From the Boathouse: Some unexpected changes in weather


Southern California normally has very consistent weather that bores the local meteorologists with reports of sunny and warm. However, this time of year, the weather and sea conditions can change radically from the norm, and boaters can be caught off guard.

Last week, in the wee hours of the morning, I was driving over the Grapevine on Interstate 5 heading north to San Francisco when a snowstorm hit the area. Luckily, I made it over the summit with 20 minutes to spare before CHP closed the Interstate due to slippery conditions.

However, I digress. The weather and sea conditions for boating today and this weekend are anticipated to be excellent. We will have calm ocean swells that are mixed with a two-foot from the west and a one- to two-foot from the southerly direction. Winds are expected to blow under 10 knots and probably closer to five knots, which will create 1-foot wind waves for a dry ride.

I predicted mostly sunny skies with air temperatures in the low 70s during the day and in the low 50s late evenings and pre-sunrise mornings. These conditions are suitable to produce early-morning patchy fog along the coast, so those venturing out in the morning need to be careful.

As a reminder, there are only a few more weeks remaining to catch fresh lobster, as the season is coming to an end March 20. I love to eat Panulirus interruptus and I have heard mixed reports of catching the bugs from recreational divers and fishermen along our coast. Please keep yourself out of trouble while catching lobster and don't have a visit from an officer with the California Department of Fish and Game.

Remember, if you use hoop nets from a boat, only five baited hoop nets may be used by one person, and no more than 10 baited hoop nets off of any recreational boat. The daily bag and possession is seven lobsters per person, and here is an important part: Unlike fishing for fish, lobsters must be kept whole while onboard any boat, and to bring ashore a lobster, you must maintain the lobster in such a condition that its size can be determined.

I support these regulations, so visit DFG's well-designed website at The website has information about regulations, latest news, marine life management, licenses, FAQs and a section where you simply click on where you will be going to see a list of detailed information for that specific region.

Additionally, as I have mentioned in the past, boaters need to be careful transiting the harbor entrances with commercial pots lying just outside in the open ocean. Seaward of the line of demarcation are many traps and pots with their marker buoys floating on the surface. Also, up and down the coast, there will be marker buoys most likely within a couple of miles to the shoreline. I recommend navigating a straight course to and from channel entrances, and do not cut the corners, especially in the dark.

You will spoil your voyage if you wrap a line from the pots or traps around your propeller, and the line can actually break some shafts and damage transmissions. If you do wrap a line, first try reversing that prop slowly, and if you lose your engine(s), then be prepared to drop your anchor and set the hook to prevent your boat from drifting ashore.

Lastly, on the topic of pots and traps, keep in mind that after a storm or heavy seas, some of the traps may drift directly in front of the harbor entrances. So keep a good lookout, as I am sure you always do. Plus, keep an eye over your stern, as you never know what harbor I will be cruising into next.

Tip of the week is that the full moon was last Monday, and the tides still have a six-foot difference between the high and low on Friday. This will create strong tidal currents for our local harbors, which many recreational boaters may not be accustomed to while boating, especially when trying to dock. You should check the tide tables for your area and pay attention to the stronger-than-normal inbound currents from low tide to high tide, or the stronger outbound currents from high tide to low tide.

Please boat smart and boat safe.

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 live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replays throughout the weekend. See times at

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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