While boating weather can change within minutes. You need to be extra careful while boating in bad weather or rough waters. This means you should be prepared for everything while going for boating.
- Slow down
- Lift the bow a little bit
- Make everyone sit in the boat
- Wear a life jacket
- Make sure you have enough fuel
- Tie kill switch to hand or PDF
- Turn on the bilge pump
- Have a float plan
- Keep all the safety equipment
- Strap all the flyable objects
- Don’t panic
- Observe properly
These are the main things you need to do while boating in rough water. Every time before starting the boat, you need to do one thing, checking the weather. This is the essential step you need to do when you are thinking to go for boating.
Check the weather before starting the ride. Sometimes while you are checking the weather (before staring the ride), it might be good. But after starting the ride (while boating), the weather might change. You need to have a plan for coming back to the shore safely if the weather changes while boating.
Now we will see the safety tips for boating in rough water.
1. Slow down
This is the essential thing you need to do while boating in rough waters. But, it depends on the waves as well. Sometimes, if you slowed down to a low speed, then you might end up in problems. That doesn’t mean that you need to increase the speed.
You need to go moderately in the rough waters. If the waves are so choppy, then you may need to increase the speed a little bit. If the waves are less choppy, then you might not need to increase the speed. At what speed you need to travel in rough seas all depends on the waves.
According to USCG, 417 accidents happened in a year due to over speed. In those 147 are open motorboats, and 179 are personal watercraft (sources). You need to be careful while boating in rough water and constantly check the surroundings as well.
2. Lift the bow a little bit
This is the essential thing you need to do while boating in rough water. To prevent the boat from diving into the water like the people diving into the pool. You need to lift the bow a little bit high in the air if the waves are coming towards (in the opposite direction) your boat bow side.
You can rise the bow up in the air by using the trim tabs appropriately. If you didn’t operate the trim tabs properly, you might end up in problems. So, operate it properly in rough waters.
So, by doing that, you can prevent the boat from diving into the water, and very less water will not come into the boat. If you are returning to the shore and waves are hitting the stern side from the back, then try to be on the wave (like surfing, I know it is hard) by maintaining the appropriate speed.
It might sound a little bit awkward, but once if you did that, then it will be easy to return to the shore safely. If the waves are small, then only you can do that. Otherwise, it is hard to do. Always have a plan for coming back to the shore safely if the weather changes while boating.
3. Make everyone sit in the boat
Tell everyone to sit in the boat while boating in rough waters. If you are boating in rough water, the boat will not be move as nicely as in calm water. So, make everyone sit in the boat if anyone is standing in the boat. By doing this, you can avoid any injuries to the crew members.
when crew members stand up on the boat from the sitting position, it increases the chances of the toppling (overbalance or cause to overbalance and fall) the person off the boat. Falling off a boat in rough waters would be very dangerous.
Otherwise, tell everyone on the boat to hold anything in the boat (like handles or any) if there are fewer seats in the boat. By following that, nothing will happen to the crew members. Sitting in the boat while boating in rough waters is essential.
4. Wear a life jacket
A life jacket is essential for everyone while boating. Each year around 300+ people are dying 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.
Before wearing a life jacket, wear a raincoat or something and then wear a life jacket on top of that. So, if it rains or water fells on you, you won’t become wet quickly.
Problems of not wearing a proper size life jacket
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 may fell in the water, a life jacket may come out.
Choosing a life jacket
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.
For adults, life jackets size is based on chest size. For kids, it is better to choose based on the weights. In the below table, I mentioned which type of life jacket to wear based on age (years and weight may vary a little bit).
- Type 1 is for adults, and it is used for offshore purposes.
- Type 2 is for infants, and it is used in inland day cruising, fishing, and sailing.
- Type 3 is for a child, and it is used in various sports activities and the most comfortable for continuous wear and freedom of movement
5. Make sure you have enough fuel
Make sure you have enough fuel while boating in rough waters because you need more power to drive through rough waters. More power means the outboard motor will use more gas than normal usage. So, you need more gas while boating in rough waters.
Always bring extra fuel in the boat, especially if you are going for boating in seas or oceans. Your boat will consume more gas, and it will take more time to reach from one place to another in rough waters. So, keep extra gas in the boat.
Always know your boat gas consumption rate, it plays a crucial role, especially while boating in rough waters. If you run off-gas in rough water, then it might be very hard, and rescuing you might be very hard for coast guards as well.
Now assume that your boat will consume 2 liters per hour. If your fuel tank carries 10 liters then you can drive your boat for 5 hours. Now plan accordingly for your trip. How much fuel is there in the tank? how long we can go with that?
Gas capacity in your boat = 20 liters, and consumption per hour = 2 liters
Then you will get 10 hours of the boat ride. Now calculate how long it will take to reach there if it takes 3 hours, then for coming back it will take 3 hours.
Overall it will take 6 hours to for going and coming back. And you have extra gas (sufficient for 4 hours) for any emergency. So, plan like this and go for boating.
6. Tie kill switch to hand or PDF
The essential thing you need to do while boating is to tie the kill switch to your hand or life jacket or PFD. In rough waters, the boat won’t move as nicely as in calm waters. So, you can fall overboard easily.
