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Boaters Prepare To Weather Hurricane Irma In Jacksonville

Gary Marsh
Gary Marsh secures his 40-foot boat, the Excalibur, at a marina in Ortega. Its water tank contains 150 gallons of potable water in case he needs it after the storm.

The U.S. Coast Guard wants boat owners to secure their vessels while they still have time before Hurricane Irma’s effects are felt on the First Coast. And because rescues can be difficult during the worst of the storm, no one should try to ride out the weather in a boat.

Petty Officer Anthony Soto said owners of small boats should pull them from the water and get them on dry land, while owners of large vessels should do their best to secure them in marinas. 

On Thursday, Jacksonville financial planner Gary Marsh was taking the Coast Guard’s advice. He usually keeps three boats docked behind his house on the St. Johns River.

But because of Irma, the smallest is now sitting in his garage, and his 27-foot boat will be tied down next to a building.

“We’re going to put anchors into the ground and then put blocks under the trailer, deflate the tires on the trailer so that the trailer is actually sitting on the blocks,” he said.

Marsh said he found the instructions for doing it like that on the Coast Guard’s website.

As for his largest boat, Marsh said it will ride out the storm at a marina in Ortega. Before taking it there, Marsh  filled the water tank with 150 gallons of potable water in case he needs it when he gets the boat back home.

For boats left in water, Coast Guard Officer Soto suggested to use extra fenders, such as used tires, to protect the boat from bumping into the side of the dock or mooring. Use additional mooring lines, secure any hatches or openings, take down the mast if possible and remove any loose items from the vessel, he said.

Soto said removing items like life vests is especially important as they can be swept up by the storm and create debris fields. Coast Guard rescuers often think debris fields are people who need help, and it pulls resources from those actually in trouble, he said. 

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.
Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.