Captain’s diary: Spring winds sweep our waters | Outside
You’ll notice a lot of boats are staying in the harbor or venturing a bit further this month, and there’s a very good reason: the wind. There have been many more days when Small craft notices were issued only days without.
Come to think of it, there were sustained winds and gusts above the gale line for more days than I can remember. As a charter captain, I know full well that high winds are bad for business.
Strong winds have a bad habit of changing the sea surface from a horizontal state to an almost vertical state, and the danger level rises with the seas. If you are a boater or plan to go out on a boat, you need information on the weather and sea conditions. Many disasters at sea occur because boaters go out when they should be staying.
Here is what I do before going on a charter and I invite you to do the same. I go to the marine forecast pages and pay the forecast to https: //www.ndbc.noaa.gov/data/forecasts/fzus56.klox.html and other sites such as iwindsurf for NOAA observations of buoys, etc.
For many spring days, strong winds roar around Arguello and Conception points, aiming towards San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz he is. We are fortunate to have the calmest water around, along the mainland coast from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria.
We can safely navigate these local waters almost every day, but not all. Whether you like fast boat trips or cruises on our Sea Landing and Sail Center boats, it can always happen, and the crew will have a good command of the winds and seas.
If you are a private and solo boater, there is a lot to learn from watching the waves up close. On days when strong winds push to shore, I looked at the water a few hours before the wind arrived and told my passengers to expect strong winds soon. They often wonder how I can tell the distance from the wind just by looking at the water.
The stiffness of the waves tells the story. The angle of the wave, the interval between waves and the presence of whitecaps are important information that allows the boater to make wise decisions.
I walked safely and comfortably through the Santa Barbara chain at high speed against swells of 12 feet, as they were gentle swells spaced approximately 17 seconds apart. Wind waves of five feet with an interval of five seconds can be deadly because they are steep walls requiring slow and careful piloting skills.
When the height and interval of the waves are the same (say, five feet to five seconds), we call it “squared seas”, and it won’t be a cinch.
Watch for wind waves when you’re out on the water, and be prepared to rush to the safety of the harbor as they grow taller, steep, and close together. This means that the wind is approaching and conditions are deteriorating rapidly. Please make the safe decision, even if the fish bite or the whales put on a show.
– Captain David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a non-profit organization providing boating opportunities to those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to find out more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.