So, tie the kill switch to your hand or Life jacket or PDF. If the engine is on, then you need to tie the kill switch. Let’s see why do we need to tie the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF.
You need to tie the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF because while operating the boat, if you fell overboard in the water, then the boat will be moving in the forward direction, and you can’t reach the boat. To prevent that, we are tying the kill switch to a life jacket or PDF.
What it does is if you move away from the steering wheel, then the key will come out and stop the engine. So, if you fell overboard, you can reach the boat and you can climb and get into the boat quickly.
This will be extremely helpful if you are alone on a boat, and if you fall off a boat. The boat will stop automatically. Else, the boat will be moving forward in the water, and sometimes you can’t reach the boat. This will be the worst situation.
7. Turn on the bilge pump
Bilge pump plays a key role while boating in seas or lakes, especially in rough water. You need to pump all the water getting into the boat outside the boat. A bilge pump is a pump that is used to pump all the water from the boat.
Having this on the boat will always save a lot of time. Ensure whether your bilge pump is working properly or not, because they often fail. The boat can sink in the water if the bilge pump is not working properly. So, before starting the trip, just check whether the bilge pump is working or not.
So, before starting the ride itself, start the bilge pump. If it is an automatic one, then it’s fine. If it is a manual one, then turn it on while starting the ride. Without the bilge pump, it is very hard for a boat to stay afloat in the water, especially in rough water.
8. Have a float plan
Having a float plan is essential for boating. Sometimes, this will help you a lot. Don’t forget to give your full float plan (exactly where you are going, how long it will take to come back home, and how many people are going) to one of your friends or neighbors. Just in case if you didn’t reach your home in time, they will help you.
If you didn’t show up early, your family members or friends will inform to coast guards about your float plan and everything. Then the coast guards will make the move quickly and they will find you quickly.
While boating, if you change the plan or if you modified the plan, don’t forget to inform your family members or friends. If you think that you might show up late, even then inform your family members or neighbors. It is a good practice to have a float plan and informing others.
9. Keep all the safety equipment
Without the safety equipment, you can’t travel peacefully in the water. Safety equipment is a must for a boat, one day it might save your life. Here are some of the essential safety equipment for a boat. You shouldn’t carry the same safety equipment every time it should vary from places to places.
If you boating in closed waters (lakes or ponds), then you might need the safety equipment listed below.
- Life jacket for each person
- life ring for each person
- Flotation devices
- Whistle or horns
- VHF radio optional(nice to have a small radio)
- Paddles or oars
- Depth finder(nice to have)
- First aid kit(don’t forget to check the expiry date)
- Fire extinguisher
- Tool kit
- Extra gas(nice to have)
- Duct tape
- Bilge pump
For boating in closed waters (lakes and ponds), those things are sufficient. Mostly, you don’t need a VHF radio in closed waters. If you are boating in a big lake or less crowded areas, then you might need it.
If you are not boating in closed waters (seas or oceans) and moves far away from the seashore, then you might need all the safety equipment listed below.
- Life jacket for each person
- life ring for each person
- Flotation devices
- Whistle or horns
- VHF radio, EPIRB
- Satellite phone or messenger is optional (but nice to have as a backup)
- Chartplotter is like GPS for a boat (for navigating)
- Automatic identification system (AIS)
- GPS optional (all the above devices have it already)
- Thermal imaging camera (if you are boating at night)
- Paddles or oars
- Depth finder
- First aid kit (don’t forget to check the expiry date)
- Fire extinguisher
- Tool kit
- Duct tape
- Extra gas (nice to have)
- Bilge pump
- Maps (optional)
For moving far away from the seashore, those things are sufficient. If you are thinking to stay in the boat at night, then you might need to know the night navigational rules.
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 about all the equipment every boater needs to have it on their boat.
10. Strap all the flyable objects
Strap all the objects that can fly in the air. Like fishing rods, any safety equipment, etc. Keep all them inside the boat safely. Secure ropes, sails, and hooks to prevent them from coming loose. So, noting will hit you or fly off if you are boating in rough waters.
Flyable objects like
- Fishing rods
- Safety equipment (especially PFD or life jackets)
- Ropes (if any)
- Any tools or objects that are on the boat
11. Don’t panic
Everyone will panic in rough water to some extent. The most experienced boaters will panic less than less experienced boaters or beginners. If you panic while boating, especially in rough waters, you might cause many problems by making bad decisions. So, don’t panic while boating in rough waters.
12. Observe properly
Another important factor is to observe what is happening around you while boating in rough waters. Be alert and observe properly, what is going around you. Some people might be in danger or any problems you can help them.
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.
Check my website on Surviving a hurricane in a sailboat (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned everything you need to do for protecting yourself and the boat in a hurricane.
These are the main things you need to do while boating in rough waters. Now, we will additional safety tips for boating in rough waters.
- Follow the boating rules
- Wear appropriate shoes while boating
- Educate the crew about the safety equipment
- Don’t overload the boat
- Don’t drink and drive
These are some of the additional safety tips for boating in rough water.
