seeking tips on how to build a boat.

St. Petersburg's Sweetwater Kayaks hosts a clinic on building kayaks Nov. 16-22.

The class is organized and taught by Chesapeake Light Craft, a leading purveyor of build-it-yourself boat kits.

During the class, which begins Sunday afternoon and ends Saturday morning, students build a Chesapeake 17, a lightweight sea kayak suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.

Students build boats out of okoume, an African mahogany plywood, and sheath their creations in epoxy and fiberglass for durability.

At the end of the week students takes home assembled kayaks, ready for finish work.

Tuition for the six-day class is $1,199. It includes the kayak kit, materials and instruction. Students can bring basic tools and a helper. Class size is limited.

For more information contact Chesapeake Light Craft at 410 267-0137 or go to www.clcboats.com


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