Strapping saves

Tessa Buechler

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Hurricane Ian teaches boaters valuable lesson

We didn’t expect a hurricane forecast to hit the Florida panhandle or Tampa to slam Cape Coral as a Category 5, but Mother Nature has a mind of her own.

Before the storm, we considered boat insurance to be for accidents, on-the-water collisions and towing. Hurricane Ian taught us about the salvage, rescue and dock waiver clauses that would become so important to us.

Our boat was one of the lucky ones. After the storm, we found the 23-foot Key West dislodged from the lift—the boat’s canopy was gone, the lift frame had collapsed and the lift motor beams had fallen on the boat.

Despite all this, it remained strapped in and suspended on the lift, and we believe the strapping saved our boat.

The water level and wind eventually floated and pushed the boat sideways on the lift, snapping the motor cables toward the sea wall. The boat was jammed in and going nowhere. The dock, the decking and the pilings all stood firm.

After numerous phone calls, we learned we would need a salvage and towing company to cut out and float the boat. The lift was going to be toast. After more calls, we found and contracted with Flagship Towing.

The tugboat arrived after a long, slow ride up the spreader canal. Two or three hours later, the towing company lifted the boat and moved it back onto the lift using two heavy-duty chainsaws, numerous ratchet straps and a diver in the canal to check around the vessel. When the workers released the final strap from the bow, the boat slid off the lift into the canal with grace and dignity, like the launching of the Queen Elizabeth 2. Luckily, we could temporarily tie it up to our cantilever dock. On closer inspection, the damage looked superficial. The T-top wasn’t even bent.

The next challenge—finding a vacant lift in Cape Coral to move and store the boat—surprisingly didn’t take long to complete.

We want to thank several squadron members who stepped up to help us through this process: Commander Scott Steele for helping find a vacant lift; Scott and Dani Fergen for offering a lead; Gerry and Janine Whistler for asking their neighbor if his lift was available; and Scott and Larry Rich for taking the boat out on the water to the new lift location—many thanks to everyone for their thoughts, effort, time and kindness.

Lessons learned: Strapping can save your boat, and check your insurance policy to be sure your dock and lift are covered.

This article originally appeared in The Buoys newsletter of America’s Boating Club Cape Coral.

Tessa Buechler

Tessa Buechler moved with husband Craig to Cape Coral, Florida, in 2018. They became boat owners in 2019 and joined Cape Coral Sail & Power Squadron/22 in July 2019 after taking an America’s Boating Club class. They are actively involved in the Cooperative Charting and Vessel Safety Check programs, and they regularly contribute to their squadron newsletter. After Hurricane Ian, they are still in recovery mode. The dock and lift have been repaired, and the new canopy arrived in mid-December.

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The Ensign magazine is an official channel of United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, a volunteer organization whose members teach boating skills and best practices to help improve the safety of our nation’s waterways. Learn more.

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