From the Boathouse: As boating season starts, is safety first?

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Ahoy, and welcome to Memorial Day weekend!

Memorial Day weekend signals the official start of the boating season across the nation, and literally millions of people will be on the water enjoying boating-related activities. Thousands of boaters will be cruising the harbors in Southern California, and many will venture into the Pacific Ocean. However, be aware of the weather and sea conditions as King Neptune and Mother Nature are mixing it up a little this weekend.

We will have a mixed set with the swells about two feet from the west-northwest and also from the south-southwest. The dual swell directions will create conditions that might make you and your guests uncomfortable especially if it’s your first time on the water this season. So, if any of your guests are turning green, tuck back inside the line of demarcation for a nice harbor cruise.

The winds will be light in the mornings but jumping directions from southerly to westerly and back to the south. By Sunday, the winds will settle from the south in the mornings to our prevailing westerlies in the afternoon, and the wind speeds of 10 knots with gust maybe to 15 knots will be good for those wishing to hoist a sail.


The patchy morning fog will return this weekend, and remember, the navigation rules state that you must have your vessel under control and be able to identify, change course or stop to avoid a collision. Air temperatures will be chilly, with daytime highs in the 60s with partly sunny skies, and the nighttime lows will be in the low 60s, so not much of a temperature separation.

Friday is the end of National Safe Boating Week, which I mentioned in last week’s column. Remember, this annual awareness campaign is held the week before Memorial Day with the major goal of increasing awareness for boaters to wear their lifejackets. Additionally, this is a good time to improve your overall boating knowledge and skills, and in return, you will not end up what I call “Goofy goes sailing” when you are on the water.

Did you know that Memorial Day was previously known as Decoration Day? Memorial Day is the time to remember those who gave their lives while serving this great nation and thank those who are serving now. Let’s not forget the Merchant Marine as well.

On another note, I mentioned in a previous column that the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race has added safety requirements and rules in response to the fatal boat accident in last year’s race. Recently, there have been a few other incidents of fatal accidents by those participating in sailing races.

Now, the America’s Cup might be the next ones to change the rules, especially after the unfortunate death of a British sailor, Andrew Simpson, when the 72-foot Artemis capsized in San Francisco Bay on May 9. The new America’s Cup catamarans are big and fast enough to reach speeds of 40 knots, but when something breaks or goes wrong, it can be deadly. Keep in mind that current catamarans have masts that reach 131.2 feet in the air, and that creates a lot of sail area.

The question being pondered: Should the boats be monohulls and ban catamarans and hydrofoils? Other sports have very specific equipment regulations, and one can look to football, car racing and powerboat racing with specific regulations.

Another question that comes to my mind: Are the America’s Cup boats becoming too expensive for others to build and compete? Unless you have tens of millions of dollars to spend, then you cannot participate in the Cup races.

However, the America’s Cup finals will return to the United States for the first time after 18 years, and the event is going to be held in San Francisco Bay from Sept. 7 to 21. Very exciting news is that onshore spectators will be able to watch the races with the planned course design. I will be at the finals, so I hope to see you in San Francisco in a few months.

Tip of the week is to remember that the harbors in Southern California are classified as no-discharge harbors, which means not to pump your head overboard or throw any trash overboard with the exception of throwing a ring buoy to someone who has fallen. Boaters are aware and landlubbers are becoming more aware of how our actions affect the harbors and ocean. The main culprits are the storm drains that empty into the waters. Also, boaters need to check the bilge water for any signs of oil or fuel that could be accidentally pumped into the harbor.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsively 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