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From the Boathouse: Bundling up for a chilly weekend


I am predicting a cloudy and cool weekend on the water after our little weather system has left Southern California. If you are going boating, take jackets. The daytime air temperatures will be in the low- to mid-60s, and the nighttime temperatures will drop about 10 degrees.


Along the coast, the seas will drop from midweek’s 4- to 5-foot swells to about 2 feet from the west with a 1-foot south-southwest for a mixed set. Additionally, the swell intervals will be in the double digits for smooth cruising in the ocean.

The winds will be very light in the mornings for sailing but will pick up to maybe 10 knots in the afternoons. The light and variable winds will create only 1- to 2-foot wind waves, so you should not have any sea spray over the deck.


The swell heights are dropping at Point Conception, with the seas predicted to be less than 5 feet high Saturday with very light 10-knot winds from the west. This is your weather window if you are planning to round the point uphill (northbound) and will make for an especially nice ride downhill (southbound).

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes, and beware of possible coastal fog in the mornings.

Sometimes I share with you boating mishaps that occur on the waterways, and I am not shy about giving my professional opinion as to their causes. Most of the mishaps occur by the “Goofy goes sailing” boater, but sometimes the professionals make mistakes too.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez accident. The oil tanker ran aground on March 24, 1989, and made headlines around the world, and the aftermath changed the drug-and-alcohol-testing standards for all licensed captains. The Exxon Valdez, which was full of crude oil, had departed from the Alyeska Pipeline terminal on the evening of March 23, bound for Long Beach.


However, the crew met with disaster when the ship ran into the Bligh Reef just after midnight. Well, I think everyone remembers the rest of the story and the damage caused to Prince William Sound by the thousands of gallons of leaked crude oil.

It is safe to conclude that crew error led to the Exxon Valdez’s grounding, not mechanical malfunction. It is good to remember past events so, hopefully, they will not be repeated, whether we are discussing an oil tanker grounding or a yacht running aground on our local coastline.

Let’s think back to 1990, when the oil tanker American Trader ran over its own anchor and spilled more than 300,000 gallons of oil directly off Huntington Beach.

Those who read my column know that I am a delivery and training captain aboard commercial and recreational vessels ranging from 40 to 150 feet in length. While delivering vessels, we operate 24 hours a day and stop only for fuel or because of bad weather. I find that running during darkness, as the Exxon Valdez did, presents an array of extra challenges from visibility to crew dozing off while on watch.


Everyone makes mistakes, and all skippers need to plan in advance what they will do in case of (fill in the blank). Just so you know, the Exxon Valdez was renamed at least half a dozen times after the catastrophe, and finally, in 2012, the ship was dismantled for scrap.

Tip of the week is for all boaters to check anchor(s) and ground tackle. Let me give you a huge tip: Drop your anchor if you have an engine failure, steering failure or whatever failure and you are drifting into the surf line, boats or docks.

This is the standard procedure if, all of a sudden, your vessel is out of control from either mechanical failure or, if sailing, loss of wind power. You should practice an emergency anchor drop before you leave the dock, and do you know how to release your windlass winch if there is no electrical power?

Plan, practice and be prepared before it happens to you.

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