Driving a boat in the fog is almost similar (in some ways) as driving a boat at night. You should be careful while boating in the fog because you can’t see anything properly. By having all the necessary equipment in the boat, you can drive the boat easily in the fog.
First, we see the necessary gear for boating in fog, and then we will see tips for boating in fog.
- Automatic identification system
- Use lights for navigation
- Know sound (horn) rules for boating
- A depth finder
- Communication devices
- Keep all the safety equipment in the boat
With the help of these basic safety gear, you can drive through the fog. But, having all these in your boat doesn’t mean that you will be safe while boating in fog. There are some basic rules you need to follow while boating in fog.
1. Automatic identification system(AIS)
An automatic identification system(AIS) is a must for a boat, without this device you can’t do boating peacefully in water (especially in foggy or night conditions). First, let us find, why do we need to install an automatic identification system(AIS) on a boat.
By installing AIS on your boat, you can communicate with other boaters in the water. You will see if there are any boats in the given radius or not. If both the boats have AIS, then you can identify the boats, you can find the distance between your boat and theirs, and type of the boat too.
The only problem with an Automatic identification system(AIS) is all the boats need to have them installed on their boat. Otherwise, you can’t locate other boats on your screen.
To locate the location, both the boats need to have them on their boats. But, in reality, many boaters use this device on their boats. So, no need to worry much about that.
You can avoid collisions between the boats with the help of this device. It is like a navigation system, a search rescue system, and all the coast guard boats will use these devices for communication.
Generally, you need to install a class-B type of Automatic identification system(AIS) in your boat. Class-A type is for big passenger ships, and the ships carry the cargo with above 300 tons.
This device will help you a lot, even if you can’t see anything with the naked eyes. You can see the exact location of the other boats with the help of this device. Even if there is any fog, you can use this device.
Range depends on the types of the device you buy. The class – B Automatic identification system has a range of 5 – 10 nautical miles. Which is good and enough for a sailboat(or for many boaters).
The automatic identification system (AIS) will follow certain symbols to tell which type of boat, others are using. Based on that we can take necessary steps.
Chartplotter is another essential device you need to have it on your boat. First, let us find, why do we need to have a Chartplotter or multifunction display on a boat.
Chartplotter is essential for a boat because, with the help of this device, you can see your location (Maps) on the screen, and in which direction you are heading. It is like google maps for a boat. Generally, it is good to have it on your boat.
While you are using a Chartplotter, you feel like you are using google maps on the boat. The basic functionality of the Chartplotter is to set the destination location point and drive in that direction. That’s why I said it is like google maps for a boat.
It is good to have a Chartplotter on your boat it is very useful if you don’t know in which direction you need to travel in the sea or ocean. If you select the location in the Chartplotter, it will navigate your boat in that direction.
Chartplotter won’t tell anything about other boat locations or distances, it is a navigation device for a boat. This device will just navigate you to the selected location. You can see in which direction you are heading in the sea.
3. Use lights for navigation
Using lights will help you a lot if you are boating in fog. First, let us find, why do we need to use lights while boating at night.
Lights play a crucial role while you are boating in fog. This will indicate other boaters that you are there. There are different kinds of lights you should use while boating in fog. Each pattern has a meaning to it.
Generally, there are three types of lights (or light positions) for a boat. Everyone should follow them if the boat size is less than 39 feet in length. To communicate with other boaters in the sea (or wherever you are driving the boat).
It varies for bigger boats or ships. There will be so many lights for big boats, but the navigation rules are the same for all sizes of the boats.
- Red and Green light near the bow
- white light on the mast or the top of the boat
- Stern light on the back of the boat
Check my article on Safety gear for boating at night: A complete guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned more about light positions and how to use them.
4. Know sound (horn) rules for boating
Knowing sound signal rules will help you a lot. If you are boating in a route where big ships travel, then it is crucial to know them. First, let us find why do we need to know sound rules for boating in fog.
You need to know sound rules if you are driving a boat in the fog because you can’t see properly, sometimes, based on the sound signals you should make the move accordingly. If you are boating in a route where big ships travel, then it is crucial to know them.
Suppose, if you don’t have a Chartplotter or an AIS in your boat, then following these sound rules is essential. They will blow the horn and based on the type of sound, you can take the necessary actions.
There are some basic sounds for a boat that indicates different things.
- Sound Signals the Indicate Direction
- Sound Signals that indicate Location
- Sound signals that indicate Danger
Sound Signals the Indicate Direction
- 1 Short Blast: this indicates that you will pass on your port side.
