Know your weather
How to anticipate rough weather
You know the weather: It can be both friend and foe. Calm winds and seas make for enjoyable power boating, waterskiing and fishing. A fresh breeze and a light chop provide an invigorating sailing or wind surfing experience. But the sudden emergence of dark clouds, shifting and gusty winds, torrential downpours, and lightning can turn a day’s pleasure into a nightmare, so it’s important to stay safe.
Several days ahead of time start listening to National Weather Service extended outlooks on NOAA Weather Radio, AM/FM radio and TV. They provide general information to help you decide whether to continue making plans.
Before setting out, listen to detailed marine weather forecasts on NOAA Weather Radio. Take note of small boat cautionary statements, small craft advisories, and gale or storm warnings. The advisories and warnings alert mariners to higher winds and waves either occurring now or up to 24 hours from now. Advisories and warnings for conditions expected later give mariners time to take action to protect life and property.
After setting out, don’t touch that dial. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio. Weather changes often occur out of your sight and may be headed your way. Updated warnings and forecasts are aired immediately on NOAA Weather Radio, alerting you to changes that may require you to take action.
While on the water, stay alert. Watch for signs of approaching storms:
- dark, threatening clouds that may foretell a squall or thunderstorm
- a steady increase in wind or seas
- lightning flashes
An increase in wind opposite in direction to a strong tidal current may lead to steep waves capable of broaching a boat. Heavy static on your AM radio may indicate nearby thunderstorm activity.
If a thunderstorm is approaching, head for shore if possible. Get out of your boat and away from the water. Find shelter immediately. If a thunderstorm catches you while afloat, make sure you have your life jacket on, go below deck if possible, keep away from metal objects not grounded to the boat’s protection system, and don’t touch more than one grounded object at the same time (or you may become a shortcut for electrical surges passing through the protection system).
If you have a VHF transceiver with built-in NOAA Weather Radio channels, use them. If your VHF radio doesn’t have weather channels, consider buying a VHF weather radio.
Keep in mind that broadcast reception varies with your location, the transmitter’s location, the radio’s quality and obstructions. An average range is 20 to 40 miles. If venturing beyond that range, you should consider adding a good quality HF single sideband transceiver to your VHF. It may be expensive, but it’s worth it to get information that may save your life and property.