Whitehead: Be wary of strong currents in the harbor


I cannot fathom that Labor Day weekend has closed in on my radar already.

This weekend signals the end of summer across the nation, especially for boating. I do not understand why many school districts begin classes before Labor Day that steals that end of summer tradition for the students.

This summer has been great for boating with mild temperatures, only a few hurricane swells reaching our waters and a moderate wind blowing in the afternoons for the rag boaters. However, the surf will build this weekend and boaters should be cautious venturing outside the harbor's line of demarcation. The seas are expected to be 4 to 5 feet from the south with 1 to 3 feet from the west, and the National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood statement from Friday through the extended weekend.

Therefore, I recommend a nice harbor cruise for most recreational boaters and boaters with guests onboard who are prone to motion sickness. While harbor cruising, skippers need to keep the tides and tidal currents in mind this weekend.

Friday will have the largest difference with about a 5-foot range between low and high tides, creating strong currents in the harbor. The first low tide will be in the wee hours of the mornings with the second low tide in the later afternoons. The high tides will occur mid-mornings and before midnight.

What does this mean you ask?

Most people go boating in the late morning to the late afternoon, and then we have the twilight cruisers where the swarms of Duffy boats take to the water. The daylight boaters will have a strong outgoing tide and evening cruisers will have the reverse with a strong incoming tide. However, the tidal range should decrease through the weekend and by Monday the difference should be a 2- to 3-foot difference.

But, I digress. This will be one of the busiest boating weekends and I want every skipper to play it safe in the water.

The No. 1 tip that I can give to boaters is to be simply aware of your surroundings and the other boats. In plain simple terms, lose the tunnel vision of just looking forward, and change your skippering habits of frequently turning your head to look 360 degrees around your boat.

Many accidents occur because a skipper will turn without looking, especially when speed is involved. Personal water crafts have a high accident rate that is attributed to inexperienced riders and making a sharp turn directly in the path of another watercraft.

While on the subject of boating safely, you can easily spot the goofy-goes-sailing boater who you want to avoid. Just look for the nincompoop causing chaos while cruising on the wrong side of the bay against the flow of oncoming traffic, or the sailor with the constantly luffing sails, or the skipper speeding and creating large wakes while just on a harbor cruise.

Just for fun, I like to watch the Sunday sailors attempt to dock with the wife or girlfriend running around the boat as she tries to fend off from the boat crashing into the dock. All the while, the husband or boyfriend is wildly steering the boat into the dock at a too high rate of speed. To put the icing on the cake, he is screaming commands to his loved one on the foredeck as if she has any control to keep him from crashing and bouncing off the dock. This is classic, just classic.

I will have a change of course for this weekend, as I will be enjoying the final races and the closing ceremonies at the Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club. I will see many familiar faces from Newport Harbor at the yacht club a mile above sea level.

Tip of the week is to keep an eye on Tropical Storm Ileana moving northwesterly about 400 miles of the southern tip of Baja California. Ileana could develop into a hurricane by Friday and might start to die after the weekend. This could bring additional southern swells to our area and maybe a little humidity.

In the Atlantic, as Hurricane Isaac loses energy over land, Topical Storm Kirk is approaching the Gulf of Mexico, but anticipated to turn northerly up the mid-Atlantic. Hurricane season is not over yet.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Safe Voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to mike@boathousetv.com or go to http://www.boathousetv.com.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World