The following information is advice and recommendations from Maritime Safety Queensland. Cyclones are unpredictable, so be prepared!
What if I am out on a boat during severe weather?
Personal safety is the number one priority at all times. Always check the weather forecast before you go to sea. If in doubt, don’t go out! At the first sign of bad or severe weather while you are on the water, make sure everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket.
If you cannot get back to your normal mooring or boat ramp, look for shelter in rivers or creeks with a mangrove fringe to act as a buffer zone from the wind. Remember that heavy rain will increase the flow of ebb tides in any creeks or rivers. Follow evacuation advice from police and emergency services.
What do I need to do during severe weather season?
• Get a copy of the Extreme Weather Event Contingency Plan for your area and read it.
• Explore your suggested shelter area or inlet before cyclone season starts.
• Update your contact details with the authorities.
• Organise options to move your boat if you will be away during severe weather season.
• Keep a record of emergency telephone numbers handy (for example, regional harbour master, Volunteer Marine Rescue organisations, Queensland Police Service).
• Know when and where your vessel needs to be during an evacuation.
• Have plenty of line to secure your boat (rope has more ‘give’ than chain).
• Secure loose articles below deck.
• Secure all hatches.
• Check your boat is watertight.
• Reduce wind loading and remove furled sails and covers, bimini tops and any clears.
• Obey and follow all directions issued by the regional harbour master or others as delegated.
• Do not leave your cyclone mooring until the regional harbour master has given the all clear.
• Boats can be replaced, don’t put yourself at risk.
Phase 1: Extreme weather event watch – Prevention
An extreme weather event watch will be issued when an extreme weather event or developing event is likely to affect the area within 48 hours, but not expected to impact the area within 24 hours. This phase is a critical time for masters and owners to plan and prepare for the impact of the event. During this period, masters and owners (or their representatives) should review their safety plans and address any matters outstanding (for example fuel, food, water and contact details).
Phase 2: Extreme weather event warning – Preparedness
An extreme weather event warning will be issued when an extreme weather event or developing event is likely to affect the area within 24 hours. This phase is critical for masters and owners to complete all preparations in an orderly manner prior to the event occurring. Regional Harbour Master (RHM) will direct the operation of vessels in ports, marinas and anchorages include restricting ships from entering or leaving a pilotage area, directing large commercial vessels to leave port and anchorages and proceed to deep sea. Smaller vessels will be directed to their purpose-built cyclone moorings or to seek alternative shelter to avoid the impact of the weather.
Phase 3: Actual extreme weather event – Response
By this phase, all vessels are expected to have enacted their vessel safety plans noting that the port may be closed and/or vessel movements restricted commensurate with the threat to safety of vessel movements or the environment. It is now too late to consider the safety of your vessel. Your actions should be directed towards your own personal safety. It is also important to be alert during the ‘eye’ of the cyclone as a period of calm may be experienced before the damaging wind force resumes once the eye has passed.
Phase 4: After the extreme weather event has passed – Recovery
The RHM will assess residual risks and determine the actions needed to be addressed. Do not assume that as the extreme weather event has passed, it is now safe to move your vessel. Vessels are not to leave their cyclone moorings or return to the ports or anchorages until the official ‘all clear’ is given by RHM and the ports are opened. Mariners should maintain a listening watch on the key VHF frequencies. Owners and masters of vessels should be aware that aids to navigation may be affected by the extreme weather event.
Owners and masters should reference Notices to Mariners or Whitsunday VTS or Hay Point VTS for the latest updates. Furthermore, port infrastructure will need to be inspected to ensure that facilities are fit for purpose.
Additional information on the Marine Safety Queensland website. Stay safe, and be prepared.