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Is there anywhere safe for a boater to be in a bad storm?

If you do find yourself heading into one of these storms you need to assess your situation and figure out where it is coming from. Then look to see where you can go for safety and if you can get there in time. 

The main thing you must do is avoid being in a situation where you have a lee shore, shallow water or land directly downwind of you. You won’t drown in shallow water, says Timothy Wyand a retired U.S. Coast Guard chief warrant officer, but it tends to be worse for the boat. You’re more likely to wind up in it [shallow water]. If anything can go wrong, it usually does. The lee shore is the worst possible situation, even if it’s not really a storm, just strong winds.

You want to avoid danger downwind. You don’t want a navigational hazard on one side and wind and waves on the other. Other than that, try and find some protection from the wind and waves. Get on or close to the shore line on the other side (windward); get behind something—a lee or an island. If not, open deep waters may be your best bet. In light of a hurricane, which we’ve seen can be quite dangerous, try to get to a shelter fairly quickly; otherwise you’ll need a lot of sea room in which to  ride out the storm.


Robin G. Coles is a passionate marine enthusiast and sailor who has interviewed countless industry experts as well as visited, interviewed personnel at, written about, and photographed hundreds of marine ports in the US and abroad. She is also an author, columnist in her local paper and owner of For more information on her book: Boating Secrets: 127 Top Tips to Help You Buy and/or Enjoy Your Boat, go to


Print | posted on Wednesday, November 07, 2012 1:05 PM