The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Hurricane Mooring Weight Recommendation

In the last article on the subject, we discussed my latest thinking on mooring pennants to withstand a hurricane. My original idea was to follow up with an article on what I do to prepare our boat for a hurricane strike and leave it at that.

But then the recent forecast that this could be one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, got me thinking about moorings more deeply, so let’s take a look at the mooring itself, before I get back on the original track and write about preparation.

Why It Matters

Before we dig into how to build a hurricane mooring, let’s talk about why we should.

The Safest Place

In my view, a really good mooring in a reasonably sheltered harbour is in most cases the safest place to leave our boat for a hurricane strike.

Yes, safer than most marinas and often safer than a mad-scramble haul at a boatyard, particularly if the mast is left in a sailboat, as is often the case because the yard crew are overwhelmed.

Heck, with that kind of pressure on the yard crew our boat might be at more risk from a hauling screw-up than the storm that started the rush!


After a bad hurricane strike with hundreds of boats wrecked, insurance companies will be looking for any excuse to deny claims, so if we can show with invoices and photos of our mooring that we went the extra mile to keep our boat safe, it’s only going to help.

I Know This Works

Much of what follows I learned while keeping boats on moorings all year round in Bermuda, which is regularly hit by hurricanes and where it blows like the hammers of hell through the winter. Think storm force several times a month, and gale force once a week, in January through March.

Why Bermuda Is Relevant

I think this is more relevant to more boat owners than ever before because, due to climate change, many areas, for example, Nova Scotia and the New England states, which rarely experienced severe hurricanes in the past, are more likely to face the kind of battering that has long been common in Bermuda.

And even if you are fortunate enough to live in a place not menaced by tropical nasties, there is no question that storms are getting worse all over the world.

Mooring Location

When we moved to Nova Scotia we deliberately bought a property on a sheltered cove with a longest fetch to our mooring of 1.25 nautical miles.

That said, in more crowded places being that picky about mooring location is not practical. And while that’s obviously less than desirable I know of boats that survive long-duration category 3 hurricanes in quite exposed places with longer fetches—really good mooring construction and good preparation can help make up for a less than ideal location.

Ocean Swell

There is a big exception to the above. If the only mooring we can get is potentially exposed to significant ocean swell, we should plan to move the boat to a better location before a hurricane, or haul her.

My thinking is that there is just no way to engineer all parts of the mooring system, from weight to deck attachments, to withstand the snatch loads resulting from hurricane-driven ocean swell, and it should be remembered that even a storm that is only category 1 (64-82 kts) when it makes landfall, can still be producing a significant wave height of 15 to 20 meters (49 to 65 ft), particularly if we are in the dangerous semicircle.

Standard Mooring Construction

I have already detailed how our mooring is constructed, so I won’t repeat all that here.

That said, what I will say is that the “standard mooring” that many harbour masters rent, or the mooring many companies build and install, is often, maybe mostly, marginal to withstand even a category 1 hurricane, and a joke when up against a category 3.

If the professionals in the business don’t think we are wackos after we specify what we want, it’s not heavy enough.

Don’t listen to:

We have done it this way for years, it’s fine.

Even if the assertion was true at one time, with more frequent and violent hurricanes every year these “standard moorings” are almost certainly inadequate now.

Generally Recommended Weight

Here’s an example of how bad this situation is. And don’t get me started on how useless even a 1000-lb mushroom anchor is, at least when we think about hurricanes.

Also, be careful of so-called mooring-weight calculators. For example, this one is clearly bogus because:

  • It does not take into account what the weight is made of; for example, concrete loses nearly half its effective weight in water.
  • It claims that 700 lbs is adequate for a 40-foot boat in 60-knot winds and 800 lbs in 80-knot winds, but wind pressure scales by the square of the speed, so that’s rubbish.
  • The type of bottom matters a lot, more on that in a moment.

So how should we specify a real hurricane mooring?

How Much Weight?

