• Bad Weather Tips

    Share on your social media pages:

    Related Information

    NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts forecasts and warnings using these frequencies (Channel 16 on your VHF marine radio):

    • 162.400 MHz
    • 162.425 MHz
    • 162.450 MHz
    • 162.475 MHz
    • 162.500 MHz
    • 162.525 MHz
    • 162.550 MHz

    Weather Emergencies

    Weather can change rapidly and create unexpected emergencies for boat operators. Always watch for changes in the weather and monitor the forecast. As an operator, it is your responsibility to take appropriate action based on the weather.

    How to Avoid Severe Weather

    • NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.
    • Be alert to weather conditions. Accumulating dark clouds shifting winds and graying skies all may be indications of danger. Listen for distant thunder.
    • Track changes in barometric pressure. A rising barometer indicates fair weather. A falling barometer indicates foul weather is approaching.
    • Watch for shifts in wind direction, which usually indicate a weather change.
    • Watch for lightning and rough water. If not electrically grounded, boats (particularly sailboats) are vulnerable to lightning.
    • Observe weather from all directions; however, closely watch the weather to the west, the direction from which most bad weather arrives.
    • Watch for fog that creates problems in inlets and bays. Typically, fog will form during the temperature changes of the early morning or evening hours and can persist for lengthy periods.
    • Head toward the nearest safe shore if a thunderstorm is approaching.

    Coping With Foul Weather

    What to Do if Out in Severe Weather

    Prepare the boat to handle severe weather

    • Slow down, but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
    • Close all hatches, windows and doors to reduce the chance of swamping.
    • Stow any unnecessary gear.
    • Turn on your boat's navigation lights. If there is fog, sound your foghorn.
    • Keep bilges free of water. Be prepared to remove water by bailing
    • If there is lightning, disconnect all electrical equipment. Stay as clear of metal objects as possible.

    Prepare your passengers for severe weather

    Decide whether to go to shore or ride out the storm

    • If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. If already caught in a storm, it may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
    • Head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle.
    • Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels, debris, shoals or stumps.
    • If the engine stops, drop a sea anchor on a line off the bow to keep the bow headed into the wind and reduce drifting while you ride out the storm. In an emergency, a bucket will work as a sea anchor. Without power, a powerboat usually will turn its stern to the waves and could be swamped more easily.
    • If the sea anchor is not sufficient, anchor using your conventional anchor to prevent your boat from drifting into dangerous areas.

    Boater's Tip

    To determine the distance you are from an approaching thunderstorm:

    • Count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder.
    • Divide the number of seconds by five.
    • The result is roughly the distance in miles you are from the storm.

    Weather Warning Display Signals

    Small Craft Advisory

    Small Craft Advisory

    Small Craft Advisory:

    Winds in the range of 21 to 33 knots (24 to 38 mph) create conditions considered dangerous to small vessels.

    Gale Warning

    Gale Warning

    Gale Warning:

    Winds are in the range of 34 to 47 knots (39 to 54 mph).

    Storm Warning

    Storm Warning

    Storm Warning:

    Winds are 48 knots (55 mph) and above. Winds associated with a tropical cyclone, are from 48 to 63 knots.

    Hurricane Warning

    Hurricane Warning

    Hurricane Warning:

    Winds are 64 knots (74 mph) and above. This warning is displayed only in connection with a hurricane.


    Content courtesy of