Boating in Maryland is a fun and exciting experience, but it can quickly turn into a disappointment or even a disaster for boaters who don’t check the weather before leaving the coast.

Every summer the Maryland Natural Resources Police responds to multiple boating accidents due to rough waves and bad weather. During the season, the weather can change in an instant, making it essential that all boaters check the weather before leaving shore and stay alert for bad weather signs.

Boaters on the water should make their way to shore without delay at the first sign of threatening weather approaches. A good tip for keeping a watchful eye on severe weather is to look west, the direction from which the worst weather occurs. A common trick for determining how far away an approaching thunderstorm is is to count the number of seconds between a lightning bolt and thunderclap. Dividing the number of seconds by five gives you roughly the distance to the storm in miles.

If a storm cannot be avoided on the water, boaters should make sure everyone on board wears a life jacket in case the boat overturns. If lightning strikes are frequent, passengers should stay below deck and avoid objects that are not earthed to the ship. Taking a few minutes to check the weather forecast before departure and during navigation is essential, even life-saving in some cases.

Here are some more tips to ensure a safe and fun boating experience:

  • Leave a plan floating – let a loved one know where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Make sure there is a US Coast Guard approved portable life jacket per person and extras, if needed.
  • Attach a whistle to each life jacket.
  • Have a working horn on board.
  • Carry at least one fire extinguisher, according to Coast Guard rules, and make sure it is easily accessible.
  • Make sure the flares are not expired.
  • Have all required navigation lights on the vessel.
  • Bring a flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Carry a toolbox with tools suitable for your boat.
  • Take a first aid kit suited to your type of navigation.
  • Fill the fuel tanks and check the engine oil and coolant levels.
  • Have a radio on board to receive weather updates and direct communications with other boats and the Coast Guard.
  • Visually inspect the lines for chaff or wear, and replace if necessary.

While it may seem difficult to remember, making this checklist part of a routine will help keep boaters safe. A control List is available on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Remember to find out before you go!

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