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Weather for Boating: What You Should Lookout For

Planning a boating trip? Here are some of the key weather conditions you should check beforehand.

Boating is a fun activity many of us love doing in our leisure time. But so much of it is dependent on the weather.

Many boating-safety organisations emphasise the necessity of checking your weather conditions before going out on a boating trip, and it's for a good reason. At the very least, poor weather can ruin our boating trip. But bad weather can also bring about severe risks to our safety.

Here are some key weather conditions to take note of before boating.

Wind speed

Wind speed is measured in knots, and it's one of the most prominent indicators of water conditions. Stronger wind generally results in rougher water conditions, so you should avoid boating if the wind speed is too high.

A 5-knot wind condition is ideal for boating, and taking your boat out is usually not advisable once the wind hits above 15 knots. Here's a table of wind speeds that tells you when it's too dangerous to go boating.

Strong wind warning

Winds averaging from 26 knots to 33 knots.

Gale warning

Winds averaging from 34 knots to 47 knots.

Storm force wind warning

Winds averaging from 48 knots to 63 knots.

Hurricane force wind warning

Winds averaging 64 knots or more.

Bear in mind that wind forecasts are only in averages. Some wind gusts can be up to 40% stronger in varying conditions, so be aware and use good judgment before heading out.


Winds indirectly generate waves, and stronger winds produce larger waves. These waves can be potentially dangerous and damaging to your boat because they have the capacity to store a lot of energy.

For example, a 12-foot high wave could potentially knock down a boat that's 40 feet long! Large waves and long swells create dangerous conditions for boating, especially when these swells break in shallow waters. These powerful breaks could be hazardous for small boats.

Always check the weather forecast for wind conditions, and recognise how these conditions can affect your boating location. Sheltered areas may not be as affected by the winds, but they could generate high wind speeds if it passes between valleys.

Cloud formation

Clouds are another great indication of the weather and if conditions are ideal for boating. This is because temperature and humidity can affect the shapes and colours of the cloud, which can often predict the weather.

For example, dense, dark, and towering crowds may indicate worsening weather or rain. In contrast, wispy and isolated clouds that are very high in the sky indicate fair weather.


Knowing when it's high and low tide and the tidal range during the day is another crucial weather safety information. It helps boaters understand how to enter and exit crossing bars and river entrances. Lower tides can also cause the waves to become steeper - making them hard to navigate.

Tides determine the shape of beaches and marine activities that occurs in the sea. For example, areas with a large difference in sea levels between high and low tides may be dangerous for those who are caught unaware.

UV levels

Sun safety is probably one of the least talked about safety considerations when going out boating, but it's certainly essential. Given that Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, we must know how to protect ourselves from the sun.

UV rays are harmful to our skin, and boating conditions often intensify this. Not only are we out on our boats the whole day, but the UV rays from the sun can also be reflected by the water and boat surfaces (in addition to coming from above!).

Hence, you should always wear protective clothing such as hats and full-coverage sunglasses, and never skip your sunscreen when you're out in the water.

Other weather conditions

In addition to the above weather conditions, it's important to also check weather warnings before going out boating. Events such as cyclones, thunderstorms, and fog can be dangerous and deadly when you're in the water.

Understanding how the weather affects boating is a skill that develops over time. So if you're new to boating, don't go out when in doubt.

The best way to check the weather

Checking the weather before heading out can make a big difference to your boating experience. To do this, you need a reliable weather platform.

If you're looking for a weather app that tells you about the weather without any visual frustrations, Weather Map is your solution. Weather Map is an Aussie-made weather app that believes in providing the best weather-viewing experience - without ads! Download our app on the App Store today.

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