Boat Owners Prepare For Lili

Boat owners at the Gulfport Harbor spent much of Wednesday preparing for the impact of Hurricane Lili.

Just a week after weathering Tropical Storm Isidore, they're going through the familiar drill again.

The uncertainty of Tropical Storm Isidore last week prompted the vast majority of boaters to seek safe harbor elsewhere.

It's a somewhat different story with Lili.

"I don't think it's going to be as bad as it was last week, so we're just going to ride it out here," said Gerry Tootle as he secured his 43 foot sail boat.

Tootle moved to safer waters in advance of Isidore. This time, he's joining others in tying down and taking a chance.

"The biggest fear tied up and in close quarters is rising water and then getting pushed over on the finger pier or something. But I'll be up all night adjusting lines," he said.

Some say knowing how to tie those lines can mean the difference between safely riding the storm out or ruining a boat.

Bob Betcher made sure his friend's boat was tied down securely.

"We spring line it from front to back and back to front. That makes a cradle and it rides up and down. It can't go forward. It can't go sideways," Betcher said.

Bill Cleland is prepared to tie down and ride the storm out. He recently sailed around the world. His 42 footer withstood hurricane force winds and 50 foot waves.

Before Isidore hit last week, about 80 percent of the boat owners at the Gulfport Harbor moved their vessels to safer waters. This time around, in advance of Lili, only about 60 percent are evacuating the harbor. And that concerns the harbormaster.

"Our fear is that a boat will break away and damage the pier or damage other boats. The biggest problem is those people that came back prematurely. We knew there was another hurricane coming and those people that took the chance and came back prematurely are the ones that are reluctant to leave again," said Harbormaster D.J. Ziegler.

Whether they stay or leave, boat owners agree on one thing.

"You just have to respect Mother Nature and the water and do what she says," said Gerry Tootle.