Hurricane’s Coming: Evacuation Plans for Professional Captains

We asked four professionals for their thoughts on what to do when a storm approaches.

August 11, 2020

Capt. Chris Kubik

A sport fishing captain in a captains chair.
Capt. Chris Kubik, Charter Owner/Operator, Point Runner, Nags Head, North Carolina Courtesy Capt. Chris Kubik/David Lusk

At my home port in the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, we have mandatory evacuations if a tropical storm or hurricane watch/warning is issued, so I am on the regular hurricane haul-out schedule at Spencer Yachts. The Outer Banks is a strange place for hurricanes: Sometimes they come up the sound, and sometimes they skirt off to the east. Most of the time, the meteorologists can’t figure out an exact path until about 12 hours before landfall. As the storm gets closer, I’ll make the decision to remove my enclosure and outriggers, keeping in mind that safe is always better than sorry.

Watch: A swimming Spanish mackerel is an outstanding marlin bait. Learn to rig one here.

Capt. VJ Bell

A man in sunglasses and orange shirt.
Capt. VJ Bell, Charter Captain, Unbelievable, Stuart, Florida Courtesy Capt. VJ Bell

My first choice is to haul out the boat, remove the outriggers, antennas and enclosure, then do everything possible to prevent or minimize damage to the boat itself. We had a scenario a couple of years ago where we had nowhere to haul in Stuart and ran the boat to the west coast of Florida. It worked out fine for us, but with the unpredictability of a storm’s track, that’s certainly not my ideal plan. You can only hope you don’t get a storm that stalls and sits on you like Dorian did in the Bahamas last year—then all bets are off.


Eric McDowell

A smiling man in a black shirt.
Eric McDowell, Executive Vice President, Christi Insurance Group, Ocean City, New Jersey Courtesy Eric McDowell

My first recommendation is to have a well-thought-out plan prior to hurricane season; most protected locations tend to have no availability shortly after a storm develops. Also, realize that most insurance companies do not have a strict requirement that you must adhere to your written plan. The wind strength and ­direction of a storm might cause a change in plans, and hurricanes tend to be extremely unpredictable. I usually recommend that the boat be located away from storm surge whenever possible. Most boats can withstand the wind, although I do advise removing the outriggers.

Hurricane preparations should begin well before the storm threatens your vessel. Read more here.

Capt. Brian Phillips

An older man in sunglasses, visor, and orange shirt.
Capt. Brian Phillips, Private Captain, Smooth Move, Port Aransas, Texas Courtesy Capt. Brian Phillips

Because the boatyards in my area are just a few feet above sea level, I never consider haul-out and block. Wind isn’t the issue here; it’s storm surge. Some insurance companies require you to haul out during a storm, so the yards get so packed that when one boat falls over, it creates a domino effect that I prefer not to be part of. I keep at least a half-load of fuel so I can run if I need to, usually waiting until the day before landfall to make my best guess. I can only go north or south from here; most storms tend to go north, but there are exceptions.


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