Image of a dock on a lake covered in fog

Boating is a popular recreational activity in South Carolina, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy our state’s beautiful waterways. However, the enjoyment can quickly become dread if caught in fog unexpectedly.

Fog significantly reduces visibility, making navigation challenging and increasing the risk of accidents on the water. Weather is a top factor contributing to boating accidents in the U.S., with 221 incidents in 2022 alone, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics.

When fog sets in, knowing how to properly steer a boat for your safety and those around you is vital.

Understanding Fog and its Effect on Visibility

Fog is a common meteorological phenomenon in South Carolina, often occurring when warm air moves over cooler surfaces, like water. It is essentially a ground-level cloud consisting of tiny water droplets suspended in the air.

This blanket of droplets scatters light in various directions, causing a thick gray mist that reduces visibility. Studies on visibility in fog for aircraft suggest that it can limit clear vision for up to .62 miles (1 km), with increased accidents when visibility is lower than .19 miles (.3 km).

You may experience the following types of fog in South Carolina:

  • Radiation fog: This type forms at night under clear skies, with calm winds allowing the ground to cool rapidly. It usually dissipates after sunrise as the air warms.
  • Advection fog: Occurring when moist air moves over colder land or water, this fog is common along the coast and can last for extended periods.
  • Sea fog: This type of fog forms when warm, moist air passes over cooler sea or ocean waters. It is prevalent in coastal areas and can make it challenging to navigate the waters, increasing the risk of boating accidents.

Safety Tips for Boating Safely if You’re Caught in Fog

Foggy conditions can make boating challenging and dangerous. Ensuring you’re prepared and know how to respond is essential for safe navigation.

Follow these steps when caught in fog while boating:

  • Reduce speed immediately. When visibility decreases due to fog, reduce your speed. This gives you more time to react to obstacles or other vessels that may suddenly appear out of the fog, and it also lessens the impact in case of a collision.
  • Use navigation equipment. Turn on your GPS, radar, and depth sounder. These devices can help you determine your location, detect nearby obstacles or vessels, and provide information about the water depth, thus ensuring you don’t run aground in unfamiliar areas.
  • Use sound signals. Use audible signals to alert other boats of your presence. For power-driven vessels, sound one prolonged blast at intervals of no more than two minutes. If you’re anchored in foggy conditions, ring a bell continuously for about five seconds every minute. These audible signals warn nearby vessels of your presence and can help prevent potential collisions in reduced visibility.
  • Maintain a lookout. Assign someone onboard, apart from the person steering, to act as a lookout. This person should listen for sounds from other boats, look for lights, and watch for obstacles or changes in water conditions.
  • Avoid anchoring in a channel. If visibility is near zero and you’re unsure of your position, anchoring and waiting for the fog to lift might be safer. However, ensure you’re not anchoring in a busy channel where you risk being struck by another vessel.
  • Use running lights. Activate your boat’s navigation lights: typically red (port) and green (starboard) side lights, a white stern light, and a white masthead light. These lights help signal your boat’s size, direction, and activity to other vessels. Even during the day, these lights can enhance your boat’s visibility in foggy conditions, reducing the risk of collisions.
  • Stay informed. Regularly monitor your VHF marine radio, especially channels 16 and 22A, which are for international, distress, safety, and calling, and U.S. Coast Guard operations and storm alerts respectively. This lets you receive timely weather updates, navigational warnings, and communication from nearby vessels and keeps you updated on conditions or potential hazards in the vicinity.

Get Legal Support if You’re Involved in a Boating Accident

Navigating through fog requires heightened awareness, preparation, and adherence to safety protocols to ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

However, you may still experience a boating accident due to another’s failure to take precautions in foggy weather. If you or a loved one is hurt in a boating collision, having an experienced South Carolina boating accident lawyer from Joye Law Firm on the case can protect your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

We can help you file a claim seeking a settlement for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys understand the unique challenges of accidents on the water. We can provide the legal representation you need to secure maximum compensation.

Contact our firm today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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