you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

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Boating in a storm is extremely risky. Some storms, such as hurricanes, allow plenty of time to prepare. Others are not so predictable. Large waves can send passengers overboard, and any storm that produces thunder can result in lightning. Boating in these conditions can easily lead to trouble. In fact, the odds of your power boat being struck by lightning are about 1 in 600, and according to the US Coast Guard, bad weather is responsible for hundreds of boating accidents each year.

Haze can obscure storm clouds, making them practically invisible until you’re close and requiring you to act fast to get to safety. With these boating safety tips, you’ll be prepared for the worst.

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you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?
you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

If you are caught in severe weather, prepare your boat and your passengers.

  • To prepare the boat to handle severe weather:
    • Slow down, but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
    • Close all hatches, windows, and doors to reduce the chance of swamping.
    • Stow any unnecessary gear.
    • Turn on your boat’s navigation lights. If there is fog, sound your fog horn as instructed in Unit 2.
    • Keep bilges free of water. Be prepared to remove water by bailing.
    • If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.
  • To prepare your passengers for severe weather:
    • Have everyone put on a USCG–approved PFD. If a PFD is already on, make sure it is secured properly.
    • Have your passengers sit on the vessel floor close to the centerline. This is for their safety and to make the boat more stable.
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If you are caught in severe weather, decide whether to go to shore or ride out the storm.

  • If possible, head for the nearest shore or harbour that is safe to approach. or If already caught in a storm, it may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach a shore or harbour in heavy wind and high waves.
  • Head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. PWCs should head directly into the waves.
  • Keep a sharp lookout for other boats, debris, shoals, or stumps. Take action as necessary to avoid a risk of collision.
  • If the engine stops, drop a “sea anchor” on a line off the bow to keep the bow headed into the wind and reduce drifting while you ride out the storm. In an emergency, a bucket will work as a sea anchor. Without power, a powerboat usually will turn its stern to the waves and could be swamped more easily.
  • If the sea anchor is not sufficient, anchor using your conventional anchor to avoid drifting into dangerous areas.
you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?
you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

Recommended Equipment for Boating in a Storm

Having some gear on board regardless of the weather forecast means that you’ll have less to think about when prepping for future trips, and you’ll be prepared for non-weather-related emergencies. Win-win.

In addition to your legally required life jackets, there are 3 storm safety essentials: harnesses, a first aid kit, and a VHF radio.

First Aid: Marine first aids kits are a bit different from your standard at-home kits in that they usually come in a waterproof carrier and may have supplies for more serious wounds. Some will include additional gear such as flares and whistles, which could prove necessary if you’re caught in a storm and need help.

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Harnesses: Keep these at the ready to secure yourself and passengers. Some life jackets come with them attached, but not all. Harnesses will keep everyone securely on board in the face of large waves.

VHF Radio: “Do I need a VHF Radio on my boat?” It’s a common question in a world of cellphones. To keep it short and sweet, yes. Despite how impressive smartphone tech has gotten, VHF radios beat them with 3 key characteristics: they’re waterproof, have a longer battery life, and can operate without a network. But, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice smart technology– Smart VHF marine radios have hit the market, with advanced capabilities and a user-friendly design.

Additionally, consider investing in a lightning grounding protection system if your boat doesn’t have one. Most smaller boats are made of fiberglass or wood and don’t give lightning a ground, meaning that when lightning strikes, there isn’t a clear path to the surface of the water for the electricity to travel. It therefore “jumps” around the boat, destroying essential (and expensive) electronics, rendering engines unusable, putting holes in the hull, and occasionally causing injury or death.

you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?
you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

Check the Weather

We’ll admit this may be an obvious one, but it’s important. Checking the marine weather forecast before heading out is the best way to avoid inclement or downright dangerous weather. For information about major weather events, doppler radars, and general warnings for your region, the National Weather Service offers a reference. There are 6 terms you should look out for:

Small Craft Advisory: This indicates a forecast for winds of 18 to 33 knots. Generally, this warning indicates poor conditions for boaters with smaller vessels.

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Gale Warning: This indicates a forecast for winds off 34 to 47 knots.

Storm Warning: This indicates a forecast for winds of 48 knots or more.

Tropical Storm Warning: If winds are predicted to reach 34 to 64 knots due to a tropical storm, this warning will be issued.

Hurricane Warning: Similar to the tropical storm warning, a hurricane warning is observed if winds are predicted to reach 64 knots or more due to a hurricane.

Special Marine Warning: This type of warning is issued if a short-term storm with winds over

you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?
you are caught in a severe storm in your boat. what should you do?

Once you’re on the water, NOAA broadcasts are your best bet. Their continuous broadcasts include information about the wind speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity, wave conditions, barometric pressure, and more. The broadcasts are local and generally will reach 20 to 40 miles.

NOAA broadcasts operate on three frequencies: 162.400 MHz, 162.475 MHz, and 162.550 MHz. Keep the radio set to one of these channels for updates.

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