- 2 Short Blasts: this indicates the plan to pass on your starboard side.
- 3 Short Blasts: this indicates you intend to back up.
Sound Signals that indicate Location:
- 1 Long Blast: this can be used to indicate you are coming around a bend in the river or you are leaving your dock or slip.
- 1 Long Blast then 3 Short Blasts: this indicates you are backing up.
- 1 Long Blast in intervals less than 2 minutes apart: this indicates that you are a power vessel when you are in blind areas or heavy fog.
Sound signals that indicate Danger
- 5 Short Blasts: this indicates danger and can be used to indicate a potential collision.
Check this go downsize website for more signs on the sounds click here(don’t worry, it will open in new tab). They have done a great job on that (sound signals).
5. A depth finder
Depth finders are essential for a boat. First, we will find, why do we need a depth finder for a boat.
The depth finder on a boat is used to find the depth of the water you are boating in. It measures the depth of the water by sending a sonic pulse and based on the time it takes to receive the echo when the sonic pulse toches the ground.
This device is very useful if you are boating in the fog, where you can’t see the depth with your eyes. You can prevent the hull damage if you have one of these on your boat.
Nowadays, you can get a depth finder along with a fish finder. There are a variety of devices available out there and pick a good one based on your needs.
6. Communication devices
Communication devices play a crucial role while boating. Without these devices, you can’t drive a boat peacefully in the water. The basic communication devices are
- 1. Vhf radio
- 2. EPIRB
- 3. Satellite phone or messenger
With the help of these, you can tell your location and ask for help by contacting the coat guards or informing your family numbers. The above four devices are enough for communicating with others while boating.
Check my article on Communication devices for a boat: All you need (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I listed all the communications devices you need on a boat.
1. VHF radio
Vhf radio is essential for a boat, with the help of this device you can communicate with others (other boaters or coast guards). If you are in an emergency, then by pressing the emergency switch on the back of the radio will send your location to the coast guards or other boaters near you.
Vhf radio is a very common device you will see on many boats. The most reliable, least expensive, and the best way to get in touch with the coast guards is with the help of VHF radio.
While buying a VHF radio, make sure it has built-in GPS in it, built-in GPS is very useful for a VHF radio. After buying a VHF radio, make sure to make it DSC active.
Every VHF radio will have an emergency switch on the back of the device. If you press that switch, it will send your location (with the help of GPS) to the coast guards or other boaters within the range. You can use that switch if you enable DSC active in it. Otherwise, you can’t.
Many coast guards when there are searching for someone in the sea they will check whether the radio is DSC active or not. What DSC does is it allows coast guards to use your radio transmission and find your exact location very quickly.
Check my article on Electronic safety gear for a boat: All you need(don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned about every electronic device you need to have on your boat.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is essential for a boat because whenever you are in an emergency, you can use this device to send the alert to the coast guards. EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. So, the coast guard will get notified, and they will help you out.
This device will alert search and rescue services (SAR) in case of an emergency out at sea. It is a tracking device that transmits a signal on a specified band to locate a lifeboat or people in distress.
EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. The signal consists of a digital code that gives information such as the boat’s identification, date of the event, the nature of distress, and the position.
The satellite receiving terminals on the ground (Local User Terminal) uses that digital code and send it to MRCC (Mission Rescue Co-Ordination Centre). The MRCC is responsible for the SAR operations and oversees the execution of the rescue mission.
If the GPS fails. The geosynchronous satellite orbiting around the earth can pick the radio signals emitted by the EPIRB. In this case, we can’t narrow down the boat or user, it will give the close range.
One of the main advantages of EPIRB is if it fell in the water, it will turn on automatically and send emergency signals to SAR.
3. Satellite phone or messenger
The name itself tells us that it is used to call or send messages or sometimes emails with the help of the satellite. If you are in an emergency, then you can inform the coast guards with these devices. These satellite devices are very essential for boaters.
There are primarily two types of satellite messaging devices, one-way communication device, and two-way communication device. With a one-way communication device, you can only send messages, and you can’t receive any.
With a two-way communication device, you can send and receive messages. There are different types of two-way communication devices. One can only send messages, and other devices can send both messages and emails.
If you buy a big device, then you can use the email option too. With a two-way device, you can send emails too. So, while buying the device itself, you need to decide which one you need a message one or both(message and email).
