Boating in restricted visibility
Rain, fog, smog, hail or snow may restrict visibility on the water. As a boater, you can avoid collision by making every effort to detect other boats and make your presence known to them. See and be seen; hear and be heard.
Next to running out of fuel, bad weather spoils more boating days than anything else. So be on the lookout for any weather conditions that might affect visibility.
Before setting out, check the weather forecast for rain in advance of fronts, thunderstorms, or squalls. A dew point close to the temperature could mean fog.
Plan for daylight hours of operation if you aren’t comfortable with boating at night.
Periodically check NOAA weather radio (VHF) or public weather broadcasts. Seek shelter if you observe lowering and thickening clouds or squall lines. And monitor humidity and temperature changes. Falling temperatures may lead to fog.
Use the following procedures when boating in restricted visibility:
- Reduce speed; the Navigation Rules require it. You should be able to stop your boat within one-half the visible distance. If another vessel looms up ahead and is following the same precaution, collision will be unlikely.
- Everyone should be wearing life jackets. A person in the water in a life jacket is more easily seen, especially in poor visibility.
- Post two lookouts, one on the bow and one on the stern. The helmsman must concentrate on the boat’s operation.
- Turn on your navigation lights.
- Sound the proper sound signals for your vessel. Powerboats sound one prolonged (four to six seconds) blast every two minutes. Sailing vessels (no power) sound one prolonged blast followed by two short blasts every two minutes.
- If necessary, briefly shut down your engine to listen for sounds of nearby boats and aids to navigation. If you hear a signal, reply with your own signal. Then proceed cautiously until you determine the other boat’s position. It’s difficult to determine the direction of sound in fog.
- Determine your position as accurately as possible, and plot the safest course to your destination. Try to navigate from one lighted navigation aid to another. Avoid a course that brings you close to hazards. Never take undue risks to get home.
If lost, anchor and wait for conditions to improve. You will save fuel and avoid becoming further disoriented.
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