13. Follow the boating rules
Knowing the boating rules is essential if you are driving the boat. Now I will explain some basic rules. Without knowing them, you might cause problems for you and other boaters too.
The basic rules for a boat are (Now assume that you are driving the boat, and you see the boat approaching, then do accordingly, the boats are moving in X-axis direction, and you are moving in Y-direction assume like that).
- If the boat is moving towards the left side. Then you should give them the way, let them cross first and then you make a move.
- If the boat is moving towards the right side. Then you should give them the way, let them cross first and then you make a move.
- If you see the boat coming in the opposite direction, then you need to move a little bit towards the right side and then move on.
These are some of the basic boating rules, you need to know while boating. So, don’t forget to check the united states coast guard boating website for more boating rules. The better way is to take a small boating course, many of them are free.
14. Wear appropriate shoes while boating
While boating (especially in rough waters), wearing proper shoes is essential not only for parents as well as kids. If you are not wearing proper shoes, then you might slip in the boat. There are some specified shoes for boating, and it is good to wear them while you are in a boat.
There is a high chance of boat floor becoming wet while boating. If the boat floor is wet, then you might slip easily on the boat. To prevent that, everyone needs to wear boating shoes, which are made up of neoprene material.
The neoprene material is good for water resistance and has a good grip. This fabric boasts tough water-resistant properties and the ability to withstand temperatures down to -20. It has a good grip, so you no need to worry about slippery floors or any in the boat.
Check my article on Recommended shoes for boating (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned about everything you need to consider while buying shoes for boating.
15. Educate the crew about the safety equipment
You need to explain to the passengers how to use the safety equipment and where they are kept in the boat. They might help you out if you are not able to take them yourself while driving the boat in rough waters.
This step is essential for every person in the boat. The boat operator should tell where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat. If they didn’t tell, ask them. Kids also need to know where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat.
Sometimes the skipper might be in a hurry or busy, and he might not be able to take the safety equipment by himself. At that time, the crew in the boat will help if they know where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat. If you fall out of the boat, then you can ask your crew members to through a life jacket near you.
And keep all the safety equipment in a reachable distance, and don’t keep any of them in faraway places in the boat, where you can’t take them quickly.
Not only telling them (crew) where all the safety equipment is kept in the boat, but you also need to teach how to use them too. Then only they can save others if someone falls overboard. No need to teach them about every safety equipment in the boat, teach them the basics.
Teach the crew about some basic safety equipment (like life jackets throwable flotation devices, horns, flares, fire extinguisher). Knowing these things is sufficient. Don’t forget to tell them why do we need to use these things.
So, they will get to know about the safety equipment, and they will know what all are needed and how to use them in the right situations.
16. Don’t overload the boat
This is an essential thing you need to check whether your boat is exceeding the capacity or not. For many boats, you can see the weight capacity of the boat near the stern or somewhere else with a yellow color sticker. The maximum weight is the combined weight of passengers, gear, and motors.
If the weight capacity of the boat exceeded the maximum limit, then the boat might tilt or tip over or capsize, and everyone may fall in the water. Sometimes, people might trap under the boat. To prevent all those things, don’t overload the boat.
If you don’t have the boats maximum weight capacity sticker on the boat, then follow the rule of thumb for finding how many members can sit in a boat.
You can find that by using this formula. Length of the boat times width of the boat divided by 15. Then you will get how many members can sit in the boat. In this case, the weight of each person is the average weight (around 150 lbs).
Suppose the length of the boat is 15 feet, and the width of the boat is 5 feet. Then the seating capacity is (15 * 5) / 15 = 5 members. Calculate like this for your boat, if you don’t have the boat capacity sticker.
17. Don’t drink and drive
Boating under the influence is causing many deaths in America. According to the united states coast Guard, 287 accidents happened due to driving under influence. So, boating under the influence causes many problems.
Boating under the influence can affect your balance, which is very crucial in the boat. When you are unstable in moving platforms (like a boat), you can easily fall overboard. Alcohol decreases the ability to react to several different signals at once. So, don’t do boating under the influence.
If you are under the influence and fall overboard, then it is very difficult to get back into the boat. Suppose, if you are alone in the boat, then it is very hard to get back into the boat. If you are not alone in the boat, then with the help of your friends, you might get in the boat.
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 boat safety tips in detail.
Don’t panic. If you panic while boating, especially in rough waters, you might cause many problems by making bad decisions. So, don’t panic while boating in rough waters.
Slow down. Don’t go too fast in rough water. That doesn’t mean that you need to go too slowly. Drive with moderate speed while boating in rough waters.
Wear a life jacket. Wear a life jacket that fits properly to your body. And try to choose a life jacket that has a small whistle on it and a small light on it as well (if possible).
Take extra fuel. Just take extra fuel whether you will use or not. In rough waters, it is hard to tell how much fuel do we need. Generally, driving in rough water requires more fuel than in normal waters.
Tie the kill switch to hand or a life jacket. This step is essential if you are boating in rough waters. Especially in rough waters, there is a high probability of falling off the boat.
Keep all the safety equipment in the boat. Have all the safety equipment like VHF radio and EPIRB in the boat while thinking to do boating in rough waters or seas or oceans.