A crucial component of learning how to operate a boat effectively is mastering the ability to read the weather. Several things can go wrong when you’re out in the middle of the water while a storm is brewing.
Thus, all good boaters need to watch the weather report and prepare before anchors up. However, if navigating the storm is unavoidable, knowing the best tips for boating safely in inclement weather ensures that you’ll reach the shoreline in one piece.
Prepare for the Worst
Having essential equipment onboard is vital for everyone’s safety. While some items are optional, the U.S. Coast Guard lists required items that all personal watercraft (PWC) must carry. Regardless of the sunny and clear skies, every PWC needs a life jacket. It’s remarkable how many sad incidents were avoidable if people wore life vests.
Additionally, every boater needs to have the necessary equipment to communicate effectively in an emergency. That includes verbal communication devices like a VHF-FM radio, considering cell phones don’t always have a signal. If you plan to travel over 25 nautical miles offshore, it’s advantageous to have a satellite phone.
Other tools that help you communicate are your nautical flags. If verbal communication isn’t working, nautical flags can relay what is happening to first responders.
Lastly, one thing you should do that you won’t be bringing along with you is a float plan. Filing a float plan helps the Coast Guard, friends, and family find you if something goes awry. It provides them with the precise location of where you are traveling.
Noticeable Signs of Changing Weather
Some red flags happen that hint as to what’s to come. Even if you followed the weather report to a T and expect safe travels, the weather may still change dramatically within a blink of an eye. If there is a sudden drop in temperature, something nasty is likely coming, especially if it includes strong gusts and flashes from miles away. If you notice that your AM radio is putting out static, it’s time to batten down the hatches.
Operating in the Storm
Being in the storm’s center can be scary, but it is manageable. Choppy waters require you to operate at a 45-degree angle so your vessel can take the brunt of the impact. Immediately reduce your speed, but don’t cut it so much that you don’t have any power. Don’t forget to turn on your lights to make yourself visible to other boaters and emergency crews. Finally, anchor the boat if you cannot maneuver the vessel and hunker down.
Ideally, the only tips you need to follow for boating safely in inclement weather involve preparation. You never see the wrath of a thunderstorm in the water, and it’s worth avoiding at all costs. If you prepare, you will know what to do if the time does come.