Always, always, always check the weather forecast before leaving port. Once out on the water, you are at the mercy of mother nature. There’s no pulling over to the side road like in a car. Wind, waves and storms can come out of nowhere even if it was not in the forecast.
Tip: If you don’t think you should go out, don’t go out.
Here are some dangerous sea conditions and what to do if you encounter them:
If you are caught in rough seas, immediately head for the nearest harbor wait for the seas to calm. If you are far offshore, operate at slow speeds to prevent the boat from swamping. Swamping is when water comes over the bow and floods the deck. Repeated swamping can cause water to build up in the boat and capsize and sink it. In a case of repeated swamping, start heading into the waves at very slow speeds or anchor the boat. DO NOT stop the boat in rough seas as the boat move into a position where it takes waves across the side (beam). Taking waves across the beam can cause the boat to flip.
Electrical storms are very dangerous, especially for open boats. Do not attempt to outrun a storm as it is unlikely you will be able to. Head for the nearest port. If you will not make it before the storm hits, prepare to ride it out. Lower all rods and antennae unless they are apart of lightning protection system. Do not use any electronics. If in an open boat, have everyone aboard crouch down in the center and avoid any metal objects. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder and/or lightning event before getting under way again.
Fog is dense, low level clouds that typically occurs in the morning but can roll in at any point in the day. If fog suddenly rolls in, extreme caution is required in order to navigate safely. If your boat is not equipped with radar and/or GPS, you’re safest bet is to slowly move out of a high traffic area if you are in one and anchor. Driving blind through fog even at low speeds is reckless because you have no way of knowing if there are surface hazards like boats or subsurface hazards like rocks in the area. Wait for the fog to pass before getting under way again. If you do have radar, extreme caution is still needed. Radar is a complicated system and you should only use it for navigating through fog if you are experienced with it. Radar is not a substitute for your own vision, so you should continue to operate at low speeds. There are many stories of boaters getting in trouble with and without radar systems.