As any seaman will tell you, if there is one thing you can say with any certainty about the weather at sea – is its unpredictability!
No boat owner ever wants to face the possibility of clinging to a capsized boat that could not survive the ravages of a storm at sea. That starts with understanding the capabilities of your boat, and the kinds of conditions she has been designed to handle.
Of course, in this instance, smaller boats are less capable of withstanding severe weather than are lager vessels, but that does not mean luxury yacht owners do not have to be prepared for bad weather. While it is rare for a luxury motor yacht of appreciable size to capsize in a storm, it can happen!
You need to take storm preparedness seriously. No matter what size or kind of vessel you operate, there are some basic things you can and should do to handle your boat safely should you face a sudden storm at sea.
Preparedness Is Key
As with any potentially dangerous situation that can occur at sea, the easiest way to deal with a storm, is to try to avoid getting caught in one whenever possible, while at the same time, making sure your boat and passengers are well prepared to deal with bad weather, should the need arise.
Today, it is easier than ever to avoid bad weather. Of course you should have a NOAA weather radio on board and monitor broadcasts for weather conditions before ever setting out, particularly during known “storm seasons,” such as the Atlantic Hurricane Season which runs from July to November.
But, beyond monitoring weather forecasts, you need to have a basic understanding of what causes rough seas in the first place. Once you are able to “see the signs” of bad weather, you can more easily plan to maneuver around it.
While summer squalls can sometimes seem sudden, they usually do come with a warning. If you see low, dark clouds moving in your direction, that almost always means there are high winds blowing underneath them. These winds can quickly whip up a short, steep chop that may be dangerous for smaller boats.
But even if you know the signs, the point is, never plan to head out for the day without checking on a reliable weather map or report.
Part of being prepared to deal with a storm, not only means knowing how to spot bad weather conditions, and understanding the limitations of your boat, but also making sure your passengers know how to stay safe during hostile weather.
That begins with briefing all passengers with some basic “storm safety,” should a sudden squall turn up. Instruct them to:
- Don life vests as soon as there is any hint of bad weather
- Sit low in the boat, this will protect them, and also lower your boats center of gravity and increase its stability
- Make sure all loose gear is stowed, and hatches literally “battened down.”
Once Your Boat Is Caught in the Storm
When you do get caught in a storm, your most immediate problems will be loss of visibility and high winds, and depending on your present location, increasingly high seas. How you handle the situation will largely have to do with your position, the size of your vessel, and your seamanship skills, or those of your captain.
If you have done your best to avoid bad weather, but you find yourself caught in a storm, once you have gotten your passengers to hunker down in their PFDs, radio communications will be critical. Consider sending out a “Pan-Pan” on Channel 16 of your VHF radio. This will alert the Coast Guard and any other vessels in the area that you are in trouble but in no immediate danger. It will put them on alert, should your “Pan-Pan” call escalate to “Mayday.”
Asses your location, and the wind direction. Could you conceivably make it to safer waters until the storm passes? If you do think it is a good idea to make it to shore or back to the marina, proceed SLOWLY. The biggest mistake many boaters make, is panicking and going full throttle to try to beat out the storm. Plowing through rough water at high speed only increases your chance of capsizing.
How Yacht Management Can Help
There are many advantages to having your motor yacht signed up with a professional yacht management company such as Florida Yacht Management (FYM). In addition to handling all the details of managing the operations of your boat, FYM will make every effort to ensure its safety during fair or foul weather.
Being based in South Florida, we also have a detailed hurricane preparedness plan in place for all yachts in our charge.
Hurricanes and tropical storms can be unpredictable. However, one thing you can be sure of is that you have a better chance of protecting your boat, if you work with experts who understand the value of being prepared.
Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand Yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968