Chapter 3: Launching and Operation

Checking Weather Conditions

Knowing how to prepare for a safe trip, how to safely launch the vessel, and how to safely retrieve are all essential to being a responsible boater. But knowing when it's time to come back to shore, or when it's not safe at all, are equally vital.

Not only can foul weather disrupt visibility, it can also make the boat more difficult to maneuver. That is why one should check the weather conditions before embarking on any boating trip. Always check the short-term and long-term forecasts on either the radio, television, or the internet to steer clear of fog, heavy rain, and strong wind. One should also never go boating when a severe storm warning is in effect, especially a hurricane warning.

Use a radio to check a VHF-FM weather station periodically while you're out on the water. These stations broadcast National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, which will give one detailed and frequent updates on weather information for the area. One can find NOAA weather radio on these frequencies:

WX1: 162.550 MHz
WX2: 162.400 MHz
WX3: 162.475 MHz

NOAA Weather Radio reports the conditions of the coastal areas of the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii and broadcasts useful information like wave conditions, wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. One can use all of this information to find the most favorable areas to boat, avoid hazardous conditions as best as possible, and determine when it is time to head back to shore.

Even if these conditions are not severe enough to greatly hinder the operator's ability to navigate the vessel, one must take into account how they will affect a boating trip. Ask yourself how these factors will impact fuel usage and whether the vessel is adept at handling these conditions based on hull design, fuel capacity, etc. Also, consider one's own familiarity and skill handling the vessel before deciding to go boating in any conditions even if they are reasonably fair. All of these factors have an impact on a boating trip.