Boating in the fall

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 3, 2004

I spent part of this week out in Colorado Springs leaving just a day before Navy beat Air Force in football on national television. The mornings in Colorado Springs, with their crisp cool breeze straight off the mountains, reminded me that we have now started the fall season.

Although it isn’t sweater weather yet, I wanted to focus this week on some easy steps boaters can take in the fall to help minimize the possibility of problems. The most recent Coast Guard Atlantic Area Operation Boat Smart newsletter, edited by CDR Kim Pickens had some great ideas I’d like to pass along.

Monitor the weather closely! Along with the weather sea conditions, including direction and wave height can shift! Be prepared for rapid weather changes and rough sea conditions, and pay particular attention to the stern of your boat.

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The Coast Guard has responded to a few incidents lately in which small boats were capsized because people did not judge the weather correctly. In some of cases the results were fatal!

Not to sound like an anti-L.L. Bean ad, but dress for the water, not for the weather. Everyone likes to look &uot;good&uot; on the water. What some people forget is that you need to still dress FOR the water. Pickens’ Boat Smart Newsletter adds, &uot;Remember that even if rescue comes, you may be in the water for over an hour, and survival is unlikely unless you wear protective clothing, such as an exposure (commonly called a &uot;Mustang suit&uot;) or dry suit.

Consider how to get out of the water, and ensure equipment is ready, such as a loop of webbing to serve as a boarding &uot;ladder.&uot;

Always carry a VHF radio for communications, and keep it ready for use on channel 16.

In one of these cases, a distress call was made on a non-distress frequency, and was not heard by the Coast Guard.

In another case, skiff operators actually had a VHF radio, but dropped it overboard earlier in the day.

Remember handheld VHF radios are particularly useful if you lose power due to swamping.

Let’s shift gears now to anchoring during the fall. Simply never anchor over the stern.

I’ll repeat that: NEVER anchor over the stern. Along the same lines, especially in the fall when if you get tossed into the water which can be cool and your problems compounded. Keep the anchor line and in fact all other lines from getting too close to the propeller, where they may get entangled.

Think about it – any line with a bottom weight over the stern of a small boat serves as a pivot point, almost like a top on a string. This effect could cause the boat to swamp – not good!

Finally, and most importantly, approach each trip almost like planning for a military campaign. Carefully plan each aspect; think about problems that can occur and how you would deal with them. If you are going hunting the whole issue of weapons and ammo on a boat adds new concerns.

Just because it is not January does not mean that there are not serious weather issues that need to be considered. You can have very cold days in early November.

Until next week…boat safe, boat smart and have fun on the water!