Originally created 09/15/99

Boat owners making best preparations possible



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Many boaters were working overtime yesterday to protect their vessels for the anticipated approach of Hurricane Floyd, but they probably realize better than most there's only so much anyone can do.

"We're trying to get all our boats chained up and as close to the buildings as possible," said Nancy Rist of Cruz N' II Inc., an outboard boat and motor dealership in town that has dozens of new boats on trailers in the open.

"We're leaving the drain plugs in them, so they'll fill up with water and that'll hold them down in the high winds," she said. "But other than that, all we can do is trust in the Good Lord."

Owners of larger vessels kept in wet slips at marinas and marina operators were taking what steps they could, while area marine-supply stores were doing a land-office business in essential safety equipment and gear.

"We've been working since yesterday ÃMonday´ afternoon," said Sally Ledford of Camache Cove Marina, which is less than 2 miles from the coast on the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Augustine.

"We've dismantled all the dock boxes, we've removed all the loose gear on the docks, and we're setting cross-webbing on lines securing the boats to floating docks," she said.

Ledford said that six to eight hours before the anticipated arrival of the storm, all electric power on the docks supplying the boats would be cut off to reduce the possibility of fire.

Though there's a time-honored tradition of taking a boat to open water to ride out a storm at anchor, she said Camache Cove wasn't experiencing many owners taking their craft out looking for "hurricane holes."

"I think we've had about five boats leave, but what we're getting is many more boats coming in because of the relatively protected location," Ledford said.

Marinas like Camache Cove with floating docks may be more fortunate than others with fixed docks, since the docks and the boats moored to them will rise with storm-surge waters.

But only to a point. If the storm surge and high tides raise the docks too high, they'll be carried off their anchoring pilings, and the disaster will be just as great as for those vessels tied up at fixed docks.

Meanwhile, individual boaters yesterday were trying to prepare as best they could, including making last-minute purchases of equipment they hoped would help them weather the storm.

"We ran out of dock lines, anchors and batteries yesterday ÃMonday´," said assistant manager Dennis Fontinel of the West Marine store in the middle of the city's greatest concentration of marinas.

"We got in a new special shipment this morning, so we're OK now," he said, adding that like many businesses, West would probably be closed today.

Other boaters evacuating the Beaches area and elsewhere on the eastern side of the St. Johns River were taking their boats with them.

"It has looked like a boat Ãtrailer´ parade going by here," said Melinda Gallup of the Jacksonville Marine Association, whose offices are on the Arlington Expressway.

Many boat owners who couldn't take their trailerable or other small craft with them were taking the simplest precautions, such as moving their boats away from trees and filling their hulls with water to weigh them down in case of high winds.