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Thread: Checking (or not) marine weather before heading out

  1. #1

    Default Checking (or not) marine weather before heading out

    Beginning Friday afternoon of last week, the NWS started calling for a small craft advisory beginning Saturday night with deteriorating conditions beginning as soon as Saturday afternoon (gusts at Whittier around 45 knots). I launched Friday afternoon at Whittier and came back Saturday morning. Even then the wind and water in Passage Canal was pretty rotten. I was surprised to see how many people were putting in as I was taking out. Even pretty small boats. I pulled my boat out and a guy in a small Jetcraft who was about to launch asked me how it was out there. I told him it was bad, which surprised him. He said he'd give it a shot anyway. Then I told him it was supposed to get worse, which surprised him. Then I told him about the SCA, which surprised him. He launched anyway.

    I thought everyone checked the marine forecast before deciding whether or not to head out. Apparently not, although my guess is that some who were going out were not planning on going far or were going to go far with the intention of holing up somewhere when it got bad. If you know conditions are bad or are going to get bad, when if ever would you say something to someone? I don't want to sound like I'm telling someone what they should do, but I think it's best that they know especially if they are taking out kids or maybe people who are putting their trust in the person driving the boat.

  2. #2

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    I've had some of the same thoughts in that situation. If there is an opportunity I'll usually ask where they are going. If it's somewhere that doesn't seem safe due to forecast then I casually mention the SCA. Not gonna take it upon myself to educate the public but maybe just the guy standing next to me if they look like they could use it. Lots of people just troll near the harbor or pull pots in passage so I assume that's the case.

  3. #3
    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Ressurection Bay was a churned up mess last Saturday, and I just couldn't believe some of the boats out there. At least 2 different 14ft open skiffs with 4 adults trolling around in confused 3 ft seas. What some folks won't do to try and catch a fish!!

  4. #4
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    If some one asks ill tell them. If not well I figure they are adults and probably don't want my advice anyway. I hardly check the marine forecast because NOAA will admit that its usually wrong. I go check it out and if its ok I continue, if its snotty I slow down and probably will continue, if its HOLY CRAP I either turn around and go home or find somewhere to hide. I don't hold much confidence in the NOAA weather report.

  5. #5
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    I must add I own a drift gillnet boat that will handle way bigger water than I can.

  6. #6

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    I've found the regional forecasts too broad for fishing out of kayaks or small boats. I have found their spot forecast to be pretty dang accurate in the waters I fish. http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick...cstType=marine

    Click on the map to change locations. Keep in mind, their forecast is for "
    WIND FORECASTS REFLECT THE PREDOMINANT SPEED AND DIRECTION
    EXPECTED. SEA FORECASTS REPRESENT AN AVERAGE OF THE HIGHEST
    ONE-THIRD OF THE COMBINED WIND WAVE AND SWELL HEIGHT
    ."

  7. #7

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    That's an excellent refinement of their info, Kardinal!

    Thanks!

  8. #8
    Charterboat Operator Abel's Avatar
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    I look at it, but rarely trust it. When I ran on the Great Lakes, and it seems to hold true here, take the 2 numbers for wind, add them and that's what it'll be. I normaly won't canel a trip until I actually see what it's doing that morning.
    Life's to short for an ugly boat

    Blaze N Abel Charters
    Kodiak, AK
    www.alaska-fish.com
    https://www.facebook.com/BlazeNAbelCharters/?fref=ts

  9. #9

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    Maybe people would heed NOAA marine weather forecasts if it is validated with actual data:
    http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/maps/Alaska_inset.shtml

    When the bouys are in service, yes the Port Wells bouy is a sore spot, I combine the two sources of weather information for my go/no go decisions. The hourly bouy data is broadcast also via marine vhf radios weather channels. I use this information to verify predicted weather changes are occurring when I am out on the water.

    All you can do is let people know what information is available to them. It is up to them to use it or not.

