When is the Caribbean hurricane season? What’s the second most important reason for getting out of the Caribbean for hurricane season? What’s the scoop with hurricane boat insurance? How should you plan your passage through the Caribbean to ensure you’re in a hurricane safe zone prior to the season starting? What can you do to prepare your boat for a hurricane?
When is the Caribbean hurricane season?
Hurricane season in the Caribbean is from June to November. That doesn’t mean that a hurricane won’t form before or after but as a general rule, these six months are when the bulk of the hurricanes form.
What are the two main reasons for getting out of the hurricane zone during hurricane season?
There are two reasons to avoid hurricanes. The first, and most important, is for the safety of your boat and lives.
The second, is for insurance purposes. Several insurance providers will not fully cover damages from hurricanes if you’re in a designated hurricane zone. In our case, we use Pantaenius and any location south of Jacksonville, Florida is considered a hurricane zone. If we’re in the zone and our boat is damage by a hurricane we will not receive full compensation. We’ll only receive a percentage of the policy value.
Just because your insurance provider outlines boundaries of where you can and cannot be for full hurricane coverage, that doesn’t mean you, personally, are safe from hurricanes. Let me explain.
Last year, our plan was to sit out hurricane season on the east coast of America. When looking at our insurance policy we discovered that we’d be fully insured as long as our boat was above Jacksonville, Florida.
We were very flexible as to our location, however, having family in North Carolina swayed us to that general area. Due to various complications we eventually settled on a long stay in Charleston, South Carolina (one State below North Carolina and only a four hour drive away from my family. The red dot on the map is Charleston.)
After checking with our insurance I was comfortable that we’d be covered in the eventuality of a hurricane. For some reason my mindset was completely on the financial side of things. What I didn’t consider, however, was the practicalities and the emotional upheaval of actually living through a hurricane. I just didn’t question whether or not hurricanes hit South Carolina nor did I speculate what it might be like to live through one of them.
Unbeknown to me, Charleston is actually a location where tropical storms hit often. And the hurricanes that have hit South Carolina have been extremely destructive.
Last year we had to prepare Britican for three storms.
One tropical storm, one Cat 2 hurricane and Irma – predicted to hit Charleston head on as a Cat 3 or above. Initial models of Irma had Charleston at ‘ground zero’ speculating that it could hit as a Cat 5. If you’d like to see how we prepared for these hurricanes and the emotional upheaval we felt please check out the reference articles at the bottom.
The lesson I learned is that when considering a hurricane hole, do your research about whether or not hurricanes hit the area or not. Don’t base your decision on insurance boundaries as they often don’t make sense (e.g. We were fully covered in Charleston, a city that gets hit often but we will not covered in Trinidad which has never been hit by a hurricane ever. More on insurance below).
What’s the scoop with hurricane insurance?
Hurricane insurance is a joke. Every provider offers a different policy with different hurricane season dates and different requirements. Every applicant seems to get a different offer with different stipulations.
Some providers will cover a boat in the hurricane zone 100% with no requirements. Others will only cover your boat at 80% of the value. And that’s if and only if you pull your boat out of the water. Then put the boat into a one-piece cradle built into the ground specifically for hurricane protection.
Some policies will only approve you if you have a certain level of sailing skills. Others require a ‘hurricane plan’ outlining everything you’re going to do in the event of a hurricane. And just because your friend on another boat got covered, who has far less sailing experience than you, doesn’t mean that you’ll get approved.
Some policies will be able to pay out.
Others you’ll have to fight with for years to see any money and some will never pay out.
Grenada used to be considered safe but last year it was hit with Hurricane Matthew. Many insurance providers, including ours, will not fully cover us if we stay in Grenada and a hurricane causes damage to our boat.
Since the hurricanes of 2018 (Irma and Maria) many insurance providers will no longer fully insure a boat anywhere in the Caribbean sea no matter how south you go. Cruisers are now considering Trinidad or heading over to the ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) as they have never been hit by a hurricane.
I’ve written a checklist about how to choose an insurance provider.
It’s not until after you need to make a claim that you realize you could have selected a better provider. Do your homework on this upfront. Otherwise you could risk loosing a ton of money.
When looking for the best value for money it’s important to call around. And compare and contrast a few insurance providers. It’s also imperative to know that the cheapest deal isn’t always the best. Use the Boat Owners: Selecting Insurance guide to ask the questions necessary to make a final decision.
Check my guide out here (click the guide for more information)
Find an insurance provider that is reputable and known to pay out. Take time understanding what you need to do to be 100% covered in the event of hurricane damage. Determine if you can fulfill the requirements and in the event of an impending hurricane, video/take pictures of everything you do to prepare the boat and send it to the provider before the hurricane hits. Ask if there is anything else you can do to ensure you’ve prepared the best you could.
How should I plan my passage through the Caribbean to ensure I’m in a hurricane safe zone prior to the season starting?
First of all, you do not have to be in a hurricane safe zone when the hurricane season starts. My experience is that the bulk of the storms seem to hit closer to September and October than June and July.
What you do have to do is ensure you’re only a day or two sail away from a hurricane safe area. Tropical storms can start forming off the coast of Africa around five to ten days prior to arrival in the Caribbean. If you’re in the south, you’ll want to be near St Lucia or St Vincent & the Grenadines when the season starts. By doing so it’s only a two day sail out of the hurricane zone.
As I write this article, we’re 15 days into the hurricane season.
I’m in St Lucia (St Lucia has a blue dot on the map above). So far, we’ve had two named storms but they’ve both been in the Gulf of Mexico. Every morning we look at the National Hurricane Center forecasts. If we see a storm forming, we’ll head south to Grenada or Trinidad.
Being in the south Caribbean during hurricane season is actually a great time to sail. There’s very few boats around so we’re having all the anchorages to ourselves.
What do I do if a hurricane is on it’s way and I need to prepare my boat?
As mentioned above, we’ve been through one named storm and two hurricanes on the east coast of America. The best advice I can give is to plan early. Way before hurricane season make sure that you know your options. If you’re in a hurricane zone, what do you need to do to make sure your family and boat are safe? Get my guide now to help you walk through the planning stages and what to do when a hurricane hits: Hurricane Preparedness – A Checklist To Help Protect Your Boat.
Also, check out these other resources…
Preparing Our Boat For A Hurricane: Read this article and watch a video about how we prepared Britican for our first tropical storm. I suppose we can say this was the first storm to break us into the hurricane season. It started as a hurricane but when it hit us it was downgraded to a tropical storm. We rode this one out while in a marina.
Waiting for a Hurricane: This article discusses the lead up to Hurricane Matthew, a major hurricane to hit the US.
Sailboat Hurricane Plan: This video and article will walk you through the steps we took to prepare Britican for hurricane Matthew. We moved out of the marina and anchored her up a river. You’ll gain information about preparing the boat. And how we decided to anchor – we used a two anchor system that worked well.
Hurricane Irma – Preparing Our Sailboat: This video will show you what we did and the time it took to do it. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to prepare a boat! Sails have to come off, sprayhoods and bimini’s need to come down and the list goes on.
And if you’re interested to find out how things went for us during Irma, watch our Hurricane Irma Update and Hurricane Irma Update 2. Britican dragged into the side of the river. Our dinghy was in the swamp and one of our anchors broke off! Watch the video’s to get an idea of what it’s like to try your best to protect your home.
And make sure you’re ready for a hurricane – buy my guide today!