Let’s start with dead weights, and then look at other alternatives:

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Eric Klem

Hi John,

This is a subject that I am passionate about but also that I feel definitely under informed on and that is not for lack of trying to do research on it. By the way, it looks like you used the miles an hour number instead of knots for a cat 3 hurricane in your summary, I think it should be 96-112 knots.

It is perfectly possible to have no upwards pull on the block/anchor, the key is that you need to have the weight of chain be greater than the vertical component of the force from the boat. In doing this, you are reacting the vertical component of the force from the boat against the weight of the chain and only leaving the horizontal component to the block. The trouble is when you get to scopes like 2:1 which are distressingly common on moorings and that can be excluding storm surge even. Lets say you had a 40′ boat on a 3:1 scope in reasonably sheltered waters, at 60 knots (I am using 1440lbf for the rode tension) 500lbs of chain would be plenty to ensure this, bump it to 112 knots to meet your cat 3 criteria and we are now looking at something in the vicinity of 1670lbs of chain which would be 55′ of 1-3/4″ chain. This is probably practical through a cat 1 hurricane as long as you are in a spot that is deep enough to get the chain weight and also somewhere with enough room to have a reasonable scope, for more than cat 1 this gets really hard and we just need to acknowledge that our block needs to be a bit heavier to compensate.

To the question of multiple blocks, I definitely think that a single one is by far the best. It is possible to build load equalization rigs but these always involve moving components which rarely work as intended underwater due to corrosion, biofouling, mechanical fouling, etc. If doing multiple, I would always size assuming that 1 takes the entire load until it moves and is not embedded and then starts to load share. The one exception is 3 or more point anchor setups with directional anchors where each anchor needs to be sized for full load and the multiple anchors are there solely for directionality.

I sized our mooring by trying to use the little data there is on loads relative to windspeed and holding power versus weight of different blocks/anchors. With zero safety margin sizing for a cat 3 in sheltered waters as you are doing, I came up with 5000lbs wet weight for a block and a 1000lb Dor-Mor (I am only giving them credit for half the holding power as explained below). So I think your 7000lb effective weight is reasonable for a 40’er. Since uncertainty is high, I would ideally like a safety factor of more like 2 but that is starting to get really heavy and there are some other safety factors built in such as sizing for the high end of the category. On the Dor-Mor size, my sizing method would imply a 2000 lb unit instead of your 3000lb. I think this is great as your Bermuda based method and my literature based method are in pretty good agreement despite the huge uncertainties.

I sure hope that the current cost you got on the Dor-Mor isn’t correct. I have bought 2 and found that buying direct is way cheaper than getting it marked up by someone else. My parent’s skiff sat on a 500lb one from our first cruising boat until 2020 when our changed mooring situation for our boat caused me to upgrade that mooring as a storm mooring for us. In 2020 Dor-Mor quoted $2300 for a 1000lb unit and $4800 for a 2000lb one. The shipping was only $125 for the ~3 hours each way of driving so I actually did that rather than going to pick it up. I am a big fan of these units although I am a little cautious around the holding power claims as they appear to be based on a single test. They are widely used with great success so that gives me the confidence to use one but I only count on half the holding power which is kind of like a safety factor. If you use their charts, they use the ABYC numbers for loads which have a ~3X+ safety factor so it is still a little conservative even if you cut the holding numbers in half. I would be a little nervous using one of these in hard sand as I have seen ones in hard sand around here that are not fully buried even after 6 or more months but in all other bottoms they bury quickly. In our case, I know that the top of the eye on the 500lb was ~2′ under the very hard mud after a single year. To me the great thing about these is that they work in most bottoms whereas mushrooms work great in very specific bottoms but work pretty poorly in most others. After hurricane Bob where all the mooring near us were mushrooms, who dragged and who held was almost entirely bottom based. The bay here changes bottom type quite rapidly and some areas with the perfect mushroom mud had way undersized gear and did fine but 100′ away all the boats might be gone as it had gone too sandy and they didn’t bury correctly. One final note on the Dor-Mor is that there are a lot of other pyramids available, most with construction methods I don’t like, different geometry and no holding power data. I would stick to the Dor-Mor exclusively, our 500lb shows basically no metal loss still and our mooring guy says he has seen some of the imported ones rust out the eye in 3 years. Attached is a picture of swapping from the 500lb with 3/4″ bottom chain (actually short link anchor chain) to the 1000lb with 1-1/4″ bottom chain.

