The weather can be unpredictable: one moment you’re out in the water enjoying a beautiful sunny day and the next, the blue skies have turned to gray and you’re now boating out in the storm. Instead of going into panic mode, stay calm and remember these six tips that should help you navigate safely in bad weather.
#1. Check local weather conditions
Before leaving, check the weather program on TV or listen to the VHF radio for any advice on incoming storms. Observing the sky and water also helps. Unexpected weather changes are something that’s out of your control and in this case, you need to be fully prepared. If in the middle of your journey you start to observe dark clouds are rolling in, do not risk operating your boat further and head back to shore instead.
#2. Marine charts should always be on your boat
There are GPS trackers, smartphones and radio stations to help spot hidden obstacles and help you get back to the shore safely. However, there can be times that technology will fail us and if that happens, marine charts always come in very handy. Information such as local hazards can all be found on them so use them.
#3. Have the proper navigation lighting equipment
In any situation when there’s reduced visibility (i.e. foggy day, between sunset and sunrise trip), you should always have an appropriate navigation lighting equipment. Below is a guide on the different navigation lights to refresh your memory.
#4. Have a trip plan
A trip plan is a document containing all the information about your journey. Leaving your trip plan to someone else you trust can save your life. In case something goes wrong, your trusted person will know what happened to you and track your whereabouts. You can post a status and update everyone about your trip on Facebook. You can also make a trip plan with Google Maps – and it’s free!
#5. Boating skills in bad weather
Your navigation skills will be tested if there’s a storm. Here are some precautions to take to avoid any boating accident.
– Wear your lifejacket – it’s an important requirement. If you have passengers, make sure each one is wearing a lifejacket as well.
– Reduce your speed and keep moving forward
– Keep the navigation lights on
– Bilges should be free of water
– Let all passengers sit on the bottom of your boat
– Keep your boat clear of loose gear
– Aim for the shore but only if you’re certain it’s safe to do so
– If returning to shore is not feasible, anchor your boat.
– Maneuver through waves at a 45-degree angle
Watch the video below on how to anchor your boat in bad weather.