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Encountering Other Boats

Weather Emergencies

Weather can change very rapidly and create unexpected situations for boat operators. Even meteorologists have trouble predicting rapid changes in the weather. You should always monitor weather developments. One way is to tune into the frequencies listed below on a VHF radio.

What To Do If Caught In Foul Weather

Put on personal flotation devices (PFDs) and make sure they are properly secured. If there is fog, sound your fog horn. See page 34. Head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. Head the bow into the waves at a 45 degree angle. PWC should head into the waves at a 90 degree angle.

Reduce your speed. Seat passengers on the bottom of the boat, as close to the centerline as possible.

Minimize the danger of having your boat struck by lightning by seeking shelter in advance of a storm. If caught on open water during a thunderstorm, stay low in the middle of the boat. Secure loose items. Have emergency gear ready.

Keep the bilge free of water. If the engine stops, drop anchor from the bow. If you have no anchor use a "sea anchor", which is anything (a bucket on a line, a tackle box) that will create drag, and hold the bow into the wind.

Weather Warning Display Signals

Daytime Flags

Night Time Lights


Small Craft Advisory
Winds in the range of 21 to 33 knots (24 to 38 mph) which are conditions considered dangerous to small boats.

Gale Warning
Winds in the range of 34 to 47 knots (39-54 mph).

Storm Warning
Winds 48 knots (55 mph) and above. If the winds are associated with a tropical cyclone, this warning forecasts winds of 48-63 knots.

Hurricane Warning
Winds of 64 knots (74 mph) and above, displayed only in connection with a hurricane.


VHF Stations Broadcasting NOAA Weather Reports

WX-1 ..........162.550 MHz
WX-2 ..........162.400 MHz
WX-3 ..........162.475 MHz

VHF Radio

Recreational boaters are given access to these VHF channels:


Intership safety communications only


Communications between boats (commercial and recreational), and ship to coast


Communications between ocean-going vessels, bridge tenders, locks, and tugs while towing


Distress and safety calls to Coast Guard and others, and to initiate calls to other vessels


Public telephone calls (to marine operator)

68, 69, 71

Recreational boat radio channel and ship to coast

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