A severe storm is every boater’s worst nightmare. What was a beautiful day can turn ugly in the blink of an eye when those white clouds that were providing some much needed shade now dump threatening gray rain, boom with thunder and lightning and roar with wind. If you’re out on open water or far enough from the dock to shelter you will need to take evasive measures to protect both your boat and the crew.
Start by ensuring everyone is wearing a life jacket, then securing gear above or below decks, closing doors, ports and windows and stowing or latching down items that can fall overboard. Put on your navigation lights and monitor Channel 16 or another marine VHF radio to receive weather updates and listen for distress calls from other boaters.
Reduce your speed and cross large waves at a 45-degree angle, this will help reduce stress on the vessel and maintain control of the boat. If you are close to land or other boats, try to shelter behind them if it’s safe. Remember that all thunderstorms produce lightning, so make sure to stay low in the boat and away from metal objects like antennas or fishing rods.
Keep a close eye on the crew and be prepared to abandon ship in a serious emergency. Keep a sharp knife handy to cut free any line caught around the anchor chain, and communicate frequently. One long blast on the horn (4-6 seconds) every two minutes while underway and every two minutes when stopped will help your vessel be heard by rescuers in the area.