Monday, March 20, 2006

Boating Tip: Roughing Out Bad Weather

Being on a boat in bad weather is the last place you want to be. Every boater knows that he needs to check weather conditions before leaving the dock, but despite our best radar and satellite technologies, weather forecasts from time to time still get it wrong.

Having travelled by boat in the Pacific for almost a decade plus a few years in the Atlantic side, I have some lessons to share about bad weather. In fact, I experienced my first severe weather by ship when I was 5 years old. Seeing waves reach the third deck, and hearing of other ships sinking definitely etches that experience as a permanent childhood memory.

Modern boats are designed to withstand heavy waves. In most occasions, you can safely bring the boat home as long as you know what you're doing. Incidents that involve the boat being tipped over or capsized are usually the result of the operator far more than the result of the boat's structural integrity.

So here's some tips on helping you survive severe weather:

1. Start praying. Pray that you and the people with you live another day.

2. Put on your life jackets now!

3. Chart your course to the nearest shore or dock. Do NOT attempt to reach your
original marina if there's a place to dock significantly closer.

4. Make sure your distress signals are ready such as flares, and that the VHF radio is set to channel 16. Other boaters may have problems (ie: engine issues) and you may be the closest one that can help. The Coast Guard often gives weather advisories on channel 16 as well.

5. Stow and secure all belongings. The weight of your belongings and the weight of your passengers is especially important to smaller crafts -- make sure it's balanced.

6. Close all hatches, doors, and panels. Don't invite water in.

7. Keep a sharp lookout. Watch out for other boaters and obstruction.

8. Head into the wind and approach waves at a 45 degree angle to reduce stress and better control.

9. If there is lightning, make sure everyone avoids electrical and ungrounded components.

10. Watch your speed and adjust as necessary. Find the right balance between being bounced around and having control.

I hope you never have to use these tips...

~Capt. Don Sausa

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