Strong winds, aggressive waves, and pouring rain create the worst conditions for boating. And although any boat owner might check the weather forecast before heading out to sea, Mother Nature has been known to throw a curve ball now and again. So which safety precaution should be taken first by a boat operator when boating in stormy weather? Here are the answers.
What’s the First Thing to Do?
If that stormy weather hits while you’re out and about, what’s the first thing you should do? Should you cut the engine and anchor your vessel? Should you phone the coast guard and send a distress signal? Or should you try to make your way back to shore?
Well, while all of those might seem like something you would do in the often stressful and frightening conditions of a storm, the answer is that you should make sure everyone on your vessel is wearing an appropriate personal flotation device or PFD.
The PFD is a simple yet effective safety measure that can prevent all sorts of potential dangers. In fact, studies have found that PFD’s prevent up to 90% of potential fatalities that could result from falling overboard. And because strong winds and rain increase the chances of being tossed over the rails, it’s no wonder why throwing on a PFD would be the first safety measure to take.
The Nuances of Wearing a PFD On Board
Although it would be helpful if PFD laws were the same across the board, different states have varying specifics when it comes to the use of personal flotation devices. For instance, in some states, children below the age of 13 don’t need to wear a personal flotation device. Others require kids as young as the age of 6 to wear a PFD whenever they’re on the boat.
For adults, the rules are a little different. No laws require the use of a life jacket or PFD for adults, so they can or can’t wear them depending on what they prefer. In most cases though, it’s strongly recommended that adults wear a PFD when their vessel is underway.
The reason why it’s important to wear a PFD even when it isn’t necessarily required by law is because wearing one when you’re already in the water can prove to be almost impossible. That’s why there are type IV or throwable PFD’s like life savers that need to be stowed on board.
But because not every vessel is required to have a type IV PFD, the chances of rescue become slimmer if a person falls overboard without already wearing one.
More info regarding PFD's:
Helpful Hacks for Boating in Stormy Weather
Even with the best planning, it’s not impossible to find yourself in less than ideal conditions. If you ever end up wrestling it out with a stormy sea, try to keep these tips in mind:
Panic can become a catalyst for even more danger. Try not to get ahead of yourself and maintain a clear mind. Keep your composure and plan your next steps with care and tact.
Wear Your PFD
Before you do anything else, make sure that everyone on board is wearing an appropriate PFD. Don’t wait for the last minute before you decide to put them on - the moment the weather starts to turn, see to it that everyone’s strapped in.
You might feel pressured to head back to shore as quickly as possible. But heading into strong winds and waves at top speed during a storm seriously increase your chances of capsizing. Reduce your speed and pay attention to the waves to avoid major accidents.
Secure Loose Items
It can be dangerous to have things tossing and sliding in the cabins and across the deck while a storm crashes against your boat. At the first signs of potential danger, make sure to strap down and secure anything that might cause accidents on board under stormy conditions.
Contact the Coast Guard
If you have a radio or any other means of contact, you may want to take the opportunity to reach out to the coast guard and let them know your coordinates. You can also call a friend, a relative, or the marina to let them know you’re in the middle of a storm. This just makes it easier to locate your vessel in case of an accident.
Know Your Priorities
Which safety precaution should be taken first by a boat operator when boating in stormy weather? Well, the obvious answer would be to strap on your PFD. The humble flotation device has been known to save thousands of lives from almost certain death. And because falling overboard during a storm isn’t unlikely, having your PFD at the ready can prevent potential disaster in case the waves toss you over the rails.