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Staying Safe on the Water

Posted by Gary Pickering on September 13, 2011 at 7:55 AM

Nobody knows when severe weather is going to occur, no matter if it is high winds and rain or something more severe such as lightning or tornadoes. Being prepared for these events can help you have peace of mind not only for you but your family’s safety as well. Having a boat does require some care, and knowing what to do in the event that bad weather occurs is a must. Each boat and situation may be different, but there are some basic guidelines that can be used by all boat owners in the various weather related conditions.

Keeping your boat in good repair goes a long way in helping when things are not ideal on the water. Always be alert for changes in weather conditions. It is easy to not think about this when it is a beautiful day and you are out fishing or sailing but weather conditions can change rapidly.Be sure that you have items that are required by law when going out on your boat including first aid kits, radio, and life preservers that are all Coast Guard approved.

Not only will these come in handy while on the water, they can mean the difference in life or death situations should it come to such extremes. First aid kits carrying the USCG seal of approval will typically include several standard items. The trouble with this is that you must know how to properly handle medical issues while on board. There are several very good manuals and how-to-guides available that can be of great benefit here.

If you are out on the water when severe weather hits slow the boat down as quickly and safely as possible, keeping just enough power to maintain headway and steering. Stow away any unneeded gear that could possibly get in the way and turn on your boat’s lights. If the rain is coming down very heavy and winds are high you want to be prepared to remove water by bailing if necessary. Close all windows doors and hatches to help keep the boat from swamping from taking on more water than the bilge pumps can handle.

Lightning can be very dangerous part of severe storms especially when on the water. The danger of electrocution is real and is something that should be taken very seriously. Disconnect all electrical equipment. Have everyone on the boat to stay as far away as possible from all metal objects. One way to do this is to have any passengers sit on the boat floor close to the centerline. This not only helps to keep them as far as possible from metal but helps to add a degree of stability to the boat as well. Have everyone check their life jackets to be sure they are fastened correctly.

If you see or know a severe storm is coming and it is possible, then try to head for the nearest shore you can approach safely. Heading the bow of the boat into the waves at a 45-degree angle is the safest way to proceed to the shore. This will help you to avoid having your boat get swamped by the waves as much as possible. For those riding PWCs, make sure that you head directly into the waves since these crafts are designed to handle such use. No matter what, PWC users should head for shore at the first sign of bad weather since there is no safe place for the rider on the craft itself.

This is not an all-inclusive list of what you should do when severe weather occurs when you are boating, but it is some basic steps that you should always follow. It is always best to check with your local area to see what the guidelines covering bad weather may be. Boating is a fun and exciting activity that you want to keep that way, but like most activities being prepared for emergencies is always a must. Keeping your boat well maintained and ready for whatever happens will give you peace of mind.


Categories: General

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