From the Boathouse: Make it a safe holiday on the harbor

Ahoy! My radar is showing that Thanksgiving is closing in fast, and I cannot believe a year has sailed by already. Also, the day after Thanksgiving is the infamous Black Friday, when I batten down the hatches as the crazed holiday shoppers attack the retail stores and sometimes each other.

Once Thanksgiving Day has passed, then it is acceptably the time to break out your holiday decorations for boat and home. However, I have seen some homes with their Christmas lights shining brightly at night before turkey day.

I have regularly seen families out cruising the weekend before Thanksgiving and through the holiday, especially with friends and relatives from out of town. In keeping with this pattern, I am already being asked what the weather and sea conditions will be through next week.

So, I will glance into my crystal ball, but keep in mind that predicting conditions for more than a week out will not be 100% accurate.

This weekend, I see mostly clear skies, with daytime air temperatures in the high 60s and lows in the high 50s. The ocean swells will be as high as 4 feet, dropping to 2 feet by Sunday. The winds might generate small-craft warnings, with northerly winds gusting around 20 knots. The wind waves will be pushed up to 3 feet, maybe 4, thus creating a wet ride in the open ocean.

Point Conception will have swells building to only 6 feet and dropping under 4 feet by Sunday, with winds under 20 knots. These conditions might create a weather window if you are planning to transit north or south around Conception. If you will be going out on the water, then boat safely and watch for morning fog.

If you plan to skipper your boat in one of Southern California's boat parades, then you can use this time for a shakedown cruise in preparation for the event. This is the perfect opportunity to practice the parade route in daylight hours to maneuver the turns and see where the lit and unlit floating buoys and mooring cans are located. And it's a good time to plan for and practice how you would handle an emergency during the parade.

What would you do if someone fell overboard, and what is the most readily available floating object to throw to someone? Remember, time is of the essence if someone falls into the water during a parade: On a cool night, most guests are wearing heavy clothes that will make swimming and staying afloat difficult, and many boats nearby could run over that person in the water.

However, the skipper could quickly throw a readily available lifejacket to someone in the water and shine a handheld spotlight in his or her direction to alert other boaters.

I will have more boat parade safety tips and tricks in my columns as the parades close in on boaters' radars. Next week, I will have hints for decorating your boat safely and maintaining a proper lookout with the decorations onboard.

Tip of the week is a response to the letter in the mailbag titled "Do not fly Old Glory upside down." The letter from Carolyn Fitz-Gibbon regarding proper practice for flying the American flag is correct, and she cites Flag Code's Title 36, Chapter 3.

However, U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(a) states, "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

A flag, whether it is Old Glory, a U.S. Ensign (Old Glory renamed when aboard a vessel), a U.S. Yacht Ensign or a USPS Ensign, is flown upside down when the people aboard the vessel are in dire distress and need immediate assistance.

I will further address flag etiquette for the recreational boater in my annual column for Flag Day in June.

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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