Boating For Safety and Satisfaction

Being a live-aboard boater for a long time is among the most enjoyable, rewarding and fun ways to live that I’ve come up with. No matter if you’re on a lake, river or sound, bay, or even the ocean, it’s time well-spent. It’s challenging, exciting and extremely satisfying to be in a position to travel to amazing places, to be able to observe familiar landmarks from different perspectives and to make great friends along the way. The wife of my name, Lisa along with me, live on a 45-foot long diesel-powered boat called Why Knot (a Nelson trawler which is sometimes referred to as an Thompson or Nelson Trawler). It’s a cozy boat , but it isn’t extravagant.

Although there are gorgeous boats that turn out to be more or less weekend retreats, or what is called by boaters to be “floating condos”, our boat was designed to be a way-finder. That is, a vessel which is designed to take you to locations… distant places. We’ve got it. Since we acquired Why Knot in December of 2011 we have logged over six-thousand-three-hundred miles cruising up the eastern seaboard, the Erie Canal system, the Great Lakes, parts of Ontario, Canada, the western river system, the Gulf of Mexico and back up the eastern seaboard on what is known as The Great Loop. (details on The Great Loop is readily available online) And we’ve done this without causing any serious problems due to poor conditions or for cruising outside the limitations of the boat and her crew. That is our wife and me. Visit:-

We are very happy to have been successful at this venture. Boating is a secure activity, but it’s not completely risk-free. The majority of the times when we hear about an incident, whether it is a terrible cruise experience or not, it is because we take risky decisions in relation to the weather or water conditions (On many occasions we have encountered newly arrived boaters who say something like, “Oh it was a great day but we got crushed by waves higher than we expected”. Is that a great day? ) Accidents that can cause property damage, or, perhaps most importantly, injury or death, the cause is usually because of poor planning judgment or execution. Also, it is a human error. To this end Lisa and I have created an established set of mission guidelines that we strive to not violate. If there is a violation, we are willing to err to the side of caution. If the mission’s rules are not followed then the mission, at least during the day, will be over.

Mission Rule #1: The National Weather Service is always correct.

There are a variety of sources for weather forecasts that are available. There are a variety of sources available. Weather Underground, The Weather Channel and AccuWeather are just a few, each having their own method to communicate weather information for various purposes and each with their individual merits. We’ve also observed that at times one can select a forecast from one of these sources that matches one’s preferences rather than having a focused and well-understood description of the risks and rewards of sailing based on a forecast. So we have decided that our source for weather and marine forecasts is The National Weather Service. Their information is extensive. In addition, it’s their data that certain other services create the forecasts they have created for themselves. Why do we need middlemen? Use the original source. (To its credit Weather Underground they are very enthusiastic in their appreciation and support of the NWS in the sense of lobbying Congress whenever there is any discussion about reductions in the NWS.)

Mission Rule #2 2&10 rule

The 2&10 rule simply states to say that an elevated risk point is established when forecast waves are more than two feet and forecast sustained wind speeds are higher than 10 miles an hour. (We employ statute measures instead of nautical measurements.) Forecast wave heights are complicated but when I have been studying the subject, I’ve learned that when a wave with a height of two feet forecast, it is actually referring to the entire range of possible waves that range from one foot high up to up to an impressive four feet. If the forecast height is three foot waves you could see waves as high as 6 feet, a four foot forecast for a wave could result in eight foot waves, and further on. Wind speed predictions are more mysterious. Our experience is that there are always wind gusts that are higher than forecasts, and our boat needs specific handling guidelines, particularly in tight quarters such as in marinas. In studying NOAA research on sustained winds as well as wind gusts, I discovered that when sustained winds reach eight knots or more (ten statute miles an hour) there is a a 99.6% likely-hood to experience gusts of wind, with a possibility that the gust could be nearly twice the sustained wind speeds. Prevailing wind direction is an issue that we are trying to grasp and build in to our guidelines. We do know that we would prefer not to have a trailing sea because our boat is unable to perform well when waves are moving up our stern, or on the stern quarters (the rear corners) of her. There is a second rule to 2&10, which is the Add 1 and 5 rule. It is to increase by one foot any forecast wave’s height, and add five miles per hour to the forecast wind speed. This is a useful sub-rule but it can only be implemented when direct evidence shows it to be true. A different sub-rule to this is that typically we extend our stay following the passage of a front to allow larger bodies of water a chance to settle down a bit.

Mission Rule #3: The 2&10 rule is applicable most of the time to the destination rather than the beginning or middle of a journey

Like we said earlier, because of the particular way our boat is designed, it is imperative to get us into a place safe and secure after completing a cruise plan. A marina’s close-quarter handling is difficult when the weather is causing things. We apply this rule more firmly to our destination to ensure that mission rule #4 is easy to apply. The reverse is that we must take the into consideration the conditions to be capable of making a secure and secure leave from the point we started for the remainder of the day.

Mission Rule #4 Wait, Wait, Wait

We always believe that an GREAT day is just around the corner, and it always is. Why should you settle for riskier conditions when lower risk conditions will be in the near future.

Mission Rule #5 If the appearance is iffy, it probably is.

There is a myriad of technology available to us for predicting and understanding the kind of day on the water could be like, much like other boaters. We have also learned that being aware of what we are seeing with our own eyes is more important. For instance, we try to look at what’s happening to other boats. If they’re bobbing and diving into waves , we’ll also. We also pay attention to things like the body language of boaters that arrive the night before a departure. Do they appear relaxed and calm? Or do they look like they have been through a commercial washer? Restful and calm – great. Tensed and angry – not good. We also look very carefully on the ocean’s surface. I believe that if you notice that water’s surface is breaking even on small waves, unless there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that things are going to calm down (and it should be large) we’ll remain in.

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