Before leaving shore, it is better to ensure that the boat and its passengers are ready for travel than to risk problems once the boat has left shore. Boating emergencies or unsafe situations can arise from improper boat maintenance or improper preparation for trips onto the water.
This section is intended to make sure that boaters are able to describe and complete their pre-trip planning and preparation requirements.
A boater’s ability to make informed decisions based on current and forecasted local weather and water conditions is essential for avoiding dangerous emergencies. Boaters should also consider their skill level, on-water experience of operator and passengers, and the boat capability (including vessel range, maneuverability, propulsion type, hull shape, draft, freeboard, structures above the waterline, and understanding the operational parameters and design limitations of the vessel per the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s specifications) in current and impending environmental conditions.
The majority of boating accidents occur on days when the weather is calm and clear. The risk to operators and passengers increases on days when the weather is poor.
The severity of bad weather can affect the enjoyment of a trip or, at its worst, result in a dangerous situation while boating. It is important to monitor weather and water conditions to ensure vessels’ safety on the water. The operator must decide whether to continue or adjust the trip depending on current and future weather conditions.
Before heading out on the water, boaters should obtain the most recent area forecast to avoid emergencies. Boaters must also be aware of any local conditions that may cause the weather to differ from the forecast. They can obtain this information most easily from other boaters familiar with the area. In some cases, boaters can predict bad weather by changing signs in the sky.
The following are some examples of dangerous weather conditions to be aware of:
A marine forecast is issued by the National Weather Service several times daily. Weather forecasts provide information about wind speed and direction, weather, visibility, and freezing spray. Before a trip, operators should check local navigational references to identify shelter locations in case of unexpected foul weather.
Boaters should be able to understand basic weather patterns common to their boating area, where to find reliable weather and forecast information for their location and length of the planned voyage. In addition, they must recognize, understand the effects and continually monitor for the key signs of changing/deteriorating weather conditions.
Changing wind and water conditions affect vessels differently. Planning for inclement weather is an important part of trip planning and includes identifying places to seek shelter quickly and being continually aware of those options throughout the boat trip.