Marina Hurricane Plans - Expert Featured in Article by Soundings Trade Only Today Expert Article

Marina Operations Expert, Carl Wolf, CMM CMI was prominently featured in an article in Soundings Trade Only Today to discuss hurricane plans and best practices in marina operations.

Hurricane Irma: Tough Lessons Learned

Marina owners need to create, maintain and train with detailed plan to be ready for storms and cleanup afterward, experts say


NOV 1, 2017

After a storm, electrically powered equipment, such as dock boxes and lifts, may not show signs of damage for months.

In the days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Cudjoe Key, Fla., Carl Wolf visited marinas in the southeastern part of the state. Wolf is an associate specializing in marina and boatyard operations at Robson Forensic, and he expected much of what he saw, but he was a little surprised by one source of damage to docks and shoreside structures.

“I saw dozens of boats, primarily sailboats, that had drifted ashore,” Wolf says. “The damage that facilities received were from sailboats on exterior moorings, and they drifted into other boats.”

The issue, he says, was chafing of the lines meant to secure boats to their moorings. One boat had an old fire hose over the mooring line to reduce chafing, and the line still abraded.

“There’s no assurances or guarantees that no matter what you do to your marina or boatyard that you’re going to be fully protected,” Wolf says.

The lesson about mooring-line integrity is one of many that Wolf shared in Irma’s aftermath. His top takeaway is the importance of having a hurricane plan before a storm hits. All of the five corporate- and municipal-owned marinas that he visited in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and on Biscayne Bay, had storm plans that they followed — and all were up and running within five days of Irma making landfall. The only thing missing was that one marina did not have Internet access.

“First you have to create it, second you have to maintain it and third you have to train with it,” Wolf says of a hurricane plan.

How to Make a Hurricane Plan

When he’s not working for Robson, a forensic engineering firm based in Lancaster, Pa., Wolf teaches an intermediate marina management course for the Association of Marina Industries. He considers the development of a hurricane plan one of the most important parts of the curriculum.

One of the best resources Wolf recommends for marinas that need a plan is “Hurricane Preparedness Planning for Marinas and Marine Operations,” funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2011 and published by Allianz Risk Consulting. It can be found at

The planning document suggests that marina operators first list critical needs, such as removing vessels from wet storage, relocating larger vessels to safe harbors, securing property, and preparing docks and facilities. Then, marina operators can complete a “backward” planning exercise that begins with the desired condition of the facility after a storm. Thinking about the personnel and equipment needed to complete key tasks and achieve the end-condition goal can help marina operators understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie well before a storm lands.

An effective hurricane action plan should start 72 hours before severe weather is expected. If possible, critical tasks should be completed a day before the storm arrives. This is considered the “operational window” — the time to take necessary steps. Smaller tasks can be completed 12 hours before a storm, but employees also need time to get home or to safety if an evacuation is in process.

Some preliminary tasks can be completed even earlier than 72 hours out. These include tracking the weather, communicating with tenant-boat owners and taking equipment inventories.

Planning for communication is also paramount. Marina staff need the ability to check the weather frequently for storm track updates and to post them centrally at the facility, via email blasts or both, to keep customers informed.

Operators of marinas that directly face open water without any kind of breakwater must listen to estimates for wind-driven waves and storm surge, and prepare accordingly. Remove items such as dock boxes, signs and dinghies that can cause significant damage when wind propels them. Also remove gangways and secure them ashore.

Reinforce fixed docks to absorb vertical and horizontal forces. Consider the added stress on docks if they become submerged. If they’re not already installed, consider switching to floating docks designed with slip-loading factors to account for hurricane wind load and storm surge.

On any dock, installed utilities — including electrical, potable water and sewage systems — should be integrated in a way that makes storm preparation and recovery easier. Examples include removable power pedestals and dock boxes, and water lines that can be plugged and removed.

Marina operators also should have insurance coverage for infrastructure equipment, such as the docks and the electrical, water and utility systems, according to Lori Sousa, president of SeaLand Insurance.

And as for the problem that Wolf noted in Florida after Irma — boats breaking free from moorings — marina operators can urge boat owners to use bow and stern moorings to position a vessel so the bow points into the storm surge. Doubling the lines and lengthening them reduces stress and should improve the odds of the boat still being on the mooring after a storm.

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Featured Expert

Carl F. Wolf, Marina & Boatyard Expert

Carl F. Wolf, CMM, CMI

Marina & Boatyard Expert
Carl is an expert in the operations and management of marinas, boatyards, and dry-stack boat storage facilities. Throughout his career, since 1976, Carl owned his own marina related businesses,… read more.

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