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Ever been laying on a beach someplace sunny, warm, soaking up those sun rays only to have a thunderstorm come up on you quick; causing you to run for cover?  Sure, rain never really hurt anyone, sometimes it’s even refreshing; it is the wind and lightning that can cause a good day to go bad.

And what happens when you are out in your boat, and you have no where to run for cover?

Boating safety is always the number one priority for every boater, so staying one step ahead of inclement weather is the best way to stay worry free and safe.

It is a given when planning a boat outing, you should always check the skies first.  And NOAA,  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are  the go-to guys for weather forecasts, updates, alerts, and alarms.  They are the scientists who study the skies and the oceans.  There are three easy ways to get the information you need and you can get it fast by:

1.  Internet – In today’s world accessing the Internet is easy, so obtaining the most recent forecast for the area you are in is just a click away.

2.  By phone – the National Weather Service has offices in every state, so if you click on the link, put in the zip code of the area you will be boating and you will get the information you need along with a phone number.

3.  By NOAA Weather Radio – Most newer marine radios  carry the NOAA weather radio frequencies, almost all offer the tone alarm feature, and are handy gadgets to always have on board.

But, there is the possibility of bad weather coming from seemingly no where and what do you do then?

High winds can be one of the biggest weather related threats to boaters; causing large waves and turning the waters choppy.  Of course the best course of action is to know before you go and if there is a possible threat of high winds or thunderstorms – don’t go.  Postpone your outing for another day.

If you do decide to go out and find yourself in a thunderstorm, hold on.  The things you have to be ware of is visibility, were there other boats around before the storm?  Chances are, they are still out there, too and cannot see any better than you can.  Those in the know (NOAA) say, slow down, start blowing your horn in intervals like every 10 seconds or so to let other boaters know you are out there, and wait for a break in the weather before heading back to where you started.  You definitely do not want to be racing for the marina, along with other boats, all of you practically blindfolded from the weather.  That is just not good.  So, make sure everyone has their life jackets on properly and keep everyone from panicking, that will not help. Next time, don’t go if there is any bad or questionable weather in or near the area.

If you are out and get caught in a storm where lightning is present, here are a few tips:

  • Wear your life jacket at all times, if someone is struck by lightning and were to fall over board, the life jacket can keep them alive till help arrives.  If someone does get struck, start first aid.  Call 9-1-1 if necessary.
  • If you have a cabin, go to the center of it.  If you don’t, go to the center of the boat and stay as low as you can.
  • Don’t touch anything metal and don’t fish, swim, ski, or dive.
  • Keep your arms and legs inside the boat, no dangling them over the side.
  • Unless you have a lightning protection system, lie down the antennas, and disconnect anything electrical including the radio.

If you can hear thunder, you are in striking range for lightning.

There are gadgets available that can assist boaters to avoid or get through these situations.  There are lightning protection systems, but do some research and go into detail of the standards for lightning protection as determined by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and the job should be performed by a licensed marine electrician.  This is not a do-it-yourself job, by any means.

There are also items called the ThunderBolt Lightning Detectors which pick up active storms with active cloud-to-ground (or water) lightning. While the ThunderBolts detectors are handy and may even work, they are not cheap, not even close.

It might be just as well to keep an eye to the sky and just stay in for the day.  That would make for the safest and fool proof way, too.

Besides, your boat insurance carrier would probably prefer that preventive measure best of all.



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One Response to Wind, Lightning – Play it Safe

  1. […] more weather tips from United Marine Underwriters, visit a past blog […]

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