Every experienced skipper will tell you that the sea can change in an instant. That’s why picking ideal boating conditions is trickier than simply checking the three-day forecast. Every boating trip requires careful planning, and that planning includes a detailed analysis of the weather conditions.
However, that’s easier said than done. If you’ve not spent a lot of time on the water, picking ideal boating conditions can seem like magic. With these tips, though, you’ll become a seasoned mariner in no time!
Boating weather: Picking ideal conditions according to wind speed
The easiest indicator of sea conditions is wind speed. The wind is responsible for creating waves and swell. So if you’re planning on boating on a day with strong winds, chances are you end up regretting it! However, there is a trick to picking ideal conditions according to wind speed. Wind speed is measured in knots, which are based on nautical miles. As a result, few people are familiar with knots and what it means for boating conditions.
Generally, if you’re heading into open water you want a five-knot day. Winds of five knots or less are barely noticeable, and you should have calm seas under such conditions. The surface can become choppy at ten knots, so that’s normally suitable for inshore boating. From fifteen knots onwards, conditions start to get rough. Unless you’ve got a very big boat, you can pretty much rule out boating in fifteen knots or more!
Seas and swell: Here’s what they look like in ideal boating conditions
You may be wondering how knots translate into seas and swell. As a generally rule, they don’t directly correlate. Seas and swell are also driven by tides and currents, so they vary almost independently. However, on a day of ten to fifteen knots, you could probably expect seas of around 1.2 to 1.4 metres. That’s quite choppy, and when you couple it with swell it can be uncomfortable.
At times, it can even be dangerous. On the other hand, a five-knot day will generally accompany seas ranging from 0.4 to 1m. As you can see, the difference is pretty significant. That really reinforces the importance of picking ideal boating conditions before you hit the water!
Ideal conditions differ depending on where you’re planning on boating
Of course, you’re rarely going to see 1.5m seas up your local river or creek. So what’s the trick to picking ideal boating conditions if you’re not going out to sea? Well, that’s a much easier matter. Simply check for rain, and hit the water! Ideal conditions vary depending on where you’re boating. If you’re in calm waters that are protected from wind, it’s rare to encounter dangerous conditions – unless you’re caught in a storm. So remember to adapt; work out where you’re boating first, then make appropriate enquiries.
Safety tips: If you’re caught out in some less than ideal boating conditions, here’s what to do
If you’re out at sea, it’s always possible for conditions to change. Ideal boating conditions can become dangerous in less than an hour; it’s just a risk of offshore boating. If that happens, the first thing to do is to stay calm. Don lifejackets, if you’re not wearing them already, and ensure that all safety gear is within easy reach.
If you can find safe anchorage in a bay, or behind an island, carefully navigate your way there. If not, aim to tuck into the lee of a reef or shoal. If you’re in completely open water, secure the deck and motor steadily into oncoming waves. If they’re particularly large, you can tack into each wave on a slight angle. Above all, though, remain calm. Bad weather often passes just as quickly as it arrives.
Planning a boat trip means looking at the weather: Choosing ideal conditions is a matter of safety!
Choosing the right conditions is a matter of safety, so it’s important to get comfortable with forecasts and charts. It’s also important to keep your gear in great nick, so it’s ready to go when ideal conditions arise! That means you should have a great trailer prepped and ready along with your boat. Making the most of ideal boating conditions is easiest when your gear is in ideal condition too.
For more useful tips on boat safety and all your boating needs, get in touch with (07) 4152 3737.