I have long wished there was data on how embedding a block changes holding power or someone with a soil mechanics background could write up thoughts on it. I think the issue here is that it takes an awful lot of time for it to sink in even with reasonably soft mud. To count on it, I would want the block to be down for at least 6 months before relying on any benefit which means dropping the block during a season without storms or where the boat won’t be there. The alternative that I have been a part of is to take an excavator and dig a hold prior to setting the block. This takes a lot of skill/equipment to actually get the block in the hole and very few mooring outfits are using barges and excavators/cranes to set moorings. Screws scare me a lot for the reasons you state, I know of a whole bunch that pulled out in 1 place as the bottom was not suitable but some contractor still installed them.

One interesting thing to think about for me is the probability aspect of all of this. When a cat 3 hurricane rolls ashore, the area that experiences those conditions is tiny and it is actually rare to have any confirmed ground based wind readings to match the category as the area where it is is tiny compared to the density of sensors. So some of the time a cat 2 mooring will be able to withstand a cat 3 eyewall hit but definitely not all the time, not something I would count on but definitely a nice bonus to hold in your pocket. In our case, our worst exposure is from a direction that means we are on the weak side of the storm. I don’t know how much worse the loading will be due to waves but I guess double so while we size for 60 knots with a 2X safety factor from that direction, that means we should have the same safety factor for 85 knots in a strong side storm where we have good protection. There have been 2 cat 1 eyewall hits in the last 100 years on our mooring location, I think that this would handle those, I am not sure about stronger storms, I would have a whole lot more gray hair if I lived in a place with more storms.

Thanks for covering this, I think that this topic definitely deserves more attention, there is no reason why entire mooring fields should be wiped out for every hurricane and then everyone blame mother nature. Sorry for the long reply.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

Unfortunately I fear you are right on the longer duration of storms. I have watched with horror as a few have sat east of Long Island in the last few years, it used to be that those would have died quickly.

My recollection of dealing with Dor-Mor is that they often didn’t pick up the phone but responded reasonably quickly to the email address at the bottom of their site. I just looked and it appears all the correspondence was using that address. If they don’t respond to you, I am happy to reach out as at least at some point in time my emails made it past their spam blocker.


Matt Marsh

The sheer amount of excess energy locked up in sea surface temperature these past 16 months is terrifying. At this point we’re so far beyond historical, statistical norms for storm behaviour and duration that we simply have to trust in physics-based supercomputer modelling and hope that chaotic reality errs on the less-bad side of the model results.

The insurers and reinsurers are scared. I’ve never seen them this scared in my lifetime, and I haven’t heard of them being this scared since the Great Depression. There are very real fears that larger, more powerful storms drawing energy from a far-too-warm sea surface will do so much damage outside the normal hurricane zones as to bankrupt some of them and leave the rest of us… well, “high and dry” is not the right metaphor, so “right f***ed” might have to do. It might not be this year, or next, but over a decade or two the statistics start to look really brutal.

It would absolutely be prudent for us to plan our own strategies and protections accordingly.

Matt Marsh

It’s impossible for us engineers to be definitive about this subject. There are just too many variables and too many unknowns.

I have never in my life heard anyone say “you know, I really wish I had put in a smaller and lighter mooring.” It is really hard to go wrong with a Dor-Mor at double the weight that everyone says is appropriate. Keep in mind that wear rates and corrosion rates in mm per year are similar for all sizes, but since all the parts of a heavier mooring (weight, shackle, chain, etc.) are thicker, the corrosion rate *relative to the total amount of material* is much lower. So a heavy one lasts much longer, holds its value better, lets insurance underwriters breathe easier, and may end up being cheaper overall when you look at repair and replacement intervals over a 20 to 40 year time span.

