Autumn is a great time to be out on your boat. The weather is crisp and cool, the traffic is reduced from its midsummer madness, the trees ashore are turning all colors, the fish are still hungry and the radiowaves are full of the sounds of …. Football!

Yup. It’s a great time to be afloat.

But a wary mariner is also a safe mariner, so there are some things every captain should keep in mind as the seasons change. Most are just common sense, but it’s always a good idea to have a check list and keep certain things in mind.

  1. Layer up.  For the last three or four months, you could drive down to the dock, jump aboard and roar away into the deep blue wearing whatever you want (T-shirt and shorts) without much thought.  Now that the days are cooler, it’s smart to think about keeping warm, especially if you’re out in the open sea as the temperatures begin to drop. If you haven’t already, pack some layers aboard: sweaters, sweatshirts, windbreakers, long pants and socks. If a northerly wind begins to blow, you’ll be glad you did.
  2. Lighten up.  Every day in autumn is shorter than the one before, and sunset can sneak up on you if you’re out having a great time fishing or cruising. Make sure your boat’s running lights are in good working order in case you have to return to your dock in twilight. Also, make sure you have at least one good working flashlight aboard. You may never need it, but it’s good to know it’s there (and the batteries are fresh) in case you do.
  3. Radio up.  Likewise, make sure your communication systems are working well. With less traffic out on the water, there are fewer boats who can come to your aid in case of emergency. Test your VHF radio before leaving the dock, and make sure your cell phone is charged up. You may never need to call for help, but you should be capable of doing so, just in case.
  4. Weather up.  In the summer, weather squalls can hit in late afternoon, when the heat and humidity combine in strong cells. In the fall, it’s more likely that a weather front may come through with the force of a fullback hitting the line. Careful captains always keep one eye peeled for the weather. During the autumn months, that careful procedure is more important than ever.
  5. Gas up.  Sounds stupid, right? Check your gas gauge before leaving the dock. Boating 101.  But this is especially important in the autumn, because some gas docks and marinas close down after Labor Day. So if you’re used to cruising down to a certain port and gassing up for the return leg, you might get caught short. Plan carefully, call ahead and always keep your tanks full.

Other than that, get out there and enjoy! Pack some Macintosh apples or a gallon of sweet cider, tune in the Patriots game and have a great afternoon!