Summer brings with it blue skies, high temperatures, and the urge to get your vessel out on the water. Unfortunately, spring also brings the threat of inclement weather, which can mean a potential disaster for you and your boat. Avoidance is your best bet, so you should always exercise caution by watching the local marine forecast before heading out. However, summer storms are often unpredictable, and you may find yourself caught in a rogue storm. In addition to the apparent protection afforded by proper boat insurance, there are several steps you can take to avoid the catastrophic damage to life and property that can occur as a result of severe weather on the water.
Secure the Ship
If you find yourself caught in a storm, your biggest concerns are high winds, low visibility, and, if you’re on the ocean, rapidly mounting waves. Most important in this situation is to remain calm. Have everyone on board dress warmly and wear life jackets. If you have a lower deck, send everyone down. Passengers on an open vessel should sit near the center line as low as possible in the boat’s bottom. To decrease the amount of water taken on board, close all doors, windows, hatches, and watertight compartments.
Get to Shore
Your safest option is to get to a dock as quickly as possible, but be sure you slow down enough to match your boat’s speed to that of the waves and keep the boat angled at 45-degrees to the wind. In most thunderstorms, winds blow outward from the section with the heaviest rain. As the storm gets closer, the winds will come straight at you, and as it passes, they will reverse direction. If you cannot reach a dock, you might consider an island or peninsula as shelter, depending on the water depth and shoreline conditions. If the situation is life-threatening, you should always prioritize the safety of your passengers, regardless of potential damage to the boat – that’s what boat insurance is for!
Ride it Out
If you are unable to reach the shore, follow these guidelines for safe boat handling in bad weather:
- Turn on navigation lights.
- Secure gear, stowing small items, and lashing down larger ones.
- Gather and prepare emergency equipment: first aid supplies, bailers, hand pumps, signaling devices, etc.
- Eliminate sloshing water by pumping bilges as necessary.
- Prepare life rafts and stock them with emergency supplies.
- Monitor the marine VHF radio for weather updates and distress calls from other vessels.
- Prepare your anchor, but don’t anchor the boat unless you have lost all visibility or are in danger of drifting into something.
- Review procedures for abandoning ship. If it comes to that, send a Mayday to Coast Guard Search and Rescue using the marine VHF-FM radio.
Ensuring the safety of life and property on the water comes down to planning and preparation. Ensure you are equipped not only with boat insurance, but with the knowledge and skills to handle your vehicle safely if you are caught out in an unexpected storm.
About Byrnes Agency
At Byrnes Agency, we offer insurance solutions that can be tailored to meet your specific needs. Whether you’re looking for personal policies or commercial coverage, we have the right coverage for you. To learn more about our products, contact us today at one of our two locations.
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