My boat was Florida
based and my only home for 45 years. I made different choices at different times,- 'never purposefully kept our children
aboard in a major tropical storm, but we were surprised and blown aground in Long Key Bight, Florida Keys
, by a tropical wave back in the eighties. We were caught in a class 3 in the Bahamas
, but we were well up a limestone cut canal
around a couple of bends and we stayed ashore. During our last 15 years of cruising my wife and I stayed aboard for a couple of class 1's and a number of tropical storms, but we never stayed south of Jacksonville
during hurricane season in those years. We were more often in the Carolinas, the Chesapeake or further north.
This was the plan we used for staying aboard and the Florida Keys
never met our standards for safety
. We sought our location three days before any potential hit:
1- Well inland location,- 20+ miles from the coast
2- Little fetch,- no more than half a mile in any direction
3- Shallow water
(6-10'),- insuring a favorable scope
for the rode
with a tidal surge
4- Good holding substrate,- sand, clay or firm mud for our well-sized Mantus
200' of all chain rode.
Preferred additional conditions:
5- Elevated surrounding topography,- hills, woodland, high buildings
6- Anchorage free or debris that could become mobile
7- A forgiving shore without rocks or cement seawalls, docks, etc.
8. No other anchored boats
We always found the first four criteria and often some of the others,- 'never perfect; however, we managed numerous tropical storms that were hurricanes at the coast and a little milder at our selected locations.
No bravado,- lots of prep,- we removed our booms at the goosenecks with the sails
on them and slid them into our aft cabin
along with a pair of kayaks. We always lowered our roller furling
headsail. We never "spider-webbed" lines because we always wanted our boat to present the least resistance facing into the wind
. I kept a series of three snubbers on the chain rode, each in sequence to take the load if the first chaffed or failed.
Much can be done to diminish risk, but not to this extent in the Keys.