Summer is slowly drawing towards its close, and even in always-sunny California, that means weather patterns could change. The endless days of sunshine might give way to more-frequent bad weather, like rain, storms, wind or fog. That could create unsafe conditions for nautical excursions on your boat. That’s why you should always know when it’s safe to boat, and when you need to head for the shore.
Even though the greater Los Angeles area has many opportunities for boaters—from the Pacific Ocean to numerous rivers, lakes and reservoirs—none of them are the safest places to be if bad weather beckons. Never take the risk of boating in conditions that might prove dangerous or deadly.
1. Visibility Risks
Just like cars on the roadway, vessels on the water need to be able to see other vessels and other hazards that lie in their paths. If they can’t see other vessels, debris, rocks or land masses, then they run the risk of collisions. Any boat collision could lead to property damage, injuries, and legal penalties.
That’s why fog, rain, or even early darkness is dangerous for boaters. The less you can see around you, the higher your risks of collisions. In these conditions, it’s always better to head for the shore. You should also make ample use of your foghorn, radar, radio and lights to minimize your invisibility. It’s also best to travel at a reduced speed in these cases.
2. Risks of Foundering or Sinking
As weather conditions change, so too, might water conditions. The water could become choppy, and increased swells could make navigation difficult. Therefore, it takes a lot more skill to navigate in high seas than in pleasant weather. If you can’t control your vessel, you face significant risks of your boat capsizing, becoming swamped, or sinking.
Bad water conditions aren’t just limited to oceans. Rivers and lakes can also become unsafe for sailors, particularly if water levels rise and flooding begins.
3. Wind Risks
Wind can be a sailor’s worst enemy, even if you aren’t operating a sailboat. Increased wind leads to increased water swells. At this time, you might compromise the stability risks of the boat.
4. Lightning Strike Risks
Lightning strikes bodies of water frequently, both saltwater and freshwater. As lightning strikes, the water can act as a conductor, which is how it could strike your boat even if it hit the water a distance away. If you see lightning, do not remain on the water, even if the storm is a distance away—lightning travels—as it could significantly damage your boat and pose electrocution risks.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service issue regular weather bulletins for both ocean conditions and inland areas. You can access these bulletins both online and by using your boat’s VHF radio.
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