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Fishing in the storm, even for a large vessel is difficult, and the experience of maneuvering is exciting since it is acquired by the navigator for many years.
When fishing in open water areas, one must always remember that the weather can quickly change for the worse and therefore you cannot break away from the shore. You always need to know the place to hide the vessel or pull it out on time when the storm approaches.
In the case of huge storms, let’s focus on the maneuvers to be done in such a situation.
Wave conditions vary according to three scenarios: the duration, strength of the winds, and their direction. The waves develop on a temporal basis. If the wind blows at 15 knots, there should be no problem, but the waves could easily double in height after two consecutive days.
As for the strength of the waves, the question is relatively simple. If the wind blows at 20 knots, the waves will be twice as high as a 10 knots wind.
In reality, a wind blowing from the ground to the sea will have a wave effect than an offshore wind, because of a shorter fetch.
Fetch is the distance on a body of water above which a given wind blows without encountering any obstacle.
For example, if you are fishing near shore, a wind of 30 knots could have a marginal effect, while if you are offshore, more than 150 km from the coast, weak winds can develop large waves.
Another factor to consider is the interval between wave peaks. Even if the waves are high, you will have less to worry if the interval between them is longer. So you risk less than the boat goes wrong and be heavily splashed.
The type of boat
Maneuvering in rough weather in an open deck boat is a lot different than on a closed deck boat. If the waves hit the front of a closed deck boat, they will likely splash the boat to the windshield and penetrate a little into the cockpit.
Everything should be fine, as long as your deck culverts are not obstructed. Check them out every month! Do not forget that having a foot or two of water in the cockpit may cause you some problems in maneuvering your boat.
For an open deck boat, this is more risky for two reasons. First, if the bow is splashed by the waves and a good amount of water enters, you will have more difficulty in maneuvering because this type of boat is lighter.
Instead of scuppers, you will depend on the effectiveness of your bilge pumps to eliminate water. So, never leave without them! Also, make sure they have a flow capacity appropriate to the size of the boat and that they are properly installed.
Secondly, in an open deck boat, it will be very important to properly distribute the weight on board, be it passengers or equipment, as this could cause the bow to fill with water.
Strategy to use in a sea face
When facing big waves, you have to balance the boat’s trim. Adjusting the trim (if available) down and maintaining a certain speed should help raise the boat.
In the case of an open deck boat, make sure you have a good weight distribution on board. Also balance the weight on the sides of the boat.
When you’re driving in big waves, everything becomes uncomfortable on board because of the impact of waves against the hull and splashing.
If you’re fishing in a 15 or 30-degree angle, you’ll gain in comfort and you’ll have less water on board. As for the speed of the boat, everything will depend on the interval between the waves and their camber.
The downwind approach
First of all, as for a seashore, keep the weight at the back of the boat if you have to maneuver with a tailwind.
If you surf a wave and the bow is too charged (at high speed or with an incorrect angle of attack), you may catch up with the next wave.
This could cause the wave to project the bow back (and vice versa) and break on the back of the boat. Personally, I found that zigzagging between the waves works well.
It will be even easier if the wave peaks are more distant and you have a longer gap between them.
When maneuvering with a tailwind, the stern may tend to slide on the side of the wave. This usually happens when the speed of the boat is lower than that of the waves. Ultimately, if the boat slips to the next wave, it could have serious consequences.
In order to prevent the boat from going awry, it is necessary to maneuver directly into the wave. You will most likely need more power to escape the skewed effect.
If the boat is equipped with two engines, push the engine throttle on the side of the wave.
This will help straighten the boat BUT you will have to reduce the gas immediately so as not to take too much speed. I personally learned a good lesson from this experience: you must always have power in reserve. If you continuously maneuver at full power, you will not be able to avoid a skew.
The ideal speed
There is an ideal speed for each boat, depending on the hull, the power of the engine and the action of the waves. It also takes patience to find “the right balance”.
You will have to perform several tests by gradually increasing or decreasing the speed of the boat.
On a cruise, my wife and I spent two full days at the dock waiting for the winds to calm down before we finally decided to leave. We found the ideal speed to surf waves of 4 to 5 feet, 17 knots, and traveled 25 miles to get to our destination. That day we were alone on the water, even though it was really nice.
The action of the waves is never totally uniform. Some say that we can even meet waves 9 to 10 times bigger. I do not know if it’s true, but know that you must always remain alert in such conditions.
From time to time, you will encounter a wave that will be 25 to 50% higher than the average. Always look three or four waves further, whether in a sea face or downwind.
So you will see it coming and can adjust your speed and approach to minimize the impact. It is obviously best to avoid surprises.
Last but not least
If you go on the water for a long time with a boat that is starting to age, you run other risks. Indeed, the fuel tanks corrode over time. Thus, when your boat gets brewed in waves, sediment from the tank could come off and clog the fuel filter.
