It was midnight, and the water seemed a little bit rough. What I thought would be a night full of twinkling stars, calm waves, and me out on the deck with a beer bottle quickly turned into a nightmare where I fought to survive the looming bad weather. The sailor in me cursed because this was the first trip I took after months of working on a project that took everything out of me.
I want to share my story because I want all boating enthusiasts to know what they should do if they are stuck in a storm. It’s alright to feel scared because your life is in your own hands.
The first time I was caught in a storm, I was lucky enough to get rescued by the coast guards because I had radioed them. This made me think that I should be prepared for any mishap next.
So, here’s what I did:
The first rule of boating is – Always wear a life jacket! You never know when you have to jump ship, and in such a scenario, a life jacket is the only thing that helps you survive. You need to have multiple life jackets for calm and rough water. During my second storm on a boat, I got knocked by the sail. I was wearing a self-inflatable life jacket. So, when I fell in, I turned face-up on my own, even when unconscious.
When you feel a storm arriving, and the waves get choppy, don’t try to speed through them. This will tip your boat and make it difficult to hand the vessel. So, slow down! Your twenty 25 knots of wave speed gets multiplied. So, turn the engine down and divide the pounding force.
ALWAYS carry a radio with you!
This one is a no-brainer. When it gets dicey, radio the coast guard and let them know that you are experiencing some difficulty. Tell them about your plan, and if they don’t hear from you in the next hour, they should organize a search. Regular checking in with the coast guard will also allow you to keep tabs on the weather.
Don’t try to make your deadline if the water is not treating you well. Check the map and look for the nearest harbor. Do it even if this means you might have to turn away from your home.
What I am about to tell you now might not sit with you well. However, this is what helped me come out alive from a storm. If the waves are going in the direction you are headed, get back on the growler and stay there until you make it to safety. It takes considerable helmsmanship and seamanship to ride a back wave. However, if you are in the front, a growler might catch up with you and swamp you.
Lastly, do not jump ship until your boat is about to be completely submerged if worst comes to worst. Stand in an open area with your waterproof bag that contains your cell phone, GPS, and other essentials. Then, jump right off at the very end.
This is how you survive a storm that feels like it might sweep you away in its waves!
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