I will say that, for the specific situation of John’s mooring – where there is a one mile fetch for an SE wind and no more than 0.15 miles fetch in any other direction – the two-granite-boulder system aligned for the SE direction is a very good solution.

There are some engineers who are capable of designing a mooring system that will hold a 40- to 50-footer in ocean swell and Cat 4+ winds. The problem is that you won’t like the cost, which will be in the high five figures *if you’re lucky* and may well exceed that. Furthermore, such an overbuilt mooring is only useful if the boat itself is designed to be moored in these conditions. Most bow chocks, cleats, and bitts aren’t up to the task.

Screw anchors are excellent, if done right. But there is no way for the ordinary layman to tell if they are right, and a great many “professionals” don’t know either – they just keep doing what their boss back in the ’80s taught them to do. The amount of research needed just to be able to determine which companies are worth talking to, and which are full of BS, is daunting.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
A valuable contribution:
One take I have developed in anchoring out in one major hurricane and a number of storms/gales and enduring a number of hurricanes and storms/gales on our mooring is that the greatest danger is OPB. Other people’s boats.
We were anchored out in Onset, Mass. Pretty much the central target of Hurricane Bob (1991). The 3 anchored boats did fine. The mooring field was largely destroyed: of 40 or so boats almost all were on the shore. We were surprised, when walking along the shore line, to see that the boats had 10 -15 feet of intact mooring pennant coming off their bow. It appears that other boats dragged down on its neighbors and, probably the prop, chafed the mooring out that 10-15 feet until the boat broke free. Possibly to do the same to another boat down wind.
If I were in a mooring field, I would wish the harbormaster (and perhaps suggest) to institute standards for the moorings based on boat size and insist on boat’s responding to a hurricane warning/watch by stripping sails etc. I would also talk with near neighbors about their preparedness and plans.
I might also have a piece of chain shackled to the mooring chain and able to be hauled up to the bow and secured on the boat: long enough not to bother the number 1 pennant, even if well stretched, but there as back-up to prevent chafe from setting the boat loose.
And I must say, our 15 years on the other side of the Atlantic were a joy not to feel like there was a hurricane target on our backs. Our years in Newfoundland, it was quite a surprise to get pushed around by hurricanes every now and again. Now, in the Great Lakes, we again enjoy the freedom from hurricane worries.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I guess I was more fortunate in my neighbors when last I was in a mooring field: we exchanged ideas and helped with extra lines, chafe gear, and such. The mooring field was a bit like a prep party.
And as to insisting, I was interested in the harbormaster or the like doing the insisting for the mooring field and in setting reasonable standards. I was not thinking in any way of individuals insisting on boat prep for their neighbors.
That said, I have been in different boat yards over-wintering and have learned that it was important to ask for assurance (even insist) that Alchemy would not be placed next to a boat who leaves their roller furled headsail on the boat or even be in domino-effect line to any boat doing so. Yards have been responsive to this request and, I noticed, this “insistence” led, in one yard, to its instituting a policy of head sail removal for over-wintering boats or the yard would do it for them and charge for the service.
I think, when there is a setting of policy for say, a mooring field, you can insist: while diplomacy works best with neighbors. Your solution of doing the removal of the headsail yourselves was a quite reasonable one: similar to upping anchor and moving when someone anchors too close and will not move: not so easy in a mooring field. That said, I would also have no problem playing hard ball a bit and taking pictures and documenting the poor prep of the neighboring boat (especially while the skipper was observing): both for your sake if it came to an insurance claim and letting the other owner be concerned that there may be consequences to his/her lack of diligence.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Eric Klem

Hi Dick,

I have probably spent too much time looking at boats that have gone ashore and have also observed pendant chafe. My theory is that there are 4 main causes. The first is where the line exits the fairlead or rubs on an anchor and this is pretty obvious as the remaining pendant ends right there. The next is from the bobchains/bobstay of boats with bowsprits and again this is pretty easy to see where the pendant ends. Then you get to the ones where the pendant breaks midway. There are some that have a small area of abrasion and I think that is due to wrapping the chain under the mooring ball. The final one is a wide area of abrasion sometimes accompanied by serious damage on the bow and I think that these are from other boats that have come loose and ended up on them. What is actually chafing is not clear to me in this instance.

