Always make sure you’re prepared for Heavy Weather
People often get caught in heavy weather when they are least expecting it, so it’s critical to know what to do when it does happen. Before venturing out to sea, even if armed with the appropriate skipper’s licence and the necessary approved safety equipment, make sure that you’re fully aware of both your boat’s and your own capabilities, and that you’ll be able to manage a heavy weather situation when it does hit.
Before going out to sea, constantly monitor the current and future short term weather forecasts and obviously if you have any doubts, then your best decision would be to stay at home. Weather can change quickly and developing your heavy weather skills is something that you should build up over time, practising in choppy sheltered waters or perhaps crewing out at sea with more experienced skippers; it’s not something that you should try and master once you’ve been caught unawares. Should you however be exposed to heavy weather, following the guidelines below should allow you to get through it successfully:
• Get all crew to put on their Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’S) if they’re not already wearing them. Apart from the obvious otation bene ts of anyone nding themselves in the water, it also offers all crew some protective padding if the boat is being tossed around.
• Brief all crew/passengers to keep low in the boat – this lowers the centre of gravity of the boat, helping with the overall stability and also reducing the possibility of passengers falling or being thrown overboard.
• Secure all loose gear, ttings and any openings such as hatches and storage doors.
• Assess your current position – where exactly are you and just how much danger are you and your crew in at that precise moment.
• Put out a Pan-Pan call on your VHF radio – Channel 16. This will alert local authorities that you have an urgent situation, but that there is no immediate danger to anyone’s life on the boat. If there is immediate danger, a Mayday call would be more appropriate.
• Check the possibilities open to you – can you get safely to shore/ nearer land/ back to the marina/ protected water nearby? If any of these potential courses are not at a 45º angle into the swell, it might be best to stay where you are and ‘jog in place’.
• Move forward at the minimum possible speed – this reduces the risk of capsizing and allows you to assess and consider your options.
• Understand your own limits as well as your vessel’s. Build up your skills to deal with heavy weather rstly in protected waters before trying it out at sea.
• Learn about weather and how to make your own onboard forecasts based on acquired knowledge and correctly interpreting the reports.
• And most importantly, stay calm and take control.