    Doug

  10. #10
    Member OKElkHunter's Avatar
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    I checked the online forcast all week and the weather was only getting better through the weekend, so I went out Friday evening, and the weather and seas were even better than the online forecast. I listen to the forecast at regular intervals while out. Got up Saturday and the weather was awesome, with the exception of fog. Spent the day out, but started seeing boats heading bact towards Whittier in the early afternoon, so I switched to the weather and the forecast had changed to 3-5 ft seas in PWS and a small craft advisory in Passage Canal. According to the forecast, the weather was going to be bad through the night and into the morning, but get better Sunday afternoon. We decided we'd head in and not risk it and the wind shifted shortly afterwards and picked up, while we were pulling our shrimp pots, and by the time we made it to Passage canal, we were heading into 4' seas getting worse as we got closer to Whittier. I didn't see anyone heading out when we pulled, but I did meet numerous boats waiting at the tunnel and on the highway as we headed home. Typically, I'll find a cove and wait out the weather when the forecast says it will get better the next day, but this time of year is just to unpredictable to risk it. Llast year there were several rescues in mid September, and a guy lost is life. Not worth it to take those kind of risk.
    “Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong." ~Calvin Coolidge~

  11. #11

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    Another source I use is the fax charts. It sort of implies I am better at reading this than NOAA is...which I am NOT....but I still look at at them.
    http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/alaska.shtml

    I like the 24 and 48 surface and wind/wave charts,,,one example....

  12. #12

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    If you have a smartphone, add the NOAA low bandwidth site to your home screen http://lowbandwidth.arh.noaa.gov/wmo...FC&type=marine. It works great even in spotty reception. The synopsis tells you a lot once you get used to reading it and gives an indication of things to come, as does checking the weather the night before after the 4pm update, and then again the morning of after the 4am update. Comparing the two and knowing if the forecast has been upgraded or downgraded is often the best information in my opinion. In rapidly changing conditions, the forecast can be updated before 4am or 4pm. Usually an indication that things are getting better/worse quickly, or that NOAA has no idea what is happening

  13. #13
    Member JR2's Avatar
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    I check everything I can up to the last minute. I ended our Labor day weekend trip a day early as the weather was supposed to get bad on Sunday night and Monday and then lay down Monday evening. We went in Sunday evening and it was staring to get sloppy and the wind was picking up.

    Here is how I look at the weather forecasts:

    Lets look at this weekend. I am supposed to take my wife and her friends out to a forest service cabin Friday afternoon and then bring them back Sunday afternoon. I will spend the weekend with my boys messing around on the boat while the women have fun at the cabin. The forecast for PWS that time period:

    Fri Through Sat SE wind 20 kt. Seas 4 ft.
    Sun E wind 10 kt. Seas 2 ft.

    The more localized forecast for the N end of Culross Passage (Close to where we are going):

    Friday ENE wind around 10 kt. Rain. The rain could be heavy at times. Seas around 2 ft.
    Friday Night E wind around 10 kt. Rain. Seas around 2 ft.
    Saturday E wind around 10 kt. Rain. Seas around 2 ft.
    Saturday Night ESE wind around 10 kt. Rain. Seas around 2 ft.

    The Passage Canal forecast:

    Fri E wind 15 kt. Seas 2 ft.
    Sat E wind 10 kt. Seas 2 ft.
    Sun E wind 20 kt. Seas 2 ft.





    Based on these numbers I have to conclude that the bad weather forecast for Western PWS is actually going to be out farther in the sound and not in close. As of right now we are planing on going on the trip. We will evaluate it on a daily basis until the AM we leave.

    Is that about how everyone else does it?
    2007 Kingfisher 2825 - Stor Fisk

    Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top. -- Hunter S. Thompson

  14. #14

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    I've seen some pretty irresponsible boating by some small boaters this year. Rough seas, rougher forecast coming, and I see a 16ft boat with some idiot and his kids fishing in an area that will be a churning mess once the tide changes. I just shake my head, and know it'll just be a matter of time before one of those boats gets in trouble. Then, it'll be us looking for them and pulling bodies out of the water.

