No matter how much we prepare sometimes we get can get caught in unexpected conditions or the weather shifts and puts us in dangerous situations. If you do find yourself in dangerous conditions on the water it pays to know how to handle them for your and passengers safety. Wind is an unpredictable (or the least predictable) environmental factor anglers and boaters are usually faced with. Wind can switch directions, increase in speed, and create dangerous wave conditions in a hurry.
If you do find yourself in dangerous wave conditions (4-10 ft) do not panic! It is not a good situation but panicking will not help your cause. Remember, you are in a boat. It floats and will continue to float unless water is able to get in. You can go as slow as you want and stay afloat if you keep the water from getting in. To help prevent water from getting in to your boat while in large waves use the following tips!
If you have bow covers, or canopy enclosures use them! This helps prevent splashing from coming into the boat and can deflect large amounts of water coming in at once should you hit a wave wrong.
Point the nose of your boat (or vessel) directly into the waves as much as possible! This allows the longest part of the boat to ride over the wave which is the most stable and least likely to tip. Allowing the waves to hit the side of the boat will cause the boat to roll and can add a ton of water over the side if the wave is big enough. A flipping and sinking hazard!
Angle of Attack (Nose Height) - Try to keep the nose of the boat as high as possible. This prevents water from coming over the front if the wave crashes and just from splashing. Shifting weight to the back of the boat or trimming the motor up is usually enough to do this!
Speed! Don't try to push it and get out of the conditions as fast as possible. this is going to cause you to make mistakes and take on water that is unnecessary. Adjust your speed such that as you come over the crest of one wave the nose of the boat lands on the crest of the next rather than riding down the wave and back up the next. This is dangerous as waves can crash as you are in the gap and flood the deck.
Aside from these tips be sure to always have a working bilge pump and bailing bucket on board. If your boat has a sub floor with a small port to access it be sure a manual bilge is on board that can fit in this hole! Waiting until the sub floor fills before starting to bail is much too late and puts you in a dangerous situation.
Conditions can change in a hurry on big bodies of water. Be prepared, be safe, and remain calm. Everything will work out should you follow these guidelines and remain calm.