Tips for Handling Rough Weather Conditions on a Boat
Weather conditions aren’t always predictable, and when you’re out on a boat, bad weather can sneak up on you quickly. When bad weather creeps up on you out on the water, things can get uncomfortable in a hurry.
And while you may not be in immediate danger, your passengers might begin to panic, especially if they don’t have a lot of experience on a boat. If you get caught in bad weather while you’re out boating, here are some simple tips to keep in mind.
Know the Signs of Impending Bad Weather
What are some telltale signs that bad weather is coming? First, you’ll feel the wind picking up. Once you get those 20-25 MPH gusts, take it as a sign that something bad might be coming your way.
Next, is the water getting rough? Well, that doesn’t always mean that bad weather is coming, but it’s a clue. A spray blowing back into your boat as you ride over whitecaps is a pretty good sign you’re in for a rough ride.
Next, you need to decide where to get to for safety. There might be someplace closer than your original destination like a marina or cove that could make for a safer alternative until the weather passes. When making your way to safety, know which way the wind is blowing. You don’t want to run in a crosswind on a small vessel in bad weather.
Instead, you want to head either upwind or downwind. If you’re heading downwind, trim up the motor(s) a bit, and try to match or ride faster than the waves coming at you from behind. The trick is holding a heading that matches the direction of the waves and keeping your boat’s speed up. If the waves overtake your boat, they can turn and flip it if they’re strong enough.
If you’re headed upwind, trim down and take it slow. You want to run straight into the waves in this case and take your time, keeping your boat perpendicular to the wave travel.
What if the Weather Becomes Insurmountable?
If things get really dicey and you can’t continue, use distress channel 16 to issue a “Pan-Pan,” letting anyone listening know that you have an urgent situation that’s not life threatening.
However, if your boat is sinking, use “Mayday” instead. Make sure you radio your coordinates, the color and type of boat you have, and the total number of people on board.