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

November 22, 2013|By Mike Whitehead

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.

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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.

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