Learning to judge weather and sea conditions

Capt. Katherine Redmond

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By Capt. Katherine Redmond

Nothing affects your ability to boat safely more than the weather. Before heading out, you should consult multiple sources to ensure you are prepared and can judge whether it’s safe to be on the water. A small craft advisory for your planned destination should keep you at the dock. You should never venture onto open waters if a small craft advisory has been issued.

Sea conditions are difficult to generalize. Some boats are capable of handling rough seas, while on others, a sneeze causes discomfort. It takes some experience for you to judge your vessel’s ability, but in the meantime, use caution in environments conducive to overwhelming seas, such as inlets. (See below for more info.)

The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center publishes weekly Local Notices to Mariners with timely information on local hazards. You can review them online for free.

Thunderstorms can be a daily occurrence in some areas. You can prepare by asking yourself the following questions: If I encounter a thunderstorm on the water, how will I handle the situation? Would I prefer to find a safe harbor until the storm dissipates? Or would it be best to stop my boat in a safe place, point the bow at a fixed object to maintain my location and issue the proper sound signal so others can ascertain my position? By planning for these eventualities, you can prevent adverse outcomes.


Capt. Katherine Giampietro Redmond of Palm Beach Sail & Power Squadron/8 is a NASBLA-honored boating safety instructor with a Six-Pack Towing Captain’s License. Author of “The Chartracker Navigation Guides” and “7 Steps to Successful Boat Docking,” she created boatinglady.com to provide boating guidance for women.

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