4 tips to determine a safe wind speed for boating

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Tom Keer

Nobody believed me when I said, “Enjoy the hot fishing and great boating, we won’t be out tomorrow because of bad weather.” Tomorrow came, it blew like a stench, and we sat in the living room and drank coffee. “How did you know we were getting blown out?” asked a buddy. “It was the wind shift,” I said. “When the wind turns clockwise, good weather is approaching. But yesterday it moved counter-clockwise, which means bad weather was due.” It is important to know what constitutes a safe wind speed for boating. Here are 4 tips you can add to your boat safety routine.

  1. Know the wind classifications so you can determine how much wind is too much for boating. Light wind: 1-15MPH
    Moderate wind: 16-25 MPH
    Strong wind: 26-38 MPH
    Storm winds: 39-54 MPH
    Storm winds: 55-73 MPH
  2. Adapt the WX boat forecast to your ship. Flat bottom boats are good in light winds, but chances are they’ll pound in moderate winds. Modified and deep V-hulls cut through the waves in strong winds, while boats without a liner are light and can bounce around. Strong winds make handling boats difficult, which raises the problem of boat safety. Choose your days carefully.
  3. Get ahead of the forecast. Boat wind speeds can be monitored with electronics, but here are some traditional methods that work. • Lay the wind on your back and point to the left to find the location of the storm center. Set a new course around the severe weather.
    • Low clouds that are dense and dark indicate bad weather.
    • White, smudgy clouds indicate safe boating wind speeds and good conditions.
    • When the wind speed doubles, the waves quadruple. Conditions worsen quickly.
    • Look up with the wind on your back. If high clouds move from left to right, you will get bad weather. If they move from right to left, conditions will improve. Clouds moving toward or away from you keep the patterns the same.
  4. Time on the water. Knowing how much wind is too much wind for boating brings experience. I always look at the American flag that flies on the pole near my boat ramp at home. When Old Glory flies perpendicular to the pole, I know it’s rough on the water. Safe wind speed for boating is when it is at a position below the right angle.

If we waited for perfect weather, we wouldn’t be spending much time on the water. Check out this simple yet useful boating checklist before you get on the water! Keep an eye on the weather so your boating is safe.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A New England Coast Fly Fishing Guide, was published in January 2011. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or www.thekeergroup.com.