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Staying safe in choppy water: Key boating tips

When you're on a boat, it can be a freeing experience. You love spending time with the people you care about, and it's a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. No matter how much you love boating, though, you must understand safety on the water.

One of the things that affects people the most on boats is the water itself. Many people understand how to control their boats and even how to deal with emergencies involving breakdowns or maintenance. However, those aren't the only issues. Waves and choppy waters have the potential to put everyone in danger, so the person driving must be familiar with boating safely on dangerous waters before heading out on a day where waves are prominent or likely.

What kinds of waves are there?

Waves come in many forms, although you may only think of them as one shape or type. Wave types include spilling wages, surging waves and dumping waves. On the surface, many look the same, but the undercurrent isn't. For example, a spilling wave is one where the top of the wave collapses in front of itself. These are fairly standard on lakes and gentle days with low wind.

Surging waves don't break. That means they never curl before hitting the shore. Essentially, they rise up and slam into anything that gets in the way, whether it's a person on a dock, the shore or a boat traveling in the water. These waves have the potential to impact boats and overturn them.

Dumping waves are usually harsh. They break with force when they reach shallow water. These have powerful undercurrents and usually happen during the low tide. If you see dumping waves, it's not safe to swim and boating is dangerous.

These are just a few examples of waves that you could come into contact with. Just looking at these three categories gives you a good idea of why you have to understand currents, waves and the impact of high and low tides. Even though boaters are often away from the shore, waves are possible further out at sea.

What can you do to stay safe in dangerous waters?

It's important to avoid shallow water at all costs. Shallow water is where most waves end up breaking, and the break is more likely to be at a high speed and with great force. In the event that you're caught out to sea when waves roll in, turn into the wave. You may notice that your boat is moving in a way that could capsize it if you're not turning into the wave. You need to make sure the nose of your boat is cutting a path through the wave instead of getting hit straight on.

Watching the weather, being alert and knowing your waves helps you keep yourself and others safe on the water. Good training could prevent serious injuries or drowning.

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