Like John, I have not had a lot of luck trying to get other owners to act in what I consider a responsible way. I know a few of the harbormasters and when I talk to them, they all say that they are completely sick of dealing with the public who are often nasty and have taken non-confrontational approaches which while generally preferable means that many people ignore them. I fear that the generation of harbormasters we had that all remember Bob and were hard nosed have retired leaving people who leave the existing regulations in place but not actively trying to enforce it. 

Around here, my guess is that the best method for mooring gear would be to get harbormasters on board with the gear recommendations and then work with them to do a very good job of instructing the mooring service providers. I don’t think the average boat owner understands much about the mooring but the people installing and servicing should and there are many less people to educate. What is harder is getting people to do the other prep. One of the local towns here requires everyone to file a storm plan and while I don’t know if they ever reject them, the questions are good enough to make you think about it. They are also good about providing education materials and start sending reminders a few days before any real storm.

One possibility in some mooring fields is to try to get to the head of the field. We have gotten ourselves so that there is never more than 1 boat upwind of us in the bad directions although everyone is upwind in some other directions. For real storms we leave and go to our storm mooring but I don’t want to have to move every time it is supposed to blow 30 as moving means running car shuttle, hauling my parent’s skiff, etc. so while I do it every 2 or 3 years, I don’t want to do it multiple times a year.


Dick Stevenson

Hi Eric,
Thanks for your thoughts. It is sad, to my mind, as one of the pleasures of the boating community is the feeling of commonality and pulling together when mother nature rears her head or when misfortune strikes.
I have heard of “storm plans” and suspect they must do some good as a tickler to do right, at least for some.
I think it is a big enough issue so insurance companies could play a part: something like owners must submit a plan if their vessel is in hurricane regions and then document executing their plan for a named storm or they are not insured. A variation on this exists already as you are not insured if you cruise certain areas during hurricane season (I remember something like no going S of Beaufort, NC, before 15 Nov.)
I actually would appreciate a more active insurance involvement in setting standards: no insurance (or very expensive and not subsidized), for example, if you build a home right on the shore that is predictable pummeled regularly. Or no health insurance (or very expensive) for those head injuries for motorcyclists who choose not to wear a helmet.
The head of the mooring field makes sense to me. I often do this in anchorages for that reason as well as fewer insects and fewer “neighbors” who seem to “herd” together in the shallower depths.
My best, Dick

Rob Gill

Hi John,

I would also be interested in an extension of the next article (separate article) covering tropical storm preparation in a marina, as our climate gets more extreme.

We moor bow in but could reverse this in preparation for a storm. Our 15m berth is towards the entrance and the end of our pier, on the exposed side. We have a finger on one side connecting to a pier, and two poles with pile rings on the other. Our yacht is 14.5 metres LOA and 12 tonnes. Standard spring tidal range is around 2.8 m.

Much boat preparation will be the same as for a mooring, but at our marina we have specific issues like:

Reliance on wooden poles securing our fingers and piers,highest tides created by extreme low pressure and driving seas, topping the poles so the pile rings float off the shorter outside poles,seas topping breakwaters at high tide creating large waves (up to a metre) inside the marina itself, in storm force SE winds.
Questions that come to mind are things like:
How much play to have in the mooring ropes, tight or some slack?How much stretch in the mooring lines?How to allow for the pile rings working there was up the pole in waves and strong winds becoming near horizontal, thus lengthening the effective mooring line length?Does bow in or out make a difference?Could a specialist mud anchor (like our Fortress) be deployed on short scope to counter wave surge (with dockmaster permission)?
Keen to expand my thinking, before documenting a comprehensive Storm Preparation Plan.

