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Understanding wave heights and reports?

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    Understanding wave heights and reports?

    We took Happy Happy (bayliner 3888) for our maiden voyage (for us good news is we didn't break anything!!! Now the questions: We went out the pass at destin fl they were reporting 3 to 4 foot seas. I did not feel unsafe but sure did not want to get out of the seat, a few things got knocked over but nothing serious. After 30 mins of this we came back in and spent the rest of a VERY nice day in the bay and ICW. What wave heights would you guys feel comfortable cruising in? Any suggestions on a good source to understand how to interpret Wave/weather - reports Looking forward to the upcoming weekend!!! Mike and the Admiral Karen

    #2
    The NOAA Coastal Marine Zone Forecasts are a great tool. Start by going here: https://www.weather.gov/marine/usamz. You can keep clicking to narrow down the area you are interested in. Finally, once you get to the area you are interested in you will see a general forecast for that area. This forecast is for the worst case in the area in question. You can then narrow it down to a point forecast by zooming in, moving the map, and clicking in the specific point of interest.

    I've verified a few times that this tool works pretty well. For example, I do a lot of boating in the San Juan Islands. There are many times when the forecast calls for small craft warnings or gale, yet other areas in the islands are quite nice. The point forecast has been right-on on these occasions.

    As far as specific wave heights, it really depends on the boat and the tolerance of those aboard. My wife and I don't enjoy getting tossed around, but we'll put up with it for a while if its not a long voyage and the conditions at the destination are better.
    1999 3788, Cummins 270 "Freedom"
    2013 Boston Whaler 130 SS
    Anacortes, WA

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      #3
      Thank you I will check it out..

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        #4
        Forecasted wave heights are an "average" size. There will be some bigger and some smaller. When the wind is going against the tide waves stack up in closer frequency making even 3 footers a bit rough at times.
        "REEL WILD"
        2001 2859 FNM 300 Diesel-Bravo 2
        Anchorage, Alaska
        If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes.......

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          #5
          A good rule of thumb is to compare the wave height and the time in seconds. A 6’ wave at 15 seconds is still 6’ but the face is shallow and a dinghy could do that. A 6’ wave at 6 seconds is a steep wave and will impart far greater action on the boat. Direction of travel also is a major factor. If you’re running into the sea your boat will see more action than if in a following sea. Beam seas are the worst as the boat will tend to be rolly. Study the NOAA (or wherever you get your marine forecast) site carefully and evaluate the sea height, time and direction compared to your desired track. Remember, no tabs in following seas.
          Jim Gandee
          1989 3888
          Hino 175's
          Fire Escape
          [email protected]

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            #6
            the sea conditions that one person may be comfortable with, could be a life threatening situation for someone else, depending on their ability to handle the motion, their state of mind, experience, and whether they are the helmsman or a crew member...

            actual experience will be the only thing that can determine what is ok and what isnt for any individual... and experience will give you the knowledge of knowing if a particular boat is safe in the conditions...

            ive worked on boats in 40ft seas and its not fun at all, but on my personal boat, ive only had it out in 8-10ft seas, and that is more that I ever wanted and hope to never see again...

            a long swell of 8-10 feet is nothing to worry about, but when there is wind pushing it and the wave length becomes shorter, then its time to seriously think about being somewhere else.... even a 3ft sea of short duration is not good in a pleasure boat, which are not generally designed for rough water and heavy seas.


            NU LIBERTE'
            Salem, OR

            1989 Bayliner 2556 Convertible
            5.7 OMC Cobra - 15.5x11 prop
            N2K equipped throughout..
            2014 Ram 3500 crew cab, 6.7 Cummins
            2007 M-3705 SLC weekend warrior, 5th wheel
            '04 Polaris Sportsman 700 -- '05 Polaris Sportsman 500 HO
            Heavy Equipment Repair and Specialty Welding

