Only the very foolish go to sea without checking the weather beforehand and acting sensibly.
Wind speeds are generally acknowledged as fitting into the bands of the Beaufort Scale a universally known and often used warning. The Beaufort Scale begins at 0 which is calm, then the scale rises numerically through to 6 – strong breeze at which point the Gale Pennant is flown to indicate a risk to safety. Beyond 6 and up to 12 the Beaufort Scale shows increasing risk and 10 through 12 is indicated by Storm Warning Pennants – a red flag with a black square at the centre, 12 is hurricane/typhoon strength. In short Gale force 6 and above, head for port on the shortest possible heading.
Charter businesses, fishing and sailing businesses and those operating yacht and boat businesses should understand that any wind speeds of 5 or 6 will put their boats at risk and of course that means the passengers too!
From the boater point of view, a good deal depends on the knowledge and experience of the skipper, commercial boats and their crews will usually take a pragmatic view of the weather knowing that heavy weather can cause loss of life. Seasoned skippers will know how to judge the situation and will check with the Coast Guard services or Harbour Master, where there is one locally, to ascertain the degree of risk and any ban on sailing. And, look out for Gale Pennants they are not for decoration!
However, not every sailor is so experienced and there are many who just drift out of an inlet to fish or sail a little without the level of knowledge or training to know better. Across the world the seas can go from placid and welcoming, warm enough for one to fall asleep maybe, and in a very short time heavy weather, rain squalls, and crashing waves can occur catching the unwary out. More than a few such occasions have ended up costing lives. Please, remember if you put your self and your boat at risk someone will have to put their lives at risk to save you.
To all boating buddies, if you do not know the local weather conditions ask locally, check with the authorities locally, watch what the sailing clubs and marinas are doing – if they are hunkered down keeping the bar warm do the same! If the bay is thick with sail boats and cruisers enjoying the ocean join in the fun but keep a weather eye open just in case.
What is a weather eye? If you don’t know you need to take some training and qualify, join a sailing club and learn your craft and learn about the weather in relation to your sport and then follow the rules. Don’t be a dead head, be smart and enjoy sailing.