Boating in fall in California can mean some of the state’s rainiest and foggiest days on the water. The weather plays a key role in boating safety. Understanding how the weather can change your day on the water, and how to compensate for those changes, can help you prevent an accident. In 2016, the California Division of Boating and Waterways reported 588 boating accidents, 266 injuries and 50 fatalities. The fall months of September through December had 131 boating accidents. Keep yourself and your family safe in bad weather with a few rainy day boating tips.
Monitor the Forecast Closely
The weather can change abruptly while out on the water. Check an accurate marine weather forecast before and during your excursion to help you know what type of weather to expect. Monitor the forecast and the marine weather forecast closely while you boat. Knowing what type of weather you might encounter can help you leave the dock prepared. Bring along the correct equipment and clothing to weather a storm, as well as emergency equipment in case of an accident.
Preparing for a rainy day on the water is key to boating safety. It may not always be possible to prevent a boating accident, but you could drastically reduce the risk of one by boating prepared. Operator inexperience is a leading cause of boating accidents. Taking a boating safety course before going out on the water can help you know what to do in all types of weather. Training courses can help you know how to steer your boat in high winds, heavy rain and other types of bad weather.
Bring all the right safety equipment onboard while boating in any weather. Under federal law, all recreational vehicles must carry one safety-approved life vest per person on board. Bring a life jacket for everyone, including pets. Take a VH-FM radio and satellite phone since you may not have cellphone service on the water. Make sure you know all applicable safety regulations. Tell your friends or family members staying shoreside where you are going and how long you expect to be gone.
Keep a Proper Lookout
Visibility is crucial to boating safely. This can make boating in the rain or other poor weather dangerous. In 2016, the main type of boating accident in California was collision with other vessels (209 accidents). The inability to see other vessels approaching can greatly increase the likelihood of a collision. If you are boating on a rainy day, keep a proper lookout at all times. Your visibility may be poor, but vigilance could help you prevent an accident. Always have someone scanning the water ahead for other vessels, objects, docks, personal watercraft and swimmers.
Return to Land in Bad Weather
Avoid boating if the forecast predicts a bad storm. If you encounter nasty weather while boating, return to land as soon as possible. If you cannot return to land, seek shelter inside the cabin of your boat or stay as low as you can in a boat that does not have a cabin. You may be able to tell bad weather is coming by a sudden drop in temperature, increasing wind, low and thick clouds, static on your radio or flashes of lightning on the horizon.
Reduce Your Speed
If it starts to rain, turn on your running lights so other boaters can see you. Use your horn if you think another vessel may not see yours in the rain. Reduce your speed so you have more time to react to changing conditions on the waterway, such as a vessel crossing your path. Stay moving fast enough, however, to make headway to your destination. If you encounter waves, head the boat at a 45-degree angle to travel through them. Tell everyone on board to put their life jackets on and try to head toward land. Have a compass handy to help with navigation if the rain or fog gets bad enough to impede your sense of direction. When in doubt about boating in the rain, stay home.