Surviving the Storm: What to Do If You’re at Sea During Storm – What can be better than sailing off on a yacht into the blue waters of the ocean? Salty wind in your face, waves rocking the deck under your feet, me vomiting over the rail…But wait, what’s that? Uh-oh, it’s a storm coming! Don’t panic, though: here are some pro tips for you to get out of it in one piece.
1. Prepare in advance
Going out into the open sea without proper gear is asking for trouble. That’s why your fight with the elements begins even before you set sail. Make sure you have enough safety vests for everyone on board — that’s an absolute must. It will also help to have an emergency radio beacon and some additional fasteners to hold every movable object. If something flies, it can not only be lost in the sea, but also injure someone, and you don’t want any more trouble than you’re already in.
2. Read the signs
Weather conditions both above and beneath you will clearly warn you of what to expect straight ahead. Learn to read the wind, the clouds, and the currents, and always keep an eye on the barometer— changes in the air pressure are a telltale sign there’s something nasty coming your way. Keeping track of all these things just might let you escape the storm.
3. Head for the shore
If all else fails, and you see the storm approaching,try to find the nearest land and sail there as fast as you can. It’s always best if there’s a port nearby, so that you can make the safest landing possible,but if there’s none, any flat strip of shore will do. If you’re already in the storm, however, it might be safer to stay in the open than to risk crashing your boat in high wind. And if that happens…
4. Stay in one place
The slower you go in the storm, the easier it is to steer. But the speed heavily depends on the weight of your boat, the severity of wind and waves,and how well-prepared you are. If you have enough ballast on your boat that’s positioned equally above and below decks, you’ll have lower chances of being tossed in the wind like a toy. And if you have a sea anchor, use it!It will help stabilize your boat, and you’ll have much more control of the situation. Without the anchor, though, even a bucket on a line should help.
5. Remove wind from the equation
Wind is your worst enemy during the storm. It will hit you hard, and waves created by it will pack a hefty punch too. Anyway, that’s why you should avoid as much wind as you can. If you have a sailboat, remove all the sails as soon as you realize you can’t escape the storm. Just imagine one of those huge pieces of cloth unfolding and catching the monstrous winds around you! At best, you’ll lose your sail; at worst, your entire boat.
6. Cut the waves
When you’re in control, the sails have been folded, and the sea anchor has been deployed, position your boat at 15 degrees to the approaching waves and wind. This will make her nose cut them, making them weaker. If you go straight at the wind, you might get a rogue wave lashing out from the front. Side hits are even more dangerous because the area of a hit is bigger, and you risk scooping water and even capsizing.
7. Stay covered
It might seem obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning that your best chances lie in keeping out of the worst of it. Tell everyone on board to hide in the cabin or inside the holds, if there are any. However good you might be at controlling your boat, there’s always a chance that a wave will hit her hard enough to throw anyone standing on the deck.
8. Keep everything strapped
I’ve said it a bit earlier, but I can’t stress it enough: any object that can be moved, both on the deck and in the cabin and holds,should be fastened and secured. Ideally, you should remove anything that can cause harm when tossed by the wind and waves,but if that’s impossible, just make sure it won’t budge when the weather strikes hard. Fastening your stuff will help you save it and avoid risk to your passengers.
9. Make yourself visible
During a storm, your line of sight reduces a lot because of all the rain and darkness from the storm clouds. And even if your boat is small and you’ve done everything right until this point, there’s always a chance that someone nearby hasn’t watched this video and is panicking. For all you know, they could be racing across the waves just a few dozen feet from you, and neither of you will see the collision coming. So make sure you’re as visible as possible. Turn on the lights and sound your horn at regular intervals. This will let anyone around you know that you’re there, and you’ll avoid bumping into each other.
10. Send out a distress call
If you realize that things are not going well for you, turn on your radio transmitter and send out a call for help. Using your rocket flare during a storm isn’t a good idea as it won’t be seen, so radio is your best shot. When someone has picked up your signal, tell them your coordinates and stay put — if you sail away from the spot, finding you will be no easy task.
11. Be secure
Now that you’re in real trouble, you should wait for help and make sure everyone on board is safe. First of all, don’t let yourself or anyone else panic. As in all critical situations, panic will only make things worse. Calm down your passengers and instruct them to secure themselves somewhere so that they don’t fall and get hurt. You and your crew, if you have it, should at this time try to control the boat and prolong the time it stays afloat. The longer you keep it that way, the better your chances of getting rescued. But in the worst case scenario, when you have to abandon boat, then…
12. Stay afloat and together
So your boat has capsized, and you had to jump into the water to save your life. First make sure that everyone has done the same and do the head count. Needless to say, all of you should’ve been wearing your life jackets since the storm had come. If someone wasn’t careful enough, though, help them find a floating object and let them cling to it.
If the boat is still afloat, the best course is to swim back and climb onto it. Staying in the water can cause hypothermia, or loss of body heat, which is very dangerous. If the boat has sunk, then float on the water and don’t tread it. When treading, you spend much needed energy more quickly. So save your breath — literally.
13. Wait for help
Well, this is quite self-explanatory: don’t do anything rash, calm down yourself and help the others, make sure everyone has something to hold on to while floating in the water, and wait. If the storm hasn’t subsided yet, the wait can be terrifying, but really, you have nothing else to do. Of course, you should also attract as much attention to yourself as you can, so send out distress calls if you can and use other ways too — anything helps.
14. Recount your losses
But let’s get back a little bit and imagine capsizing never happened. Good thing we can do it like this. Anyway, you’ve managed to survive the storm with your boat in one piece. The sky is clearing, and the worst is finally over. But it’s not yet time to yell “hurray” and get all jolly. The thing is, your boat might be damaged from all the tossing and beating, so make sure you find out if anything’s wrong with it ASAP.
First check the hull for any holes, then see if the bilge pumps are working alright and drain holes are really draining water. If something’s wrong indeed, be sure to do the necessary repairs immediately — you never know when another storm is going to occur.
15. Avoid further damage
When you’re done repairing the boat and helping your passengers if needed, go to the shore, but do it carefully. After a heavy rain, especially if there’s a river nearby, debris may float in the water. It sometimes travels at rather high speeds, dragged by currents, but even static objects in the water can be a threat to your boat. If you suddenly come across a floating log, for example, it just might damage the hull or even make a hole in it, so exercise caution.
16. Don’t stay on the water
Finally, after surviving a severe storm, don’t assume you’re ready to continue the voyage. You’ll probably be exhausted after such an ordeal, and you’ll need rest before going further. Make sure this rest is not on the water, though. Like I said, you can’t know when the next storm will come, and let’s be honest: your chances of surviving another one while tired and on a possibly damaged boat are slim. So head for the nearest harbor, go ashore, and only go back to the sea when you’re thoroughly rested.