Boat dealerships face many risks in their daily operations. These risks are compounded during the Atlantic hurricane season, where unpredictable winds and tides can cause significant damage to boat inventories. Adequate preparation against storm damage is a key component of risk management, supplementing boat dealership coverage afforded by insurance policies. One area that is often overlooked in preparing boat inventories for hurricane activity is that of mooring chafing, which damages mooring lines and can result in significant damage or total loss of vessels. In this guide, we will explore best practices to prevent mooring chafing, helping to protect valuable watercraft inventories at boat dealerships.

Chafing: An Overview

When severe storms approach the coastline, seasoned boat owners and boat dealership personnel know that securing vessels against wind and waves is critical. Typically, boats are moored using single or tandem lines; in hurricane conditions, these lines are often doubled or tripled. No matter how strong the mooring line, high winds and waves can cause these lines to become damaged through chafing, or rubbing against structures like boat railings, pilings, or docks. If chafing is severe enough, the mooring line or lines can separate, freeing the vessel.

The mechanics of chafing are fascinating; as mooring lines rub against structures, internal heat can build up, eventually causing breakage of the inner strands. The constant stretching and relaxing of lines in heavy winds can also cause friction, resulting in damage to the lines. When examined, failed mooring lines may exhibit small lumps or fused portions of the separated inner strands, showing evidence of heat sufficient enough to melt the nylon material.

Damage or Loss of Vessels Due to Chafing

Anyone who has filed a boat dealership coverage claim knows that storms can cause devastation to property, including boats. One single instance in a New Jersey marina saw gale-force winds cause the sinking of seven vessels and an additional grounding of eight more boats. In all but one of the damaged vessels, chafed mooring lines were pinpointed as the culprits. Losses of these vessels and the repair needed to correct damage cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hurricanes along the Eastern Seaboard have resulted in hundreds of lost vessels over the past two decades, costing boat owners and boat dealers millions of dollars in losses. When a boat dealership faces similar weather conditions, expensive vessel inventories are at stake, potentially straining even the most robust boat dealership coverage.

Protecting Mooring Lines from Chafing

The most common mooring line, sometimes referred to as a mooring pennant, is a nylon rope. Nylon is chosen because it has a small amount of natural stretch, reducing the strain on boats as they move in wind and tides. To protect against chafing, sections of tubing are often placed over portions of the pennant or mooring lines where the line may come into contact with the vessel or dock itself.

Preventing against mooring chafe requires a multi-step strategy. For boat dealerships with wet slips or anchored vessels in marinas, this should be considered an essential part of hurricane preparation. The first step is to address anchors used for mooring. Anchors that sit on the bottom can be dragged in high winds; a better choice is an anchoring system known as a helix, which can be screwed into the bottom of the marina’s harbor. Another mooring innovation is called the Hazelette pennant, which absorbs shock without excessive buildup of friction heat. Combined with a fixed anchor, a mooring pennant like the Hazelette can provide rock-solid defenses against high winds and storm surges.

Next, choosing line material for mooring can make a difference. Nylon lines, while shock-absorbent, may not always be the best choice. Nylon lines are susceptible to heat damage through stretch and chafing. Polyester or advanced aramid lines like Dyneema are a better choice; these lines do not stretch as much as nylon, but are more resistant to failure.

Finally, lines should be protected from chafing through the use of coverings. Soft PVC tubing or sections of garden hose are commonly used, but these can trap friction heat in the lines. A traditional covering for lines was made from leather; this material has fallen out of favor and has been replaced by a marine canvas-like line wrap made from polyester or aramid fibers. With adequate protection, mooring lines can withstand tremendous abuse while protecting boats from damage or loss. Boat dealership coverage supplies peace of mind when dealers are facing hurricane risks. However, with the above mooring tips, this valuable protection is supplemented by techniques to ensure your inventory can weather any storm.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.