If there is one thing all boaters have in common, it’s the love for being out in the open seas when the weather is warm and the waters are calm. However, eventually, you will get caught out in rough weather with strong winds and a sea that seems to be reaching out to the heavens.
It is not every day that the weather will favor your boating trip so you will need to be ready for the rough water. Here are some boating tips to use during rough water boating.
1. Always check the weather forecast before heading out boating
This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do when you are rough water boating. Check the weather conditions to be able to plan. And if you can read the skies then notice any cloud formations or windy situations.
Luckily modern technology means that you can quickly gain access to weather information using the smartphone but there is a downside to these mostly cool gadgets. The battery can corrode over time or it can die out due to using the phone for a long time.
A hand-crank radio transmitter on the hand is a great alternative. You will not have to worry about the battery running out and you can listen in on the weather forecasts almost anywhere you are on the open seas.
2. Wind knots
If you don’t like to do a bit of math, then buckle up cowboy, because now is the time. The best way to have an idea of how large the swells are likely going to get is by calculating wind knots. For that, you are going to need an anemometer but you can also download boating apps to your smartphone such as Windfinder.
To calculate wind knots, find the speed of the wind in kilometers per hour with the anemometer.
Next, take the figure and divide it by 1.61. This will convert it to miles per hour.
Thirdly, take the mph figure and convert it to feet per hour. You can do this by multiplying by 5230.
Lastly, divide the resulting figure by the number of feet that are in a nautical mile which is 6076 and you’ve got your knots.
3. Always wear the right gear
Boating Safety measures need to be observed to prevent everyone from being washed overboard by the rough water. Wear waterproof jackets as well as PFDs and ensure you have the best boat shoes for a good grip.
Being hit by the cold water can send your body into a state of hypothermia so it’s important to wear foul weather gear. Waterproof jackets with hoods will keep you dry and warm in cold temperatures. Note that the head releases the most heat so it’s necessary to be well covered.
4. All electrical systems should be disconnected
In situations where there is lightning, all electrical systems should be disconnected, and remember, stay away from any metal surfaces.
5. Maintain a slow speed
Maintaining a slow speed and making an angle of 45 degrees can lower the impact of the rough water on the boat. Ensure that your boat has a good boat speedometer installed.
The heavy rains, as well as the fog, will lower your visibility so it’s important for everyone in the boat to keep a lookout for any obstacles and rocks that the boat could run into.
Turn on your boat trailer lights. These are not for use only at night but will also allow any other boaters to spot you in the rough water and prevent a collision.
6. Bring enough fuel and carry an emergency kit
Ensure that you have enough fuel to use in case it runs out. This can be the difference between getting back to shore or being stranded out at sea. Also, carry emergency kits and other life-saving gear. These will include signaling devices and horns, a VHF marine radio, and a bailer bucket.
Rough water boating can make even experienced boater to have an unsettled stomach. Carry Dramamine to treat nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.
7. Seek shelter and sail to calmer conditions
Sometimes the course back home may be in the direct path of the storm. To minimize accidents, you can change course and find calmer conditions. If there is a bridge nearby, this can act as an umbrella to your boat by anchoring under it and waiting out the storm.
Many boaters are often afraid of being under a bridge when there is lightning. However, the lighting is far more likely to hit the bridge than the boat in such a situation and will travel along its length to dry land.
8. Watch out for the swell’s trough
The lower parts of the swells can be dangerous and it’s not unusual for boats to roll over. Instead of heading straight towards your destination and hitting the swells head-on, ride the trough. It will take you longer to reach home but it will prevent your boat from capsizing.
And while you are riding the trough, seek to maintain a 45-degree angle as this is the most comfortable.
9. Outrun the swells with caution
Sometimes you might decide to outrun the swells by riding the crests. Keep in mind that the boat will be experiencing sharp highs and sharp lows.
There is a danger to this as you can experience broaching. This is where the boat crashes into the next wave at high speed. In turn, the wave that is behind the vessel will push it into the trough ahead. This could cause the boat to capsize.
10. Riding out the storm
Sometimes the rough water might be too strong to fight against and the only option you have is to ride it out. In such an instance you will need to aim the bow directly into the wind and the swells. This prevents the rough water from hitting the sides of the boat too hard allowing the boat to cut into the swells.
To conserve the fuel in your boat fuel tank, you will need to heave. You might also need to anchor the boat and prevent steering. When the storm finally dies out you can then sail to land. A strong and highly sturdy anchor rope is therefore invaluable.
11. Understand your boat
The construction of your boat as well as how much speed and the impact it can handle is an important consideration to make when caught out in rough water. Some boats are sturdier and larger than others which makes them better able to handle much rougher seas.
On the other hand, boats that are not large or heavily built will not be able to handle the strong impact of the water. If you are in such a boat, the first thing you need to do is slow down. This reduces the impact and lowers the chance of the boat capsizing.
12. Don’t panic
Being caught out in rough water can be a scary experience. However, it’s necessary that you remain calm and do not panic. Panicking will cause you to make bad decisions which will worsen the situation and put your life at risk.
When you are calm, you are better able to determine the best cause of action. You will be able to watch out for any obstacles and steer the boat away, as well as determining whether you need to drop the anchor and weather the storm or ride the trough of the swell at an angle.
It would be hard to make such quick and important decisions if you are panicky.
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Rough water boating is a reality that everyone who heads out to sea needs to prepare for. Checking the weather forecast will give you an idea of what to expect. Try and avoid heading out in rough water as much as you can and if you are caught out in a storm, the rough water boating tips above will keep you safe and help you get back to dry land.