........... BY Dave McPhail, Boatcan
We have probably all heard stories about pleasure boaters who have had some harrowing times on the waters of the Great Lakes. For many it is the last time they venture out alone because of the fear the situation caused. Some simple precautions if taken seriously, and carefully can take care of most of these situations.
Boaters need to learn the signs of what can be problematic weather where they are boating. Take the time to listen to the Marine Forecast. Know what it is saying and what can be expected. be aware of the clouds and what they mean. Often knowing and properly reading the skies can get you home and safe before a storm comes up, but occasionally that is not always possible. So take care.
File a float plan with someone or at your marina. Although not required by law, it could be a saviour for you if serious storms come up unexpectedly. When you head out on the water consider a safe haven if you get caught short. Maybe it is an inlet that lets you ride out rough times, or an alternate marine or club harbour when safe anchorage or tie ups let you ride out the storm comfortably. Regardless have a backup plan in the event of a sudden squall or storm.
Listen to your VHF or hand held device so that emergency weather broadcasts are heard immediately allowing you time to make preparations for a trip home or to an alternate safe haven. No one wants a bad time on the water for themselves, their crew or guests, so be a responsible captain and take extra care when on the water.
When you are on the water for an afternoon or longer, watch the skies. Be aware of the cloud formations and learn what is good and what might not be so friendly. The Great Lakes are huge bodies of water. We call them lakes but truly, they are collectively larger than many seas in the world and can spawn storms that we might only think possible on the oceans of the world. Know what you are doing and continue to learn what the sky is telling you so you are safe.
Local conditions are vital for your complete safety on the water. Take the time to learn about special effects in the area where you are boating. Many people know that generally the water flows from the head of the lakes, to the Niagara Falls and eventually out of the system to the Atlantic. But that is too simplistic. Learn the special effects in an area. Know the changes created by the shoreline, the currents that might run contrary to your belief and know what weather patterns should look like where you are boating.
it is important that boaters take caution and boat safely. It is equally important to continually learn. so something as simple as a quick weather change does not create and unpleasant time on the water for your and you on board companions. Boat Safely... Boat Smartly.