Many thanks. Rob

Eric Klem

Hi Rob,

My experience with this is not extensive with cruising size boats so take these thoughts with a grain of salt.

Regarding mooring lines tight or loose, I think it depends on the situation. With no wave action, I have found that both quite tight and quite loose work well but a little loose doesn’t. Add in wave chop and my preferred is pretty loose as the wave will often pass through before the boat fully fetches up hard. However, that all assumes an ideal berth with tons of room. If room restricted, you often get forced into keeping everything preloaded tight. Also, if you keep things loose, you need many more fenders as different parts of the boat can get near the dock.

One of the boats I used to work on had an exposed berth and we used the main anchor and a mooring as it was not uncommon to have 6′ waves at the dock in a storm. When dealing with tide and storm surge, you either need really long scope like 10+:1 or it needs to be very actively tended as the vertical differential changes the horizontal length of the rode too much. The mooring we used was a 10T granite block with maybe 200′ of 2″ stud link chain going to another 100′ of 2″ nylon and for it to be effective (it provided great placebo effect to many crew but then the actual tension was often quite low due to geometry issues), it had to be tended with only 10′ tides and a few feet of storm surge. On the anchor side, we found that an anchor which creeps through the bottom a bit either due to setting deeper or being in too soft of a bottom will make it so that it doesn’t carry any load. So I think you would need a reasonably hard bottom and set it really hard beforehand. Since the rode will necessarily be quite long, I suspect nylon will be too stretchy and it won’t actually carry a lot of load unless preloaded a ton. I selfishly hope John gets to try his new anchor rode in some conditions with real wave action so that he can do a piece on how well a dacron rode works. Given all of these complications, I think it generally does not make sense.

As for your rings floating off, if the pilings are far enough away and you have enough room to tie loosely, I would just tie high on the pilings and remove the rings for a storm. A properly snugged hitch can be made to not slide up the pilings. If you have to tie tight so a single height doesn’t work, I don’t know what the solution would be.

My biggest issue on docks has always been chafe due to the boat surging around, I have broken quite a few large docklines due to this. To me the principles are the same as for a mooring. I try not to have nylon where it can rub against anything. On the dock end, this often means chain shackled to spliced thimbles in the lines but you could substitute dyneema for the chain. On the boat end I have done dyneema strop hitched to the end of the nylon just like John’s mooring pendants but then you need a massive cleat to terminate as it takes a lot of turns to avoid the line slipping. I suppose it may be possible to get your lengths exactly right and splice that end too but that seems to be wishful thinking. Commercial boats often use chain at the boat end too but it is a bit brutal on fiberglass and hard to adjust with yacht gear.

As to line material, for cruising boats I only have experience with nylon but have used polyester a lot on commercial boats. There were definitely times where it was too stiff. During one of the tall ships events, we had to borrow nylon lines from another boat as we broke a few 3 strand polyester ones that were probably 40′ so plenty long. Some of the boats use polyester lines for their improved chafe and fatigue resistance but then would put a tire in the middle of the line which adds back in the stretch. Unfortunately for all the 3 strand polyester fans, last year New England ropes stopped making their excellent line in diameters over 5/8″ which has caused all sorts of issues in the traditional boat world where they often use stuff like 1″ for halyards.


Rob Gill

Hi John and Eric, what great comments.

I really don’t want to rely on fenders to protect our boat as these can ride up over the dock, create chafe and wear against the hull. We have a fairly generous “box berth ” and plan to keep the boat within this. I have aimed for a small amount of slack in each line, and try to keep them even so they take up together. We added two new cleats to the boat following John’s posts on “magic springs”, which gives us four mooring cleats per side.

