According to Maritime New Zealand, many fatal boating accidents happen in bad weather. Weather conditions can make the difference between an enjoyable day out and an uncomfortable or even tragic trip. If in doubt, don’t go out!
A large proportion of accidents involving small vessels are weather related. Bad weather makes the environment on board a vessel extremely hazardous. It also places a lot of strain on the vessel’s structure, equipment and the people on board. It is important to respect the weather at sea.
Skippers should make sure they understand the different parts of a weather forecast and the best way to find up-to-date local information. Maritime New Zealand provides an excellent guide on marine weather forecasts. They recommend using the sources listed below.
Sources of marine forecast
The most convenient sources of marine forecasts, including the 5-day outlook are:
- VHF radio – the MNZ maritime radio service provides forecasts announced on channel 16 – call at 0533, 0733, 1333, 1733 and 2133 hours.
- Coastguard on VHF radio channels 20, 21, 22 and 23, including the “NowCast” continuous broadcasts in many recreational boating areas.
- MetPhone – dial 0900 999 + your area code for regional forecasts
Other sources of marine forecasts include:
- Local Coastguard stations on VHF radio
- New Zealand’s national meteorological service
- Our very own The Boating map
- Private coastal radio stations and radio stations for fishermen
- Local radio stations, especially in summer on National Radio at 0400 hours
How can I tell if bad weather is on the way?
Weather changes generally come from the west so scan the sky with your weather eye, especially to the west. A sudden change – close all ports and windows. (Keep the water on the outside)
Be Prepared – Storm Checklist
- Pump bilges dry and repeat as required. This helps eliminate “free water affect.” (Sloshing of water in the bilge as the boat rolls which can effect stability)
- Secure all loose gear above decks and below. Put away small items and lash down larger ones. Anything you want to have when the storm passes must be secured.
- Break out life jackets and wet weather gear and exercise your authority as skipper by requiring them to be worn by everyone on board. Do this before the weather gets bad, don’t wait too long.
- Ready emergency equipment that you may need such as hand pumps, bailers, first aid kit, sound signalling device, etc.
- Get a good fix of your position and plot it on your chart. Make note of the time, your heading and speed.
- Make plans to alter course to sheltered waters if possible.
- Continue to monitor channel 16 on your VHF radio for updates to severe forecasts.
- For extremely severe weather, break out your abandon ship procedures and review them.
- Make sure the life raft is ready to be deployed.
- Make sure emergency food and water are in the life raft.
- Rig jack lines and/or lifelines and require anyone who must go on deck to wear a safety harness.
- Make ready your sea anchor or drogue if needed.
- Turn on navigation lights.
- Keep away from metal objects.
- Keep a sharp lookout for floating debris and other boats.
- If you have a choice, do not operate the boat from the flybridge.