Understand Weather Chart Basics
I once sent weather forecasters into a tizzy when I published an article on forecasting weather. I wasn't suggesting that we can all become armchair weather forecasters. I do suggest, however, that it is up to individual captains to understand their weather. Thanks to new electronics, getting an accurate forecast has never been easier. Yet, you still need to understand what you're looking at on the screen. Charts for surface-weather analysis, surface-weather prognosis, and extended surface prognosis will help you make sense of atmospheric weather conditions just above the water. Wave-height analysis and wave prognosis will keep you abreast of what's happening on the water. Radar charts and satellite-weather pictures are good for providing up-to-the-minute information about local disturbances.
VHF Radio Tips
Okay, maybe I sound like I'm preaching here, and chances are most of you know how to properly use a VHF, so forgive me. However, on any given summer weekend in my home waters, I hear a kid screaming into the mic or the U.S. Coast Guard coming on multiple times asking somebody to move their chatter to a working channel. Here are a few tips that will help us all.
Make sure you switch to a working channel once you make contact with the party you're trying to hail, so you can make way for others and your conversation won't be stepped on.
Try to keep conversations on the relatively short side. I once heard an excruciating call from a captain trying to give somebody directions. If you're coastal cruising, try the cell phone for long conversations.
Avoid using channel 16 for radio checks. Do not call the Coast Guard for radio checks. It's not their job.
Use channel 9 for hailing, not 16. This measure was established to limit the congestion on channel 16 and keep it free for emergency situations.
In case of emergency, speak clearly, deliberately, and with the mic away from your mouth.
Last summer, I participated in the annapolis to newport race. One of the race requirements was executing a man-overboard-drill with a person in the water. Two months before the race, we did our duty. Our captain ensured everyone knew their role. During the drill we discovered a few issues that needed to be corrected. I suggest a MoB drill be performed at the beginning of each season. Do you have a high freeboard powerboat? If so, how will you get back on board? Do you trust your crew to be able to mark the spot on the GPS, deploy a flotation advice, and get you back on board safely? Take your time to answer. A MOB drill will help. Trust me.