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Ship, Yacht and Boat Safety: Storms on the High Seas

Our cars are often our lifelines to the outside world. They get us to work, shopping, shuttling our families around town and are our transportation to many far away destinations. However, if we don’t regularly inspect our vehicles and keep them well maintained, all that travel can be put in jeopardy. This is especially true for those just beginning to drive because they do not have the ability to recognize some common problems. Keeping a vehicle in tiptop shape is a dual effort that involves both the owner and those who service the vehicle. Financially it makes sense to personally do most of the maintenance, but don’t attempt it if there isn’t access to the correct tools or the knowledge in which to do it correctly. A qualified repair shop is usually best for more major issues that arise. Some cars have special requirements and may require the use of specially designed tools.


This article is provided by Action Donation Services® as a public service to the boating community. Some of the most important things to do in order to handle high seas are done in calm ones. Preparation is key to properly handling inclement weather at sea, and so making preparations as simple as treating the windshield with rain shield, which helps water bead faster and roll off the glass faster thereby increasing visibility, can be the difference between a safe return and tragedy. If you can avoid the storm entirely by pulling the boat or onshore for the duration of the storm, doing so promptly is ideal. Either way, one of the first things to do is remove all on-board items which could be damaged. It is also important to, if pulling the boat or yacht from the water is not possible, ensure it is as secured as it can be. Increasing the number of lines tied to a dock or doubling the mooring lines help increase the odds that the boat will still be where it was left before the storm hit. Also, there are certain things a captain should make sure are on board at all times, because once an unexpected storm hits at sea a captain is left only with what he or she has aboard. These items include, but are not limited to:

  • Lightning rod
  • Radio
  • Air horn or whistle
  • Running lights
  • Personal floatation devices

Now that the vessel is ready for a possible storm, it is possible to prepare for an impending one. Once a storm is reported to be heading for a launched vessel, there are preparations which can be made at sea to ensure the greatest chance at survival. The first thing the captain and crew must do is to batten down the hatches and close the windows and portholes. In this way, the least amount of water possible can make it into the ship. As the storm nears, there are more ways to prepare a vessel. Most importantly, it is of the utmost important that all crew and passengers wear personal floatation devices. Pumping the bilge dry and stowing all important gear in secure areas is vital to making sure the ship is able to sail back to the harbor after the storm passes. Ensuring all emergency gear is accessible is important, especially if the ship suffers irreparable damage and cannot make it back to land. Securing all gear which can, once the ship starts rocking violently, be potentially dangerous, will increase safety in choppy seas.

Boating in Stormy Seas

Once the storm arrives, survival is not a simple matter or riding it out, assured of the crew’s preparations. Boating in a storm is something of an acquired skill, but there are certain pieces of knowledge that give the novice a head start. The first rule of boating in stormy seas is to head into the wind. Ships are designed with inclement weather in mind, but these designs are rendered useless when the heaviest winds are taken abeam. Also, storms will of course cause choppy seas, and even moderate waves can be treacherous when approached wrong. Movies and television shows often portray the way to approach waves as being head-on. While this creates a dramatic scene, it is not the best way to approach a wave, because riding the wave down would, if approached head-on, cause the propeller to rise up out of the water, thereby sacrificing control. The best way to approach a wave is at a 45-degree angle, so the propeller stays below water and the ship and its passengers are not subjected to undue pounding. Finally, it is key that the captain slow the speed of the vessel in choppy waters, as doing so ensures that, should the boat meet head-on with a wave, it will ride atop it rather than risk burying the bow below it. Also, reducing speed maximizes steering control.

  • Boating Weather Safety – Safe boating weather information to help plan a trip.
  • Getting Caught in Thunder Storms – More information on what to do if an unexpected storm overtakes a vessel.
  • US Coast Guard – Storm warnings and more from those dedicated to keeping America’s coast safe.
  • Boating Safety: Storm Tips – Tips for keeping safe on the water during inclement weather.
  • Avoiding Thunderstorms while Boating – The best way to handle a storm is avoiding it entirely.
  • American Boating Association – The importance of communication in an emergency cannot go overstated.
  • Using a VHF Radio – A marine radio can be the difference between being stranded for a day and an hour.
  • Preparing for a Hurricane – Preparing a boat for a hurricane takes hard work, but when the boat survives, it is all worth it.
  • Emergencies and Equipment – Having the right equipment on board during a storm is only useful if someone aboard knows how to use it.
  • Storm Survival Strategies – Valuable storm survival strategies from a captain who has seen dozens of them.
  • Storm Signals – Knowing the signals that a storm is on the way can be extremely valuable when out at sea.
  • Tropical Boating – More information on how to protect boats from the dangers of a hurricane.
  • Hurricane Preparation Checklist – Keeping track of preparations using this checklist can help people protect one of their most expensive investments.
  • Boating in an Emergency – Knowing what to do in the face of danger can mean the difference between coming home safe, coming home in a rescue boat, or not coming home at all.
  • Cruising Course: Heavy Weather – Further information on how to avoid or sail through heavy weather.
  • Donating your no longer needed vessel, boat or yacht to a favorite charity to receive a tax deduction.

Action Donation Services

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