Trip Planning and Preparation

It is better to take a few minutes to ensure that the boat and its passengers are ready to travel safely before leaving shore than to risk problems when the boat is already out on the water. Negligence of proper boat maintenance and improper preparation for trips onto the water can lead to boating emergencies or unsafe situations that can cause injury or death.

The objective of this section is to ensure that boaters are able to describe and complete pre-trip planning and preparation requirements.

Checking Local Weather and Water Conditions

The ability to make informed boating decisions based on current and forecasted local weather and water conditions is a necessary aptitude that will allow boaters to avoid dangerous emergency situations. In addition to the environmental conditions, boaters must take into account their own skill level, vessel range and capability in impending conditions.

Checking the Weather

Most boating accidents occur on days with calm, clear weather. However, on days when the weather is poor, the danger to operators and passengers is accelerated.

Man standing, fishing on boat

Depending on its severity, bad weather can put a damper on a trip or, at its worst, cause a dangerous boating emergency. Appropriately monitoring weather and water conditions can play an integral role in the safety of vessels on the water. It is the responsibility of the operator to decide, based on current and future weather conditions, to continue or make adjustments to the trip.

To avoid emergency situations, operators should get the latest area forecast before heading onto the water. Boaters should also be aware of any local situations that may make the weather differ from the forecast and can find such information most easily from other boaters who are familiar with the area. Oftentimes, changing signs in the sky can help boaters to predict the occurrence of poor weather and act accordingly.

Some dangerous weather conditions that should be considered include:

  • Strong wind
  • Storms
  • Lightning
  • Hurricanes
  • Fog

Many sources of weather information are available to pleasure craft operators, including radio, television and news stations. The National Weather Service issues marine forecasts several times a day and in several forms. Forecasts provide information and warnings pertaining to wind speed and direction, weather, visibility and any freezing spray.

In preparation for unexpected foul weather that may arise, operators should check local navigational references to identify shelter locations in advance of a trip.

Checking Local Water Conditions

Nautical charts provide valuable information about local tide tables, and current atlases can give information about times of low, water levels, slack and high tides, and the direction of the water flow. Local residents are another good source of information about the local waters. They may be able to point out any rapids and white water, currents, and low-head dams.