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              #7
              Hi Mike
              I use the NOAA site like Norton Rider said.I like the fact that you can use the " Map" to scroll around to a specific location....Another one I use is BOUY WEATHER it gives Wave and wind information both morning and afternoon..Another site you could use is "SAILFLOW " again a tool for Wave and Wind information.....A note for those in our area PNW I also use. " weather.gc.ca" this is the West Coast of CANADA reports of information bouys and land stations......Hope this helps....Brad
              Brad & Sharon
              Lady Jake
              1985 4550 EH 700TI /Twin Disc 502
              LaConner,Wa. (summer)
              2003 Scout CC 24' W/225 Yamaha
              kailua Kona,Hi (Winter)

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                #8
                2 things I find useful: 1) Someone has already pointed out that period (frequency) is more important than height. 2) I find it useful to pick a weather buoy that you know and which is relevant to where you travel. Rather than looking at an overall forecast, look at what is happening at that particular buoy.
                R.J.(Bob) Evans
                Buchanan, SK
                Cierra 2755
                Previously 43 Defever, Response LX
                Various runabouts, canoes & kayaks

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                  #9
                  Stay up there in Destin this week. Seas (Gulf) will be a reported 11-12 foot starting Thursday according to the Naples/Ft Meyers TV this morning.
                  1998 BL Ciera 2655 Sunbridge LX (Special Edition)
                  "Sea Flights"
                  5.7L 2bbl w/Thunderbolt Ignition and raw water cooling
                  A​​​​​​lpha I Gen II Sterndrive/1.45:1 gears
                  M15.25 X 15P Black Max prop
                  MFG Extra's - A/C, Fresh Water Engine Flush port, HWH and Windlass
                  Docks @ Punta Gorda, Florida

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                    #10
                    Wow and I thought this boating stuff was going to be easy Not really...
                    We really appreciate all the information and advice. When I was flying for a living I didn't need to worry about the wave heights... I will keep studying and learn this stuff. I want to keep the Admiral and any guests safe! I really found that information on frequency interesting and it made a lot of sense. Going to try and talk with the locals to get a better handle on prevailing weather conditions and what to watch out for. Thanks again U cannot say enough good things about this site and how helpful everyone is. Thanks again!
                    Mike and the Admiral karen

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                      #11
                      Good thread for sure...as stated already, personal tolerance is a huge factor. I for one....cant hang with big waves for very long. I dont get sick, but just cant get right if that makes sense. For me...it doesnt matter if rolling or chop.

                      That's why I have a bowrider and am what they call a fair weather boater....I've been boating for 30+ years...I can handle the boat in bad weather, but only will do it to get back in.

                      Another issue is night boating...my peeps know if I'm not back in before dark then there's a problem. Keep in mind my boat is the size of a dinghy compared to yours.

                      if you havent done it already...boatus.com has a free boating course online which I just took and found very informative.....they also have courses on bad weather boating.
                      2008 H210SS Four Winns
                      Volvo Penta 5.7 GISX
                      Prior: 1997 2050SS Bayliner
                      Brad / Texas Gulf Coast

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                        #12
                        Hay all, I was up all last night looking over weather wave and wind stuff. I have a few more questions that I really cant find a solid answer to.
                        I understand the longer the frequency period is the more it will be like a swell; right?

                        But what I cant find is at what point do swells turn in to chop and then waves?

                        I am also guess winds can affect these too?

                        example:
                        say they report 4 foot with 4 second intervals is that where is gets rough? and for example for argument sake say we are heading south into the waves that are coming north. The winds are coming out of the north? to me this would seem to be a very rough ride? Am I looking at this stuff right???

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                          #13
                          Current is also important to watch. A wave train traveling in the same direction as the current will be way more pleasant than the exact same wave traveling against the current. Wind against current results in what I call "square" waves that have an unpleasant hard action.
                          R.J.(Bob) Evans
                          Buchanan, SK
                          Cierra 2755
                          Previously 43 Defever, Response LX
                          Various runabouts, canoes & kayaks

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                            #14
                            Bob thanks, a lot to consider...

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                              #15
                              Check out cruising guides for the areas that you are interested in. The better ones will often have some local knowledge sections regarding waves, currents, etc.
                              1999 3788, Cummins 270 "Freedom"
                              2013 Boston Whaler 130 SS
                              Anacortes, WA

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