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If you don’t like the weather……..

We all know the old saying about the weather changing by the minute. Lake Tahoe’s weather can certainly be called temperamental. On a typical summer day the temperature can reach 90 in the afternoon and plummet to the 30’s at night. It makes for great sleeping weather in a cabin by the lake, but it might be a little chilly if you are boat camping. Although we do enjoy the full range of weather for the most part it is predictable. We can usually expect calm flat morning water, which is great for water skiing, late afternoon winds and white caps for the land locked sailor, and thunderstorms for someone who wants to thumb their nose at Mother Nature.

Boaters have a special need to know about the weather. The first step in avoiding weather problems is, "Know before you go". Most commercial radio stations regularly broadcast weather forecasts. It would be a good idea to make a habit of listening to them, beginning at least the night before you plan your boat trip. The National Weather Service out of Reno, Nevada broadcasts weather forecasts for the High Sierra and the Lake Tahoe basin. They broadcast on 162.55, 162.4, 162.475 MHz on your boat’s VHF-FM radio. These frequencies are normally just above the commercial FM band so they will probably not included on the ordinary FM sets. If your boat is not equipped with a radio (not legally required, but highly recommended) you may consider buying an inexpensive weather radio, which continuously broadcasts the National Weather Service forecasts.

If you are already out on the lake it may be a good idea to recognize approaching deteriorating weather so you can make a dignified retreat to your dock, buoy, or launch ramp. If you notice:

  • Clouds lowering and thickening
  • Clouds increasing in number, moving fast across the sky
  • Veils or sheets of gray cloud increasing on the western horizon
  • Clouds moving in different directions at different heights
  • Wind shifts from north to east and possible through east to south
  • Strong winds that start in the morning because the longer the wind blows the larger the waves

Putting a boat back on a trailer in bad weather can be a bummer. If you are loosing the race back to the boat ramp you might want to wait out the storm in some sort of safe haven. Because most of our weather comes from the Pacific the east shore of Lake Tahoe is the least protected usually getting the worst of the winds and waves the western shore protected by the mountain offers more protection. Gunk holing in Emerald Bay, Meek’s Bay, or any protective cove on the west shore may be a good idea. If you don’t know how to anchor out don’t get stuck in bad weather until I cover anchoring in a later column. If you find yourself a considerable distance from a safe haven you will have to prepare for bad weather.

  • Reduce your speed
  • Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing PFDs
  • Proceed with caution to the nearest safe harbor
  • Approach large waves at a 45-degree angle
  • Keep everyone seated and as low as possible in your boat
  • Secure all loose gear
  • Close all hatches and portholes

Did you ever hear the old saying "If you don’t like the weather wait a minute"? Well that holds true for most bad weather too.

Take care


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