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Boating Basics

Weather Emergencies

Weather can change very rapidly and create unexpected situations for boat operators. You should always monitor weather developments. One way is to tune into the frequencies listed below on a VHF radio.

What to Do if Caught in Severe Weather

Prepare the boat to handle severe weather.

  • Slow down, but keep enough power to make headway.
  • Close all hatches, windows, and doors.
  • Turn on your boat’s navigation lights. If there is fog, sound your fog horn.
  • Keep bilges free of water. Remove any water by bailing.
  • If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment.

Prepare your passengers for severe weather.

  • Have everyone put on a USCG–approved life jacket (PFD). If passengers are already wearing their PFDs, make sure they are secured properly.
  • Have your passengers sit on the vessel floor close to the centerline for their safety and to make the boat more stable.

Decide whether to go to shore or ride out the storm.

  • If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. If already caught in a storm, it may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
  • Head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. PWC should head directly into the waves.
  • If the engine stops, drop a “sea anchor” on a line off the bow to keep the bow headed into the wind and reduce drifting while you ride out the storm.
VHF Frequencies Broadcasting NOAA Weather Reports
162.400 MHz Columbia, St. Joseph, Sikeston, Springfield
162.450 MHz Hermitage, Humansville, Pomme de Terre, Warsaw
162.475 MHz Hannibal, Holliday
162.550 MHz Camdenton, Kansas City, Osage Beach, St. Louis

VHF Radio Channels

The most commonly used VHF channels on U.S. waters are:

Channel 6

Intership safety communications.

Channel 9

Communications between vessels (commercial and recreational), and ship to coast.

Channel 13

Navigational use by commercial, military, and recreational vessels at bridges, locks, and harbors.

Channel 16

Distress and safety calls to USCG and others, and to initiate calls to other vessels.

Channel 22

Communications between the USCG and the public. Severe weather warnings, hazards to navigation, and other safety warnings are broadcast on this channel.

Channels 24–28

Public telephone calls (to marine operator).

Channels 68, 69, and 71

Recreational vessel radio channels and ship to coast.