Safety at Sea

5 Safe Boat Handling Tips for Bad Weather

Calm seas and winds are certain to mean enjoyable fishing, wakeboarding, power boating, etc.

Bad Weather Boating

A light chop and fresh breeze is practical for an invigorating windsurfing or sailing adventure. But extreme weather with lightning, torrential downpours, gusty winds, or dark clouds are certain to go against a captains wish.

Below are five tips to stay safe on a sail or power boat trip:

1 – Plan ahead

Plan ahead and listen out for local weather forecasts. Use a 3-5 day outlook to help determine the weather for the planned adventure. Use NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or a similar service to determine whether or not it is practical to venture out to sea.

Listen out for storm or gale warnings, small craft advisories, or small boat cautionary statements in the forecast. Most of these services can give a reliable indication on high waves or winds that might occur within the next 24 hour period.

2 – Radio Tips

Use a VHF transceiver that is built to accept the NOAA weather radio stations. This type of VHF radio is readily available and makes it easy to stay in touch with the constant changes in weather. But, the quality of reception will vary significantly with the transmitter and location. An average distance is in the region of 25-40 miles. If planning on cruising beyond that distance, a high-quality HF transceiver (single sideband) might be a practical addition to the boat. The price for an HF transceiver is a lot more, but this piece of equipment should give the desired piece of mind that the property and life are better protected

3 – Stay alert

Because the weather can change without a moments notice it benefits to stay tuned into a weather station like the NOAA for the duration of the trip. Early notification of changes heading in your direction makes it easy to take the required action to protect the passengers and property.

Signs of an approaching storm consist of:

  • Lightning flashes
  • Increase in sea or wind speed
  • Threatening, dark clouds that could indicate a thunderstorm or squall
  • An AM radio experiencing heavy static might indicate a local thunderstorm

Head to shore if a thunderstorm might be approaching and get on land and under shelter as soon as possible. If afloat throughout a thunderstorm the lightning and gusty winds have the potential to impact safety. Put on life jackets and get prepared for the difficult seas. Plus, wait out the storm below deck.

4 – Seamanship

Should a thunderstorm of similar hazard appear out of nowhere within a short time-frame, a captain with good seamanship is certain to be more effective at helming the boat in these conditions. A seasoned skipper will have a broad understanding and skills to helm the vessel in many difficult situations. Plus, an experienced skipper will have knowledge of geography, water, and wind speeds. This type of knowledge is gained from actual boating experience or to a lesser extent in a classroom environment. A boat should be well prepared to handle any sudden change in condition. Safety equipment (life jackets, ropes, anchors, etc.) can be kept ready and available for immediate deployment.

5 – Weather broadcasts

  • Coast Guard NAVTEX (518 kHz)
  • Coast Guard VHF(Channel 22A)(157.1 MHz)
  • Commercial AM and FM Radio Stations
  • NOAA Weather Radio (162.400 MHz)
  • National Institute (2.5 MHz)
  • Standards and Technology (5 MHz)
  • Stations WWV and WWVH (15 MHz)