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Whitehead: Be wary of strong currents in the harbor

August 30, 2012|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

I cannot fathom that Labor Day weekend has closed in on my radar already.

This weekend signals the end of summer across the nation, especially for boating. I do not understand why many school districts begin classes before Labor Day that steals that end of summer tradition for the students.

This summer has been great for boating with mild temperatures, only a few hurricane swells reaching our waters and a moderate wind blowing in the afternoons for the rag boaters. However, the surf will build this weekend and boaters should be cautious venturing outside the harbor's line of demarcation. The seas are expected to be 4 to 5 feet from the south with 1 to 3 feet from the west, and the National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood statement from Friday through the extended weekend.

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Therefore, I recommend a nice harbor cruise for most recreational boaters and boaters with guests onboard who are prone to motion sickness. While harbor cruising, skippers need to keep the tides and tidal currents in mind this weekend.

Friday will have the largest difference with about a 5-foot range between low and high tides, creating strong currents in the harbor. The first low tide will be in the wee hours of the mornings with the second low tide in the later afternoons. The high tides will occur mid-mornings and before midnight.

What does this mean you ask?

Most people go boating in the late morning to the late afternoon, and then we have the twilight cruisers where the swarms of Duffy boats take to the water. The daylight boaters will have a strong outgoing tide and evening cruisers will have the reverse with a strong incoming tide. However, the tidal range should decrease through the weekend and by Monday the difference should be a 2- to 3-foot difference.

But, I digress. This will be one of the busiest boating weekends and I want every skipper to play it safe in the water.

The No. 1 tip that I can give to boaters is to be simply aware of your surroundings and the other boats. In plain simple terms, lose the tunnel vision of just looking forward, and change your skippering habits of frequently turning your head to look 360 degrees around your boat.

Many accidents occur because a skipper will turn without looking, especially when speed is involved. Personal water crafts have a high accident rate that is attributed to inexperienced riders and making a sharp turn directly in the path of another watercraft.

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