So far we have had a pretty mild winter, which has been great news for all boating enthusiasts. If you have been enjoying your boat a little more over the winter season than usual then that’s got to be a good news, but it’s worth pointing out a few potential warnings.
At the moment the weather forecasters are still uncertain as to whether the weather will be improving or getting very much worse. I have seen forecasts advising me to stay indoors because of the arctic snow and ice on the way, only to end up pottering in the garden because it’s been so sunny and warm. On the other hand there are those forecasters saying it will be lovely whilst we’re busily hacking off chunks of ice from the car first thing in the morning.
But there certainly is a very good chance that over the next few weeks we will see a downturn in the weather, with temperatures plummeting, snow and ice forming and much stronger winds.
This sudden change in the weather can often catch people out. Especially if you’re having more fun in your boat and outdoors than normal. It’s tempting to think that, with Christmas and the New Year now just hazy memories (very, very hazy in some cases!) that winter is all done and dusted and that we are now all set to welcome in spring.
Nothing doing. Spring is a long way off yet, and there’s plenty of opportunity for the cold weather to come in. So here are a few tips and a few warning points to beware of if you’re planning on heading out either sailing, boating, motor boating or otherwise enjoying the open water.
This is so easy to overlook, but in some cases boat insurance can actually specify periods of the year during which cover is not provided, or it is reduced in some way. Clearly it is more dangerous to go boating during colder weather, especially with strong winds, and some policies may not cover damage to the boat, or loss of the boat, in certain conditions. Check the small print, and if in doubt call them up to double check.
Never go out on the water without checking the forecast for the area you’re intending to go out on. Remember, just because the weather has been mild recently doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Only a couple of days ago I headed out and discovered myself facing a thick wall of fog which hadn’t been forecast, and was unexpected given the conditions only fairly close by. Fortunately I was on foot, not in a boat out at sea, but it does serve as a reminder that, especially at this time of the year, the weather can be unexpected.
Before you head out boating make sure you leave a plan of your intended route, along with destinations, approximate times and contact details, so that should anything happen people can be alerted that something may be wrong as soon as possible.
Whether your boat has been standing for weeks, or has been used regularly, it’s important to check it even more thoroughly than usual in these colder and potentially more dangerous conditions. Check every part of the boat, and make sure that if anything is amiss you get this sorted before heading out.
Waterproof clothing is obviously essential at this time of year, and having a flotation jacket or coat is a great idea. But because the weather can be kinder at the moment it’s important to wear lots of layers, rather than just one or two big bulky layers. This gives you the opportunity to vary your clothing layers better to suit the current conditions.
Oh, I know you shouldn’t have to, and I know that boating enthusiasts can occasionally be a little impulsive, believing in instinct and all that, but do please think carefully about your journey, and about who you take. Make sure you have plenty of first aid facilities, and good up to date first aid training.
Boating can be enormous fun, and a great way to escape the dreary grey doldrums of the post festive winter season, but be safe, stay safe, and check these points through carefully before setting off.