Some sailors think any day is good boating weather – after all, the fishing’s often better in rough water. Here are some boating safety tips to help you stay afloat when a storm hits.
Stow everything. Loose objects will quickly become debris flying around the boat and possibly damage it, injure someone or end up overboard:
- Safety equipment, binoculars, a torch and phone should be secured close at hand.
- Check that the load is balanced in the hold.
- Secure ropes, sails and hooks to prevent them coming loose.
Speed up or slow down?
The sea conditions will dictate the speed you should run. A choppy sea is best tackled with more speed. If your boat has a planing hull, use it.
Take a rough sea with large waves more slowly so you have time to react. Adjust the throttle when ascending and descending each wave, to avoid taking on water.
No matter what the weather, always be aware of your position, currents and the location of any reefs, shoals or other features that could impact your safety.
- Avoid crossing a bar in bad weather.
- Look ahead and around. Read the waves.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecasts so you know which way the storm is coming. It’s easier to go around a storm than through one.
- Take note of prevailing winds and use them to advantage where possible.
Work with the waves
Should you head for shore or ride it out? It depends on your position and the prevailing conditions; read the seas and act accordingly:
- Summer storms often blow over quickly so it might be best to keep the bow into the wind and slowly make headway until it passes.
- Be prepared to alter your course to take advantage of more favourable conditions.
- Tack into waves at an angle rather than going at them head first.
- Unless you’re sure you’ll stay ahead of the waves, avoid heading straight into shore; the boat could get pushed around from behind and possibly swamped.
Know your boat
How your boat handles rough weather is unique; it’s rare that two boats respond exactly the same way. Hull design has a big impact, as do load and trim.
Become familiar with your vessel. Know how it reacts in different conditions, learn the sensitivity of the throttle and how different speeds impact the boat’s behaviour.
- Make sure everyone on your boat wears a buoyancy vest or lifejacket in rough weather.
- Take extra care on wet surfaces.
- File a float plan.
- Carry plenty of fuel; navigating rough seas can chew through it.
Boating in rough water requires patience and calm. Take your time, read the situation and adjust speed constantly to help the boat handle the conditions.
Think you might need a refresher course in handling your boat? Here are some of the best courses around Australia.