It’ll happen to virtually every boater at some point. What do you do if you’re caught out on the water when a storm rolls in?
A few raindrops and a bit of chop on the water isn’t enough to deter an avid boater from heading out for a fishing tournament or crossing the bay to visit a friend’s at the cottage. Weather can turn on a dime, and when it does, it can be downright nasty. Here are eight tips to keep you safe and secure if the weather gets rough.
Life jackets are a must
Approved and certified life jackets are a piece of safety equipment that should be worn at all times in a boat, but it’s all too common for passengers not to wear them. When the waves and wind kick up, the first goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy, and every life jacket should be secured and snugged up – no exceptions.
Put on your navigation lights
When the weather gets really rough, spotting other boaters in waves, wind, and driving rain can be almost impossible. Make sure your boat is seen by donning the navigation lights, even if it’s the middle of the day. The beacon can catch someone’s eye and prevent a collision, and it’s also extremely helpful if help is coming for you.
Stabilize your boat
It’s tempting to huddle together, trying to get out of the elements. But for rough weather with rolling waves, clustering together can make the boat unstable. As well, passengers at the bow or against the port or starboard rails can fall in the waterwhen the boat teeters on a wave. Keep everyone in the midline above the keel for stability and safety.
Reduce your speed
Staying in place might seem like a good plan, but forward momentum at a slow pace will help stabilize your vessel too. But rather than trying to get up on plane, throttle up just enough to make forward movement. Going too fast could result in taking on water or capsizing when you plow into waves.
Depend on your GPS
Does your boat have a GPS-enabled chart plotter? Now’s the time to place your trust in it. Rough weather can make you confused and lose your bearings, but a GPS chart will keep you moving toward dock. Safely navigate your way following a track you’ve laid down previously, or simply locate the closest marine or bay and take shelter from the storm.
Approach waves at an angle
Your boat can get swamped or damaged by hitting large waves head-on, and you could take on gallons of water at a time if you’re getting hit by waves from the side. Approach waves at a 45-degree angle whenever possible to dampen the impact and avoid getting swamped.
Bail excess water
Inevitably, water is going to come into the boat when the weather is really rough. At 1 kilogram per litre of water, it doesn’t take very much to affect how your boat rides and handles. Keep the bilge pump engaged, or scoop excess water with a bail bucket when it’s safe to do so.
Anchor and call for help
If the weather won’t let up enough to let you get home, the safest thing could be to drop anchor and call for assistance. If you’re wearing a 1st Mate fob, send a distress message to an emergency contact who can either come to your rescue or notify authorities.
Be prepared before going out on the water
Avoid getting caught in a storm by checking the forecast and radar ahead of time. If going through bad weather is unavoidable, follow these practices to help get back to shore safely.