Stormy weather has frequently forced boaters off area lakes this summer. Powerful storms, even though short-lived, bring strong winds, lightning and pelting rain.
Thunderstorms can occur at any time, but most develop during afternoon and early evening. That's when the majority of boaters are on the water, and often a long way from home port.
Some boaters don't realize it's safer to stay put than to venture long distances over open water during a storm.
Recently, several people were seen running to their boat from a lakeside restaurant as lightning filled the sky and strong winds blew. When asked, "Why the rush?" they answered, "We have to beat the storm."
Their actions and thought process didn't make sense. Why would anyone risk leaving the safety of a marina restaurant, or any safe harbor, to venture into a storm in a small boat?
With more summer storm clouds on the horizon, here are some thoughts to ponder for a safer trip.
Keep an eye on the weather. Since most weather systems move from west to east, look to the south and west for signs of approaching storm clouds. Storms can sneak up quickly, so it's wise to have a handheld or permanently installed VHF marine radio on board for access to NOAA weather updates and forecasts.
At the first sign of an approaching storm, stop swimming, tubing, wakeboarding or skiing. Insist that everyone leave the water, even those merely wading along the shore. Before the storm arrives, decide whether it is wiser to seek safe harbor or attempt to cross open water. In either case, secure any loose articles on deck and require everyone on board, including the best of swimmers, to wear a life vest.
If you choose to ride out the storm in a sheltered cove, pay out enough rope to ensure that the anchor will hold in strong winds. A second choice is to engage the motor in and out of gear at idle speed, and keep the bow into the wind and waves. As a precaution, use your cell phone to call someone on shore and advise them of your situation and location.
To reduce the risk of being hit by lightning, lower antennas, remove fishing rods from upright holders and turn off all electronics.
Light House Marine Services will offer an eight-hour class in Boater and Personal Watercraft Safety starting 9 a.m. Saturday at the Peninsula Yacht Club in Cornelius. Registration is $49. To register, or for more information, call Capt. Scott Spivey, 704-587-0325, or visit www.Lmservice.org.
Striped bass and blue cats are hitting from dark until mid morning near the dam at the lower end of the lake. Soft plastic lures are catching bass under deepwater docks and boathouses. Jigging spoons are catching white perch and flathead catfish in Little, Reed and Davidson creeks. Small cats are hitting a wide variety of baits fished from piers and boat docks.
The lake level is about 3 feet below full pond. The water surface temperature is in the 90s.