By Mike and Christine Dubois

A few years ago, you may recall seeing a photo of a boat washed up on the east shore of Lake Windermere during a north storm. We don’t know all of the particulars of the incident but our guess is that the boat was travelling north (against the storm wind) and the waves were crashing over the front of the boat, swamping it. The bilge couldn’t keep up and eventually the boat sank but luckily the driver was able to make it to the beach albeit his boat was full of water and getting thrashed against shore. It was a pretty sad situation but we believe this could have been avoid- ed. Many amateur boaters don’t understand how boat chop and waves are best tolerated in a boat. Here are some tips to avoid what happened in that storm a few years back.

• Raise the bow – if you get caught in a storm and water is washing into your bow, power your boat just enough to get the bow up and move your passengers to the back of the boat. In previous articles, we spoke about not plowing when you are coming in and out of your dock, but in a storm or when meeting big waves, plow- ing is the best option to keep those waves out of your bow. In many newer V-drive boats there is a trim tab that can be raised to bring up the bow but all boats will plow as you begin to power them up. For those of us that have ski boats, this technique is essential when meeting a surf wave. That wave will swamp our ski boat every time at idle but by giving it a little power and getting the nose up, we can get through it dry.

• Take the waves at 45 degrees. If you’ve ever hit a large wave head on at high speed you are likely a good customer at the chiropractor’s office. Instead, take large waves at a 45 (or less) degree angle – this will allow your boat to roll over the wave as opposed to “hit” it. If you parallel those waves, this will cause some very un- comfortable side to side rocking and we’ve heard stories of passengers being knocked out of the boat when getting rocked from the side. Anywhere from 15-45 degrees will alleviate a big smack.

• Slow down – When you see waves approaching, slow down, not to idle but just to a safe speed so you don’t take such a hard impact. This is especially important when towing. As you approach the wave give your rider the signal of waves approaching (stick your arm out to the side and make an up down motion.) This tells the rider they should get directly behind the boat in the white wash. Next, slow down slightly, then (if required) give your rider a right arm or a left arm, this will indicate that you are going to veer slightly to take the wave at 45 degrees. Once you are over the waves, get back to speed and continue on your original course.

• Alter your course – If the waves are hitting you head-on in a storm, alter your course 45 degrees to the wind direction, your boat will travel much smoother and you will notice that the spray off the water will be a little more tolerable than heading perfectly into or perpendicular to the storm.

• Take refuge – As soon as a storm hits, head for home as quickly as possible using the strategies above. Or, if that is not possible because you are far from home, find a spot on the lake to take refuge. In a north storm wind, the best options are Baltac Bay or behind the Windermere is- land.

Story of the week

This is a good news story, different from the usual bad decisions and bad endings that we feature here. A big north storm hit the lake on July 30. It was late afternoon and many boats were caught in the big waves and fierce wind. In situations like this if you can get off the lake quickly and safely then that is a great option. However, if it is a long ride back or if it is going to be unsafe to try to park in your marina, there is a better option. On that particular afternoon, we watched a very smart boater take shelter behind the island in Windermere and ride out the storm in calm water and no wind.

These north storms usually only last 30-45 minutes. This group hung out in the perfectly calm protected water then made their way home after the storm passed. Smart move! Many things can go wrong when trying to park or trailer your boat in big waves and strong wind. You could damage your boat or dock, or even worse, someone else’s.

During the next north wind storm, if you can’t make it home, lets make it a party and we can meet in either Baltac Bay or behind the Windermere Island, both of which are well protected from the north storms.