Responsible boaters check weather conditions before venturing out but there are times when bad weather surfaces out of the blue.  There are things you can do to assure that you and your passengers stay safe.  If you do find yourself heading into a bad storm you need to assess your situation and figure out where it is coming from. Then look to see where you can go for safety and if you can get there in time.

The main thing you must do is avoid being in a situation where you cannot see the shore, shallow water or land directly downwind of you. You won’t drown in shallow water.  See if you can get there as quickly as possible.  Also, try to avoid danger downwind. You do not want a navigational hazard on one side and wind on the other. Find protection from the wind and waves.  If you can’t get to shore, open, deep waters may be your best bet.  Wind and waves can rapidly turn shallow areas or narrow channels into a more dangerous place than open water, especially if the storm will be short-lived and it’s mostly a matter of waiting it out. Waves become steeper and more likely to break in shallow areas, making it difficult to control the boat. Consider the risks if your engine were to die and the wind rapidly blow you onto the rocks or other obstructions. If the wind is blowing toward shore, it can also be risky to attempt to anchor, because the boat may go aground if the anchor drags – and it is difficult and sometimes dangerous to try to reset an anchor in storm conditions. You may have better options staying in open water and riding out the storm.

Watch the sky.  Be alert to wind changes. Thunderstorms and squalls generally show up on radar allowing you to predict more accurately.  Take all weather changes seriously.  As you get closer to shore, Smart Phones will give you current storm and wind conditions. Remember, your first priority should be to protect yourself and passengers. Be sure you have the safety gear and that it is the correct gear.  Harnesses and tethers will keep you on the boat.

Sources: ” Is There Anywhere Safe for a Boater to Be in a Bad Storm?” Discover,Web. 12 Nov. 2012. – “Heavy Weather Sailing.” Sailing. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

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