Avoiding Thunderstorms While Boating

One of the most serious dangers posed to the recreational boater is the thunderstorm. Boaters need to learn to anticipate and react to storms, so that they can preserve the safety of themselves and their passengers. Boaters are especially vulnerable to storms because so much recreational boating is done during the summer months, when violent storms can arise quickly.

Thankfully, technological advances have made avoiding dangerous thunderstorms easy with a little foresight and preparation. Before taking a boat any considerable distance away from shore, one should always check a local weather forecast. In many places, the local forecast will include information specifically for boaters. Also, many boats are now equipped with VHF radio, on which there are usually frequent local weather reports. Some of the most pertinent information for boaters is temperature, wind direction, wind speed, wave height, tide schedule, and barometric pressure. Every boater should learn to use this information to determine whether a planned boating trip is advisable.

Besides these traditional sources of weather information, there are other ways for boaters to stay apprised of potential storms. Many recreational bodies of water will be close enough to land to maintain cellular phone transmission, so bringing along a phone is a good way to find out the forecast. Also, many boats are equipped with an AM/FM radio, which can be used to receive local weather forecasts. Before you head out onto the water, you should make sure that you have some means of acquiring weather information.

If for some reason all of the above means of communication are unavailable, there are still ways to predict the approach of a storm. As the aphorism says, there is usually a period of calm before a storm. Also, if you are boating in the morning, a reddish-colored sky may indicate the possibility of thunderstorms. Finally, the approach of a thunderstorm will usually be accompanied by a general increase in the amount of electricity in the air. If you are out on the water and you notice that the hair on your head or your arms is standing on end, a storm may be approaching.

Following the above guidelines, you should be able to avoid most storms. In the event, however, that you are caught off-guard or cannot get back to shore in time, make sure that everyone on the boat is wearing an appropriate personal flotation device. Then, slow the boat down and direct it such that the bow is at a slight angle to the waves. Everyone on board should stay low and in the middle of the boat, as this will reduce the severity of any leaning. Finally, if you believe that the boat is drifting dangerously fast due to severe wind or current, drop a sea anchor or bucket to create some natural drag. In general, try to remain calm and move slowly towards the closest safe harbor or lee shore.


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Jet Ski Accidents
Jet Ski Safety
Jet Ski Injuries
Boat Safety Checks
Boat Trailer Safety Tips
Water Skiing Safety Tips
Jones Act
Pleasure Boat Accidents
Fishing accidents
Offshore Accidents
Avoiding Thunderstorms While Boating
The Basics of Lifejackets
The Right of Way in Boating
Using an Anchor in a Shifting Current or Wind
Emergency Communications While Boating
Boating and Hypothermia
Boating and the Heimlich Maneuver
Water Safety and Boating Safety Courses