The Learning Center
Tips for Autumn Boating
Summer officially ends on Sept. 21, but the next few months are some of the best for Lowcountry boaters.
In the fall, the oppressive summer heat gives way to cooler air, the light shifts in hue slightly and the colors ashore, of course, begin to change.There’s no better time to gather up the family for an afternoon cruise and picnic, or a visit to your favorite fishing grounds.
Of course, every savvy captain knows that a change in season can mean a change in conditions on the water, and will take some steps to avoid being surprised. Because summer swings so effortlessly into fall, it’s easy to overlook some of these important steps that every boater should think about as the days get shorter.
1. Gear check. In the summer, our rivers, bays and inlets are usually full of boaters, and the Coast Guard patrols are frequent. If you get in any trouble when afloat, there’s usually someone near at hand to lend assistance. But as the days grow shorter, there’ll be fewer boats on the water. So make sure your VHF radio is working well before you set out, and charge up your cell phone. If you need to call for help, it’s good to know you’ll be heard!
2. Lights. As the days grow shorter (and in September and October, we lose more than an hour a month sunset can sneak up on you! Make sure your navigation and running lights are in proper working order before you leave the dock.
3. Layers. You probably won’t need oilskins, parkas and wooly hats for autumn boating in the Lowcountry, but bringing along an extra layer of warm clothing is probably a good idea. Sometimes when the sun is low and the wind is up, it can get chilly out there, and having an extra sweatshirt or jacket on board will make you and your passengers more comfortable.
4. Charts. No, the shoreline doesn’t move around after Sept. 21, but there may be sandbars shifting and other storm-driven changes to some channels, entrances and approaches here and there. Keep your charts updated and remember to ask your fellow captains for any navigational hazards they may have encountered.
5. Weather. Conditions are generally benign in this part of the world in the fall (except of course for the occasional hurricane!) but it’s always a good idea to keep one eye on the weather. Especially if one of those hurricanes or tropical storms is predicted to be closing in. As always, know what’s out there and be prepared for the worst.
But do get out and enjoy the season. It’s a wonderful time to be out on the water.