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Boating: Hurricane preparedness not for sissies

August 7, 2012
By boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

I just came back from the West Marine Super Store grand opening over on Daniels Parkway. I was reminded of my days as the 'Bosun's Locker' department head at BoatUS way back in the late '80's. Our store on McGregor and College had an enormous staff by today's West Marine standards. I took the job for the benefits. Yes, I said benefits! BoatUS gave benefits to all their employees after a waiting period but since I was hired as a department head I got them immediately.

That is the difference between a non-profit membership organization and a for-profit publicly held entity. Our customers were 'members' and we specialized in member's services. We opened the store with an assistant manager, a member service specialist, three department heads, one of which was the electronics guru, a cashier and a full time warehouse person. Everybody unloaded the weekly truck but the member services desk had to be manned at all times.

Over my 2- years there I took the Bosun's Locker from a small corner of the big store to almost half the store. I increased bottom paint sales by ten-fold through a little trickery and the sleepy little Fort Myers grew to be one of the top three stores because the staff was so knowledgeable. There was no problem we couldn't solve or at least that was our attitude because the member was always right. Our member services rep, Oscar, would spend hours on the phone tracking obscure parts for items we didn't sell because it was for a member.

I held three Saturday morning 'Hurricane Preparedness" group discussions which were very well attended not because of me but there was usually a storm somewhere in the Gulf. I learned more on what to do if the 'Cane was coming our way from the long-time residents who attended. They came to find out if there was anything new, which there wasn't, but they pitched right in with the common sense preparations that served them well. "Get your boat out of harms way," was what most of them said. Great advice if you had somewhere to go. There were more options back then for the big boats because there were more undeveloped hideaways.

Owners could run their boats up the river to an oxbow and hide. It was recommended to triple tie the stern to the mangroves and set two anchors off the bow. Sadly, most of those hidey-holes have been developed and the 'associations' won't let you tie off to anything. Back then another option was to have the boat hauled out and blocked on 'the hard' by one of the 11 boat yards with travel lifts. I think half of them are gone. Running up to La Belle was another option, if the Franklin Locks were open. Periodically they close for maintenance. At the moment they open on the odd hours only to help minimize the phosphate pollution out of the Caloosahatchee River.

As I write this I am keeping one eye on the three areas of potential Hurricane development. Tropical Storm Ernesto, Tropical Depression Six and an area of low pressure between the Keys and Nassau in the Bahamas. Never too early to prepare so the dock lines were being snatched up at the West Marine Super Store mostly because they were on sale, but I overheard several people talking about Ernesto.

"Well what are we going to do," asked Ohio Bob via text message from Ohio. "Get on an airplane and get yourself down here," I replied but I didn't really expect him to do that because he was having too good a time on and around Putin' Bay. As I expected, he was unable to break away, but he was counting on a little help from his fellow "Dead End Canal Yacht Club-ers." I agreed to take his pontoon boat to a local dry stack marina if Ernesto was 'our' storm.

While I was fishing for mullet from my dock, I noticed 'Nu Joisey Norm' was on his boat. "When did you get down," I asked. "Last night and I'm pretty much finished," he said as he climbed down off his boat. "You wouldn't have a spare length of three-quarter inch dock line?"

"Sorry, I don't and I believe that size line is a little large for your boat. It looks like a giant bird's nest sitting on your boat lift now, Norm," I said. There is such a thing as overdoing it. He wouldn't be convinced so off he went to West Marine for more line.

I don't blame him because there is a bit of panic felt by newcomers whenever a 'Cane is near but a watchful eye on Monday morning showed Ernesto had taken a westerly track which will take it into Belize and Mexico. "I feel like a fool," said Norm as he watched the 'Shutter's R Us' guys put up his shutters.

"Just leave 'em up until you guys come down in October, but get that duct tape off your boat before you leave for Jersey," advised Boston Bob.

"Be prepared for your house and boat but don't overreact. Ernie was the fifth named storm and Florence the sixth but despite her weakening there will be more storms this season. Keep the shutters up until your safe, and we'll give you our opinion but always check the National Hurricane Service for tropical updates."

Boatguy Ed is a marine manufacturer of the best anti-fouling bottom paint, Super Shipbottom. Also an avid boater and past Commodore of the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club', contact him via facebook or or



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