So with a storm forecast (especially from our breakwater quadrant) we have two lines running from each cleat as springs or bow/stern lines. We are lucky that we have two poles on the outer-side of our marina berth, each with a pile ring. So that makes 16 mooring lines in total, with up to eight acting as springs against any wave induced surge, and eight acting as dampers. Our neighbours think we are crazy with often more than double their lines deployed.

From your comments I think I will standardise our longer lines using Dacron and our shorter ones using Nylon. But I need to pay attention to applying chafe protection to all the lines, but especially the nylon ones. Thimbles are probably the way to go on the dock and pile rings. On our boat cleats, I think Dacron sleeves are the most practical.

I’m not a fan of polyester ropes, as they degrade in our harsh NZ UV sunlight and can shed microplastics into our water.

I will abandon the anchor idea as impractical following Eric’s observations.

I like the idea of tying off to the pile rings so they can’t float free, but this would require me to be around to execute. What do you think about leaving their lines attached, and coach bolting an overlapping SS cap on top of each pile, preventing the pile ring from floating free – would this achieve the same thing?

Or could this create more damage and stress on the boat than letting the pile ring release?

Many thanks for your input,


Tom Fortner

Hi John. Very thoughtful article as always.
Maybe you’ve already written about this, but what if you’re someplace where a mooring is not an option and you have to rely on finding a protected area and your own ground tackle? If we get a heads up that a hurricane is possible, everyone is going to run to the moorings and they’ll be gone. Even the bad ones.
Because of this I’ve made a point of having a 2x oversized ultra anchor, 300′ of chain and a strong snubber and bridal. In addition I have a claw anchor that I was thinking I could attach to the primary anchor chain like 25′ or so away from the primary anchor as additional weight. I recognize that there is a wind limit to this option but if I can find a protected area with good holding that should help bring some of the storms intensity down.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Tom,
I look forward to what John has to say.
A couple of thoughts:
Many go for protected small anchorages. My take is that they fill fast and often we have needed to travel a day or two to get to a “safe” spot and I would hate to get somewhere only to find there is no-room-at-the-inn. And, I would hate to get all settled and have some late-comers shoe-horn their way in in ways likely dangerous to already anchored vessels. I look for large anchorages where you are likely to be on your own or with just a few boats which allow for lots of scope.
Anchoring near one shore line, but not too near, is usually preferable depending on the forecast and a second anchor might be considered, especially if you are leaving the boat on its own and/or your bower not up to being on its own.  (As to leaving the boat, my wife said to me: We have 3 children and the boat is insured: we are ALL going to a motel. Of the 2 other boats in the anchorage (see below), both owners stayed on board and one was in critical condition the next morning and needed evacuation to a hospital.)
If leaving the boat, it might help to be thinking that you are making a mooring rather than anchoring the boat. Friends who have stayed aboard had an extra anchor ready to go by just cutting a few restraining lines. In addition, he wore a wet suit for its flotation and for the warmth and for the padding it provided, especially for his head. When out of the cabin he wore a snorkel and mask.
We weathered a major hurricane in Onset in a very large anchoring field of medium (~~15 feet) depths and mud. There were 3 of us anchored and in the corner a large mooring field. We “divvied” up the anchorage and all boats could use pretty much as much rode as they wished. All anchored boats did fine while the mooring field and marina were destroyed.
Another time, a hurricane taking aim, we traveled a couple of days to what looked like a nice large anchorage in Newfoundland. It was perfect, but there were brand new high-sided wharfs just built for the fishing fleet where we could tie up between them and were exquisitely safe for what turned out to be a lot of wind, but not a hurricane.
I can’t think of a mooring I would pick up that was not my own unless no other option existed.
I would try to find a spot with plenty of beaches around. The above-mentioned mooring field was destroyed, but the vast majority of the boats looked to only have suffered cosmetic damage as the bounced their way onto the sand with the surge.
Get local knowledge where possible: we were in St. Johns, NFL, when a hurricane started moving our way. We considered staying put on the wall, but this was advised against and perhaps the harbor authority would have asked us to leave. Apparently, the harbor can generate a really violent boat movement in smaller vessels from the swell coming into the entrance that can and does do a great deal of damage.
Random thoughts, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy 

Tom Fortner

Good information. Thanks. Stay safe, could be an interesting year.

