From the Boathouse: Stay safe on the harbor during holidays


I predict that the weather will be good for boating this post-Thanksgiving weekend. Saturday should be mostly sunny with daytime air temperatures in the mid-70s, and Sunday should be about the same.

The ocean swells will decrease from a 5-foot westerly on Thanksgiving Day to a couple of feet from the west for the weekend. There will be a slight 1-foot swell pushing up from the south with a double-digit interval.

The winds are anticipated to be light, between 5 to 10 knots during the afternoons and less than 5 at night. The light winds will only push 1- to maybe 2-foot wind waves that will not create a wet ride for those venturing out on the high seas. This will be a good weekend to take your family and friends whale watching. Last weekend, I saw a pod of whales a couple of miles off the coast between Newport and Catalina Island.

Point Conception will have swells dropping to 5 feet on Saturday from a high of 9 feet on Thanksgiving Day. However, the winds will be blowing in the mid-teens with gusts around 20 knots that will create 3-foot or higher wind waves.

If you are planning to round the Point, wait until after Friday, when the conditions should be acceptable for southbound vessels. However, the conditions may prove to be a challenge for skippers who are planning an uphill voyage. I have experienced tough conditions many times while delivering vessels northbound around the Point. The 20-knot winds can create very steep faces on the 5-foot swells that the boat will fall off into the trough. Such conditions are not for the faint-hearted.

Tip of the week is for boaters who are decorating their vessels to participate in one of the parades next month, especially in Dana Point Harbor, Newport Harbor or Huntington Harbour. First and foremost, everyone must remember to keep safety their No.1 priority, and this includes the vessel owner, who may or may not be the skipper, any designated crew, and the guests.

Of the utmost importance is that the skipper must be able to see to navigate the vessel, so decorations cannot impede the view of the skipper or any lookouts. A high percentage of collisions or near misses that I have witnessed are due to the skipper's lack of visibility all around the vessel and the skipper simply not paying attention to the duties at hand.

Should the skipper's view be limited, then it is mandated that someone be posted as a lookout to keep an eye on blind areas. On some larger boats I skipper at times, I have had a few lookouts helping me avoid any problems.

Additionally, I have encountered and seen some very hazardously decorated boats, and on a couple of occasions I have been zapped when I have touched metal railings that have been grounding out from a wet extension cord. All exterior electrical cords should be rated for use outdoors, with all the connections wrapped with electrical tape to prevent grounding. We will experience dew point during the parade, and, in some years, it has rained, so plan ahead now to prevent electrical hazards.

To wrap up my tips for this year (pun intended), the decorations on your boat cannot obstruct or prevent the deployment of any safety device onboard, including ring buoys, life rafts, life jackets and fire extinguishers. Do not wrap Christmas lights around your throwable ring buoy as it will make it useless if someone falls overboard.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

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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