Boating Basics Online - Basic Boating Safety Course
Chapter 5 - Preparation

Awareness Of Environmental Conditions

Weather and Water Conditions

Clouds in the sky over waterYou should never leave the dock without first checking the local weather forecast and water conditions. Checking these conditions prior to leaving the dock is just as important in planning your trip as checking for fuel and required equipment. Special attention to weather and weather indicators can make the difference in a pleasant day on the water and potential disaster.


As Skipper, it is your sole responsibility to determine, from the conditions, your skill level and the boat's capabilities, when to cancel or alter your trip.

You can get weather and water conditions from the Internet, TV, radio or from one of the weather channels on your VHF radio. At certain times of the year, weather can change rapidly and you should continually keep a "weather eye" out in order to foresee changes which might be impending.

Certain signs you can look for indicate an approaching weather change:

National Weather Service Storm  Advisories

Small Craft Advisory
Winds up to 38 mph   
Gale  Warning
38-54 mph
Storm Warning
Up to 73 mph
Hurricane Warning
Winds over 74 mph
One triangular orange flag 2 triangular orange flags 1 rectangular flag with a black square in the middle 2 rectangular flags with black squares in the middle
red light over white light white light over red light 2 red lights, one over the other red light over white light over red light

IF A STORM IS NEAR…

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