Still, if you want a bigger option, you can buy a satellite phone for your boat. Whenever you go boating, take a small satellite phone with you. But if you already have a satellite messenger, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
The cost of a satellite phone is a bit higher than a normal phone. Buying a satellite phone isn’t a problem, you can buy one easily. Maintaining a satellite phone is expensive and costs more for every time usage.
You need to buy a subscription plan based on the company you bought your satellite phone. There are only a few models in the market for each company. You can choose their company plans only, not others.
Using a satellite phone is expensive, sometimes it will take 20 dollars for one minute. And again it depends on the plan what you selected while buying.
Don’t stream anything with the help of a satellite phone, it is very expensive. I heard that one guy downloaded a movie using a satellite phone and ended up paying 100,000 dollars. So, don’t use youtube or streaming using a satellite phone.
But, buy either a satellite phone or a satellite messenger, don’t but both of them at a time. If you have a satellite phone, it is enough and vice versa. If you already have a satellite messenger or an EPIRB, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
These are the basic safety gear you need while you are boating in fog. I guess all these devices are sufficient for many boaters. Now we will see the safety tips for boating in the fog.
7. Keep all the safety equipment in the boat
First, let us know, why do we need to have night safety gear on a boat.
Safety gear for a boat is essential if you are boating in fog. If you are in any danger, you can signal others by using a torchlight or flares. Sometimes, it may save your life by having them on your boat at that time. So, don’t hesitate to keep them with you if you are boating at night.
Remember this before going for boating, have a checklist, of things that you need to be taken whenever you are going for boating. Keep that checklist on the boat, near the entrance or the steering wheel, so that you won’t forget those things on the list.
Check my article on Safety equipment for a boat: 31 things you need (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the safety equipment you need for boating in lakes and seas.
Tips for boating in fog
Having all the safety devices on the boat is just not sufficient. You need to know some basic rules while boating in the fog. Like, driving slowly and observing what is happening around you is crucial.
- Slow down
- Use binoculars
- Know your position and the direction you are heading
- Observe properly
- Wear an appropriate life jacket
1. Slow down
Many will drive the boat fastly during the day time because we can see what is there is there in front of you. But, during a foggy time, you can’t see what is there in front of you. So, you need to decrease the speed.
Many people will think, if you have a 1/2 mile or above visibility in fog, it is fine to drive the boat fastly. We can’t tell that suppose if a boat is coming fastly in the opposite direction, then you can’t change the direction as quickly as you can do it normally.
A vessel coming out of the fog a mile away gives only a few minutes to get out of the way. Yes, the larger vessels use radar but many recreational boats don’t show up well on radar.
And you don’t know what is there in front of you, there might a boat or a rock or ashore. So, drive slowly while driving in fog and at night time, to avoid all the dangers.
2. Use binoculars
Binoculars play a major role if you are boating in fog. You can see what is there in front of you within a half-mile or more. You can manage without these but, having binoculars are helpful.
If there are two people in the boat, then one can drive the boat, and others can use binoculars and can tell whether there is anything in front of you or not.
3. Know your position and the direction you are heading
While boating you need to know your position and in which direction you are traveling. Especially in fog, you can’t see in which direction you are heading.
It is easy to lose track of in the sea, especially in the fog or at night. So, using some technologies you can prevent that. By using a Chartplotter or an automatic identification system, you will know your position and which direction you are heading.
4. Observe properly
Another important factor is to observe what is happening around you while boating in the fog. Be alert and observe properly, you need to know all the sound signals and the navigational rules.
Lookouts should look and listen for ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, sounds from aids to navigation, breaking waves, floating material in the water, rocks, piles, shoreline features.
5. Wear an appropriate life jacket
A life jacket is essential for everyone while boating, especially in the fog because you might fall overboard. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. Life jacket plays an essential role while boating.
Simply wearing a life jacket isn’t enough that should fit you as well. The life jacket shouldn’t be too big or small, it should fit properly. If you wear a big sized life jacket and suppose if you fell in the water, then due to the force at which you fell in the water, a life jacket may come out.
While buying a life jacket make sure it has a small whistle on it. If anyone falls overboard, and no one knows that someone has fallen overboard, then you can use the whistle to signal others. So, they will come to know your exact location quickly. Nowadays some of them are having a small light on it as well, which is helpful while boating at night.
Check my article on Safety tips for boating: A detailed guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the safety tips you need to follow while boating.
Be very cautious while boating in fog and drive slowly, this is the best way to avoid and accidents. And observe what is happening around you properly.
Lookouts should look and listen for ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, sounds from aids to navigation, breaking waves, floating material in the water, rocks, piles, shoreline features.