About the Study Guide

You are looking at a preview of what’s in the timed Boat Pennsylvania Course. Feel free to look around, but you’ll need to register to begin progress toward getting your Pennsylvania Boater Education Certificate.

Learn More Register for the Course

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 a PFD is already on, make sure it is secured properly.
  • Have your passengers sit on the vessel floor close to the centerline. This is for their safety and to make the boat more stable.
Go to Shore or Ride it Out?

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. PWCs should head directly into the waves.
  • Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels, debris, shoals, or stumps.
  • 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. Without power, a powerboat usually will turn its stern to the waves and could be swamped more easily.
  • If the sea anchor is not sufficient, anchor using your conventional anchor to prevent your boat from drifting into dangerous areas.
Weather Warning Display Signals
Weather warning signal for small craft advisory

Small Craft Advisory
Winds in the range of 21 to 33 knots (24 to 38 mph) create conditions considered dangerous to small vessels.

Weather warning signal for gales

Gale Warning
Winds are in the range of 34 to 47 knots (39 to 54 mph).

Weather warning signal for storms

Storm Warning
Winds are 48 knots (55 mph) and above. If winds are associated with a tropical cyclone, this warning signals winds of 48 to 63 knots.

Weather warning signal for hurricanes

Hurricane Warning
Winds are 64 knots (74 mph) and above. This warning is displayed only in connection with a hurricane.