As boaters, we live for sunny skies and gorgeous weather. But if you spend enough time on the water, you’ll eventually find yourself out in an unexpected storm. It’s not a matter of “if”— it’s a matter of “when.” So when the wind and waves kick up, it’s important to know what to do.
Here are a few tips to help you handle when the water turns rough.
- Check the weather. The surest way to stay safe is to avoid rough water altogether. Always check the weather forecast and water conditions before heading out. Believe it or not, some days are best spent on land.
- Have plenty of fuel. Bad conditions can slow your progress and drain your gas tank in a hurry. Even if the weather forecast looks good, make sure you have plenty of fuel before you head out.
- Don’t panic. If it’s your first time in bad weather, you might feel scared. But when people panic, they think emotionally and make bad decisions. Make sure to breathe and take a moment to assess the situation.
- Wear a lifejacket. It’s always important to wear a lifejacket. When the seas turn rough, it becomes especially important. Order everyone onboard to put one on.
- Slow down. Slowing the speed of your boat allows you time to react. It also lets you ride up and over waves rather than driving your bow into them. You don’t want to spear oncoming waves.
- Secure loose items. As rough waves knock your boat around, the last thing you need is loose objects flying around and breaking something— or hurting someone. Secure all loose objects to prevent this.
- Approach waves at an angle. To lessen their impact on your boat, approach large waves at a 45-degree angle. You may need to think like a sailboat, zigzagging with the waves toward shelter or the dock rather than driving in a straight line.