From The Boathouse: Holiday weekend brings start of boating season


How the winter season flew by -- I cannot believe that Memorial Day is Monday. However, I am very excited about this three-day weekend that is regarded as the unofficial start of the summer boating season.

Across the nation, tens of thousands of people will be enjoying water-related activities, especially boating. Many boaters will be cruising the waterways for the first time since the fall, so be careful as you regain your sea legs.

Memorial Day is the time to observe those who gave their lives serving our nation. This day was previously known as Decoration Day, so do not forget to thank those who are serving now.

Remember, I want everyone to boat safely especially because Saturday is the end of Safe Boating Week, which I discussed in my last column. The National Safe Boating Council and the National Assn. of State Boating Law Administrators organize the yearly Safe Boating Week to educate and remind boaters to be safe and responsible on the waterways.

This year's theme, "Wear It! Always Wear Your Lifejacket," applies any time that you go boating. Additionally, I want to remind everyone to store lifejackets in a readily accessible location onboard your boat. While underway if we are not wearing our PDFs, then I will place the lifejackets in the main salon or the cockpit of the boat. Now, there is no "having to find" the lifejackets in an emergency situation.

Before you press the send button on your emails to me about why I am not wearing a lifejacket when advocating wearing one while underway, I usually skipper large yachts and megayachts. On these sizes of vessels, it is a much safer environment aboard where wearing a lifejacket is impractical and unusually not needed, unless you are out on the decks during rough seas or performing loading/offloading operations. However, we do have float coats for the crew on some vessels, especially commercial vessels, and safety is a top priority for the crew including extra watch standers.

But I digress. Most recreational boats are smaller than 26 feet and the operators are not professional captains. Therefore, safety awareness is important and helps decrease what I call the Goofy Goes Sailing Syndrome, where common sense is left at the dock.

We will have pleasant weather this weekend along the coast, and the sun will peak out from behind the clouds by late mornings.

Daytime air temperatures will be a little on the chilly side for swimming with the thermometers reaching in the high 60s, and maybe to 70 on Memorial Day. Nighttime temperatures will dip to the high 50s, and patchy fog will develop in the early morning hours.

Boaters planning to hit the high seas will have a mixed set with the 2-foot south swell continuing and a 3-foot westerly swell. Remember, watch your guests for motion sickness if the mixed set affects

The afternoon winds are expected to be 5 to 10 knots, and shifting between the south and westerly throughout the weekend. These light winds will only create a 1-foot, maybe up to 2-foot, wind waves on top of the swells. Afternoons will be nice for sailing and letting Mother Nature do the work.

Many boaters who travel farther or are relocating their boats this weekend might plan to round Point Conception. You need to know your abilities, your crew and your boat for this task because the winds will be gusting to 30 knots with northwest winds of 15 to 20 knots.

The wind will create steep face on the swells that will be 6-feet from the west-northwest along with the continuing 2-foot from the south. Remember, skippers heading downhill will probably be fine, but the voyage might be postponed for those pointing their bows north, uphill.

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes.

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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