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Boating Basics

Weather Emergencies

Weather can change very rapidly and create unexpected situations for boat operators. Even meteorologists have trouble predicting rapid weather changes. You should always monitor weather developments. One way is to tune a VHF radio to the frequencies listed on the next page.

What to Do if Caught in Severe Weather

Prepare the boat to handle severe weather.

  • Slow down, but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
  • Close all hatches, windows, and doors to reduce the chance of swamping.
  • Stow any unnecessary gear.
  • Turn on your boat’s navigation lights. If there is fog, sound your fog horn.
  • Keep bilges free of water. Be prepared to remove water by bailing.
  • If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.

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. In an emergency, a bucket will work as a sea anchor.
  • If the sea anchor is not sufficient, anchor using your conventional anchor to prevent your boat from drifting into dangerous areas.

The Lake Winnipesaukee Forecast

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Gray, Maine issues a recreational forecast for boaters operating on Lake Winnipesaukee from May 1, 2013 through Columbus Day each year.

Throughout the boating season, NOAA always welcomes marine reports (MAREPS) from any and all boaters. If possible, your report should include wind and wave conditions, visibility, weather, water temperature, your location, and the time of the report. Please send the report via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter using or by phone at 207-688-3216, option 0 (zero). Boaters should continue to be aware that this is an experimental forecast initiative. This means further adjustments may occur based on user feedback. You can send your feedback to [email protected].