On par with some of the worst elements in Mother Nature’s arsenal, fog can be a boater’s nemesis. Navigating unknown waters, negotiating dangerous inlets, or traversing a treacherous coastline are all precarious situations to find yourself in – and that’s in broad daylight. Add fog or haze to the mix and the danger is amplified tenfold. When boating in misty conditions, collisions with unseen obstacles and, even more perilous, with other boats, become a real threat and every precaution must be taken. Along with the increased danger of crashing into things, is the risk of navigational errors.
It is very easy to get lost at sea and even easier when you can’t see any landmarks or markers. Also, fog is often accompanied by low temperatures and one needs to be aware of the possibility of hypothermia. If you’re out on the ocean you might be able to see fog approaching from a fair distance. What you won’t be able to determine, however, is how fast it’s rolling in and how long it will be before your boat is enveloped. You therefore need to prepare for it before it sets in. Let’s take a look at the steps boaters need to take in the event of low visibility.
No need for speed
When your visibility is suddenly and severely limited by a rain squall, a heavy fog bank or haze, the very first thing you should do is slow down. Slowing down will reduce the risk of hitting veiled obstacles or other boats and will allow you to deviate in time. Judging a safe speed can be difficult, particularly in very heavy fog, but the rule of thumb is to travel at a pace that will allow you to stop in half the distance of visibility. So if your ‘visibility horizon’ is 50 metres from the bow of your boat, you should be able to stop in 25. In particularly inclement conditions, slowing down to a walking pace is recommended.