Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat House

Hiding a boat in the rafters offers maximum hurricane protection.

Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat House
Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat HouseCapt. Dave Lear

Even though he’s a doctor and avid angler, Fred Vial still knows how to throw a curveball. When he called for an insurance quote on his Calcutta 360 catamaran, the agent asked about hurricane contingency plans, since the boat would be kept at the family’s Grand Isle fish camp in southern Louisiana. Vial’s explanation took several minutes to sink in.

“I told her we’d lift the boat up into the roof of the house, lock the door and hightail it north,” Vial recalls with a laugh. “It took awhile to describe exactly what we did and why it was the ideal solution for storm protection. She wrote the policy after that.”

Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat House
Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat HouseCapt. Dave Lear

The “camp” is a modern vacation home located on stilts above a canal on the remote barrier island. It was designed for winds up to 150 mph. The slip for the Calcutta is equipped with a 44,000-pound lift and waterproof decking. It hoists the catamaran 18 feet up into the pitched roof’s rafters. The decking fits snugly to the floor of the home, sealing it off to thwart damaging winds and storm surge. A smaller companion lift holds a bay boat alongside.

Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat House
Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat HouseCapt. Dave Lear

“My nephew Chris Benson, who fishes with me, looked at the original design and came up with this final arrangement,” Vial says. “It also opened up more floor space for another bedroom and storage. Then we just had to engineer the dry docks.”

Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat House
Building a Hurricane-Proof Boat HouseCapt. Dave Lear

The extra benefits of the total enclosure include no harmful ultraviolet rays, easier maintenance and cleaning, and prolonged boat life. But Vial is mainly relieved he doesn’t have to race to Grand Isle with every approaching storm and then run the boat north to get out of harm’s way.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to test it,” he adds. “Up to a Category 2 storm, it won’t impact the boat at all. If there’s a direct hit from a Cat 4 or 5, the storm surge will be 22 feet-plus. If that’s the case, Grand Isle may not even exist afterward, so the boat will be the least of my worries.”

Prepare Your Boat for Hurricane Season: Hurricane Preparedness Guide