Bottom line: weather can be both friend and foe. Boaters who stay alert to weather changes and take appropriate action go a long way toward safeguarding their property and the lives of everyone on board.
Things to look for that indicate an approaching weather front:
• Flat clouds getting lower and thicker.
• Puffy, vertically rising clouds getting higher
• Dark, threatening clouds, especially to the west/southwest
• A sudden drop in temperature
• A halo around the sun or moon.
• Increasing wind or a sudden change in wind direction
• Flashes on the horizon
• Seas becoming heavy.
• Heavy AM radio static, indicating nearby thunderstorm activity.
What to Do in Severe Weather
• Reduce speed, keeping just enough power to maintain headway.
• Make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket.
• Turn on your running lights.
• If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach.
• Head the boat into the waves at a 45-degree angle.
• Keep the bilges free of water.
• Seat any passengers on the bottom of the boat, near the centerline.
• If the engine fails, trail a sea anchor from the bow of the boat to keep it headed into the waves. (A bucket can work as a sea anchor in an emergency.)
• Anchor the boat if necessary.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.