Tom Fortner

Thanks, I look forward to hearing what you think.

Frederick Gleason

Dear John,

I have a healthy respect for hurricanes and a kind of superstitious and cautious attitude about making generalizations about various mooring arrangements and conditions, but I have thought a great deal about this.

  1. Strip your boat down and put the weight low.
  2. Eliminate all windage that you can, seriously this is the easiest and best thing to do.
  3. If your boat tends to sail and veer, fix it. Use a backstay sail or seabuckets.
  4. Get a slightly oversized mooring ball to provide better wave shock absorption.
  5. Add an extra long hurricane pendent/pennat to help that oversize (but not too oversized) mooring ball become more effective.
  6. Make sure your double bridle system and cleats are as free of chafe as possible.
  7. Perhaps lead the pennant to a lower waterline fitting to improve scope.
  8. Be happy your mooring is 6′ down in black ugly oily muck because it will perform much better than any other soils.
  9. Pay attention to where the hurricane is going, Is it east or west of you. It makes a huge difference in what your boat will experience.
  10. If exposure and conditions look too iffy, just go ahead and get the boat hauled as soon as possible, if that is an option.
Deborah Linnell

like to hear more – -but would enjoy getting to the summary more quickly.

John Cobb

IMO you do not have a problem with brevity.

Iain Dell

I think the same. While we can always skip to the conclusions I like to understand the reasoning behind them.

Dan Tisoskey


My home port is Keyport, NJ and I was able to talk with a one person who left their boat on a mooring during SS Sandy (based on feedback from other club members, only three or four people left their boats on moorings and all others pulled out in local marinas. Many of which received damage from floating off their stands. I was not at the club during this time)

Out of all the boats that were left on the moorings none suffered any major damage. We have a large fetch from the N.E. and we have a very muddy bottom. Most use relatively small mushroom type moorings.

As stated in other comments, so many variables to consider. I don’t know how large these boats are but I am almost certain one was in the mid 30’s. Some could have been smaller day sailors on 400lb mushrooms, again guessing.

Would be interesting to interview these people to get the facts.

I would be interested in hearing about swivels, chain, dyneema based pennants. Seems like we have more people break off from chafe during gales rather than drag moorings.

Also, I read the article on Don Jordan’s site (Jordan Series Drouge) and his tested theory is boats should connect aft to the mooring during hurricanes and ride it out like being on a drouge. Boat will ride without the constant swinging and reduce chafe. I know chafe is another subject but yachts on moorings is a big deal as dragging or breaking off not only causes possible damage to the owner but everyone around him. I have been rejected by a few insurance companies in my area because I said I was keeping my boat on a mooring. Not good.

Bill Harvey

There is an article about the guy who salvaged the brittanic
He used one of its anchors as a mooring and was pulled several 100 yards in a storm

Iain Dell

Hi John – as you were asking if we wanted more on moorings I’d be interested in an extension to Colin’s excellent article on strops from 2011. While hurricanes are of course the hardest to prepare for we’re far more likely to encounter lesser but still challenging conditions.

I’ve just sat out two F8 gusting 9 gales in the Isles of Scilly: one on the hook and another on a mooring. As you’ve written elsewhere, being on the hook was preferable. When moored in New Grimsby, I’d let out about 3m legs of an octoplait/chain/octoplait bridle as I expected some chop on change of tide and wind direction but someone quite forcibly suggested I shorten the strop to pull the bow right next to the ball (there was still plenty of swinging room though). I disagreed and while we certainly rolled, we had no sudden jolts. However, I was wondering if there was sense in his suggestion? That’s the sort of extension to this useful discussion that I’d be interested to read about in a future article.