Boating in the UAE is a popular pastime, but it’s not always sunshine and calm seas. Sometimes, the weather can take a turn for the worse, and it’s essential to be prepared. Here are 11 tips to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone on board when boating in adverse weather conditions in the UAE.
- Register Your Trip: Before heading out, it’s crucial to register your trip with the local marine rescue authorities. You can do this via a smartphone app, by calling the local Marine Rescue Centre, or via your VHF marine radio. This way, if you are overdue, rescuers will reach out to check if everything is okay and launch a rescue mission if necessary.
- Stay Calm: Adverse weather doesn’t usually appear out of nowhere. If you see it approaching, take the time to assess the situation and develop a plan to navigate through it safely. Communicate your plan to everyone on board and stay calm to prevent panic.
- Wear Life Jackets: As soon as you notice a storm or squall approaching, ensure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket. UAE marine laws mandate that life jackets must be worn in situations of heightened danger, such as during a storm.
- Turn On Your Lights: Lower light levels are associated with storms and squalls. Turning on your boat’s lights will make it visible to other vessels. UAE marine safety laws require that the lights on a small recreational boat be turned on in conditions of reduced visibility.
- Check Weather Apps: Use online services like the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology app to check the size, direction, and speed of the approaching storm. This information will help you decide whether to pass through the storm, move in the opposite direction, or seek shelter.
- Reduce Sail: If you are on a sailboat, reduce the amount of sail to prevent the boat from becoming overpowered by high winds. It’s better to reef early rather than too late.
- Seek Shelter: If you are near land, it may be easier to seek shelter from the approaching weather. Find a windbreak on the lee side of the land, where the wind has to go up and over the land before it reaches you. The water in the lee of the land will remain relatively flat and calm compared to the water exposed to the full force of the weather.
- Adjust Speed: Sometimes it is safer and more comfortable for everyone on board to head home slowly rather than quickly. The size and steepness of the waves, as well as the direction they are coming from, will influence your decision.
- Keep a Lookout: Maintaining a proper lookout is crucial, especially when visibility is reduced. Assign a second set of eyes to help you spot boats approaching from other directions or rogue waves that could come from unexpected quarters.
- Have a Grab Bag Handy: Ensure that a grab bag containing all essential items is easily accessible and that everyone on board knows its location and contents.
- Send a “Pan Pan” Call: If you are concerned about your situation but do not believe you are in immediate danger, send a “pan pan” call on the VHF marine radio. This will alert other boats in the area that you may need assistance. If the situation worsens, send a “mayday” message and retrieve the grab bag.
Remember, a change in the weather while boating is more of an inconvenience than a danger if you are prepared and know how to respond. With practice, you will learn to operate your boat confidently in various conditions and plan accordingly.