In the case of diesel engines, there are usually two filters on each side. Ensure you have a good idea to use only one at a time. So you can swap them as needed.
For gasoline engines, plan to take two or three additional filters. It would also be good to know how to change them in case you need to do it urgently.
Know that it will not be the end of the world if you ever have to maneuver in the big waves! It will be an opportunity for you to exercise your reflexes. Afterward, you will not feel trapped or frightened when you go out on the water.
Fishing in heavy weather — how to prepare well
Unless you keep your boat constantly docked at the marina, you will inevitably end up facing the heavy weather.
Whether it’s a simple stroll on the water, a fishing trip or a cruise, you risk one way or another being surprised by unpredictable weather conditions, even if you always plan your outings well.
The most important thing is that you are very well prepared to deal with any eventuality. You will be able to better manage the circumstances when you are surprised by the bad weather, instead of feeling scared or threatened.
Is your boat navigable?
There are boats that are just not safe in the big waves, because they were not designed for that or, if they were original, they have deteriorated over time. This is particularly the case for models whose hull is made of wood rather than fiberglass.
Additionally, consider the weight/power ratio of your boat (a lack of power is an increased risk). If you are in doubt, consult an expert in the matter before leaving on the water.
The maintenance of your boat
There is nothing more dangerous and risky than a boat that has mechanical problems on a large body of water. When you fly your boat, you must pay full attention to your maneuvers. It’s really not the time to worry about having an engine failure!
If you own a bowrider equipped with an outboard or outboard motor, you need to pay special attention to regular engine tuning. An engine failure in rough water is simply unacceptable in your case.
The control system should also be checked on a regular basis, making sure all stems and staples are in place and greased each year.
Examine the bilge pumps monthly and make sure they are powerful enough for the dimensions of your boat. Add an extra pump if you plan on longer trips.
Those who own a boat equipped with an internal engine should check all hoses every year and tighten the C-flanges.In addition to regularly examining the drive belts (check for black dust deposits under because it is a sign of wear).
Make sure that the scuppers are unobstructed and that the propeller shaft gland has a standard drip rate,of about one drop every 30 to 60 seconds.
Check the cables along the steering column as well as the coolant. Bilge pumps should be changed every 200 hours or every two years. As we said before, it is very important to do the regular tuning of the engine and to check that the bilge pumps are working properly every month.
The equipment of the boat
The next step is to make sure your boat has everything you need to deal with a bad weather situation. Firstly, a sufficient amount of fuel must be provided in the boat’s tank, an additional safety ratio of approximately 25%. Navigating the waves will make the engine consume much more fuel.
In addition, you may need to deviate from your initial route to get to your destination. Those with a large cruiser equipped with a sterndrive engine should also calculate their fuel reserves in terms of nautical miles.
To do this, it would be useful to visit your engine manufacturer’s website for the ratio in liters or gallons per hour depending on various levels of engine revolution.
Remember that a VHF radio is much safer than a cell phone. In addition, the cost of acquisition is now more accessible, there is really no excuse not to have one on board.
This is because of the larger distances that are usually traveled with a big cruiser.It is important to have a VHF radio cabled to an antenna.
In heavy weather, waves are usually the problem. There are several factors to consider and it is important to know them.
First, the stronger the winds, the higher the waves. Only a change in wind direction will allow them to be “crushed”. The speed with which this occurs depends on the velocity of winds and their duration.
The velocity of the winds implies the distance they cover. So if you are at the end of this distance, the waves will be much higher.
If you take shelter behind an island, the winds will fall to 25 knots and you will have lower waves (outside this area, you could have waves of four feet).
Remember this: the more the winds cover distances at a given speed, the higher the waves will be.
There is another important point to consider: the time that elapses between two wave peaks. If the period is short, the waves will be closer.
These types of waves make navigation more difficult because they are steeper. This means you have less time to react to the repeated wave action. In the case of shallow lakes, the waves will tend to break.
Preparing the trip
It is of utmost importance to understand the dynamics of the winds that blow in the area where you plan to sail, as this will help you avoid being surprised by the bad weather.
However, do not forget to have the good habit of always checking the weather before you leave.
If your boat is equipped with a VHF radio, you should check the weather channel. This will allow you to know the warnings of severe thunderstorms that could affect you in a given area as well as a glimpse of the height of the waves.
If, despite everything, you decide to leave in bad weather conditions or a thunderstorm occurs suddenly, you must then take into account some preparation.
The key things to do if you have an open deck boat is to make sure all the equipment on board is tidy or tied up. Fishing rods and oars could fly around you as you try to control the boat in the waves.
Make sure you also secure the defenses. If you have not already done so when you leave, make sure that the weight of objects and people on board well distributed. In fact, you should always do it, regardless of the fishing conditions, but this is crucial in rough waters.
Make sure everyone has donned their lifejacket and put your cell phone in a waterproof container or bag. In such a case, it is also important to wear the right boat shoe.