    If you can't read weather, don't check forecasts, (NOAA Marine WX is VERY good and accurate btw) and don't have common sense, then you have no business out on the water.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by JR2 View Post
    I check everything I can up to the last minute. I ended our Labor day weekend trip a day early as the weather was supposed to get bad on Sunday night and Monday and then lay down Monday evening. We went in Sunday evening and it was staring to get sloppy and the wind was picking up.

    Here is how I look at the weather forecasts:

    Lets look at this weekend. I am supposed to take my wife and her friends out to a forest service cabin Friday afternoon and then bring them back Sunday afternoon. I will spend the weekend with my boys messing around on the boat while the women have fun at the cabin. The forecast for PWS that time period:

    Fri Through Sat SE wind 20 kt. Seas 4 ft.
    Sun E wind 10 kt. Seas 2 ft.

    The more localized forecast for the N end of Culross Passage (Close to where we are going):

    Friday ENE wind around 10 kt. Rain. The rain could be heavy at times. Seas around 2 ft.
    Friday Night E wind around 10 kt. Rain. Seas around 2 ft.
    Saturday E wind around 10 kt. Rain. Seas around 2 ft.
    Saturday Night ESE wind around 10 kt. Rain. Seas around 2 ft.

    The Passage Canal forecast:

    Fri E wind 15 kt. Seas 2 ft.
    Sat E wind 10 kt. Seas 2 ft.
    Sun E wind 20 kt. Seas 2 ft.





    Based on these numbers I have to conclude that the bad weather forecast for Western PWS is actually going to be out farther in the sound and not in close. As of right now we are planing on going on the trip. We will evaluate it on a daily basis until the AM we leave.

    Is that about how everyone else does it?
    Exactly. The way I do it.

  16. #16

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    Lots of good links and info in this thread. Getting the buoys operational would really help. Maybe build them more reliably/tamperproof or switch to wave radar? I regularly do some forecast checking before going out. It helps identify the typical patterns happening. You can maximize your time on the water if you understand the effects a particular front will have. Once out there you can listen to radio for changes and adjust the trip as needed.

    There's a couple experimental sites up that provide higher res forecasts for GOA and pws. This is a good one:
    http://preview.weather.gov/graphical...&coords=latlon

  17. #17

    Default rule of thumb

    I have heard, and in my experience generally agree with:

    "If the wind speed in knots is larger than the length of your boat in feet then don't go"

    thus,

    20kts in a 20ft boat is about all you want to deal with unless you like being beat up.

    This assumes there are not residual swells from a past weather system underneath the current prevailing wind waves,
    that would be much worse .................

    There are also tidal effects, and local terrain features that can worsen or better the prevailing wind wave height.

    I also look for worsening or improving trends starting a few days before departure.

    By and large the marine forecast has been pretty good for me.

  18. #18

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    Another resource...just change the dialog boxes for different information. Great tool for figuring wave height and such for areas to judge if it is increasing or subsiding.

    http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/gfefcst/index.php


    Heavy Hitter Fishing
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heavy...54441957966186

    Kodiak Custom Fishing Tackle Pro-Staff


  19. #19

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    AK2AZ,

    Thanks for pointing out the NOAA significant wave height tool. I have added it to my Internet weather favorites.

    Is that about how everyone else does it?
    JR2,

    I add one more step to the weather monitoring. I check the bouy wind and wave historical measurements, the last 24 hours, to verify the trend matches the forecast. Scroll down on this page to see the trend for bouy 46060: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=46060. This is my go to bouy for trips south/south east of Perry Island. I don't entirely trust the wave heights and rely more on past experience with what the seas were like for a given wind speed.

    Finally, before I pull out of the driveway to head to Whittier, I check the current winds in Whittier and the bouy closest to my destination to make my go/no go decision. I do not miss the days of getting to Whittier and sitting on the beach waiting for the winds to calm down.

    Doug

  20. #20

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    Doug - where do you get current wind speeds at Whittier?

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