What is a Waterspout?

A tornado can pass over a limited area of water and still retain its full violence. A boater is more likely to encounter a waterspout, which is formed over water under considerably less severe conditions. It can develop from any sufficiently unstable cloud, such as towering cumulus or even rapidly growing cumulus cloud. Although the fully-developed cumulonimbus cloud required for a tornado is not necessary to spawn a waterspout, waterspouts should not be taken lightly. Core winds of up to 110 km/hr are possible, along with very disturbed local water conditions. A waterspout coming ashore can cause damage to shore installations before it disperses. Weather conditions greatly affect the comfort and safety of boaters. High winds often produce high waves and it is generally uncomfortable to be out in a boat during a heavy rainfall. Operators should always keep a weather eye open. Before starting out, make sure it will be fun, as well as safe, to depart.

  • Check the local weather conditions. Marine Weather websites here.
  • Obtain the latest weather forecast for the area
  • Decide whether you can handle the boat in the conditions that are expected
  • While boating, check to make sure if it is safe to continue your trip.
  • Monitor the AM or FM radio or VHF radio for the latest forecasts and warnings
  • Watch for dark, threatening clouds which may foretell the approach of squalls or thunderstorms
  • Monitor any sustained increase in wind which may produce steep waves, especially if it is blowing against a current

To learn more about weather register at www.boatingcourses.ca for a Fundamentals of Weather course.

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