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Q&A - General safety

Heading out only when conditions are perfect is not always possible. What are some tips for getting under way in questionable weather?

When circumstances dictate heading out in less-than-ideal conditions, the Coast Guard and offer several common-sense tips.

• Leave a float plan with a responsible person who knows your intentions, location and who they should call if you do not return as scheduled.

• Wear a life jacket and set the example for your passengers. Carry a VHF radio and other reliable means of communication.

• Meet with the crew to make sure they know what to do and what not to do if extreme weather arrives. Give them assignments to keep them occupied and keep their minds off the situation.

• Secure all hatches, close all ports and windows, pump bilges dry and repeat as required; secure all loose gear topside and below deck. Store small items and lash down larger ones.

• Prepare emergency equipment you might need, such as hand pumps, bailers, a first aid kit and sound-signaling devices.

• Be aware of the shock that occurs with sudden immersion in cold water and the disabling effects of hypothermia. Plan for the worst: Dress as though you are going to get wet and be cold.

• Maintain awareness on the water. Be aware of activity around your vessel, including changing weather, and always know your location. Monitor channel 16 for updates to severe weather forecasts.

• Determine the position of the storm, wind direction and speed, and estimate the time to your location.

• Ready your sea anchor or drogue; if you have a choice, do not operate the boat from the flybridge.

• Know your limitations and be honest with yourself and your companions. Your life and the lives of those in your party could depend on how everyone understands each other’s capabilities.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.