Safe Boating Weather Tips

sailboat drawing . . . Because you know the weather

blue bar

You know the weather. . .

It can be both friend and foe. Calm winds and seas make for enjoyable power boating, waterskiing, and fishing. A fresh breeze and a light chop provide an invigorating sailing or wind surfing experience. But the sudden emergence of dark clouds, shifting and gusty winds, torrential downpours and lightning can turn a day’s pleasure into a nightmare of distress. Here are some tips on how to keep your pleasure and safety to a maximum.

drawing of speedboat

Plan for boating fun. . .

Several days ahead of time start listening for the National Weather Service extended 5-day outlooks on NOAA Weather Radio, AM/FM radio, and TV. The outlooks give general information to help you decide whether or not to continue making plans.

blue bar

Before Setting Out. . .

Pay close attention to the TV weathercast and listen to detailed marine weather forecasts on NOAA Weather Radio. Take note of small boat cautionary statements, Small Craft Advisories, or Gale or Storm Warnings in the forecasts. The Advisories and Warnings (see definitions) alert mariners to higher winds and waves either occurring now or forecast to occur up to 24 hours from now. Advisories and Warnings for conditions expected later give mariners time to take action to protect life and property.


After setting out . . .

Don’t touch that dial! Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio. You know the weather--it changes! The change often occurs out of your sight and may be headed your way. Updated warnings and forecasts are aired immediately on NOAA Weather Radio, alerting you to changes that may require action on your part. But you can help yourself . . . It’s up to YOU!

blue bar

While on the water, stay alert. . .

blue bar

Radio Tips

drawing of NOAA Weather Radio with weather symbols above

If you have a VHF transceiver with built-in NOAA Weather Radio channels, use them. If your VHF radio is not equipped with weather channels, you may want to buy a VHF weather radio--they’re readily available. Keep in mind, however, broadcast reception varies with the location of you and the transmitter, the quality of the radio, and any obstructions. A broad, average range is 20 to 40 miles. If you venture beyond that range, you should consider buying a good quality HF single sideband transceiver to add to your VHF. It may be more expensive, but it is worth it to be able to get the information that may save your life and property.

blue bar


Weather Information Broadcasts*

NOAA Weather Radio 162.400 MHz
(continuous broadcasts) 162.425 MHz
  162.450 MHz
  162.475 MHz
  162.500 MHz
  162.525 MHz
162.550 MHz
Coast Guard Marine Selected frequencies
Information Stations within the MF/HF marine bands: 2-20 MHz
Coast Guard NAVTEX 518 kHz
Coast Guard VHF (Channel22A) 157.1 MHz
National Institute of Standards and Technology 2.5 MHz, 5 MHz
Time and Frequency 10 MHz
Stations WWV and WWVH 15 MHz, 20 MHz

Commercial AM and FM Radio Stations

*See Marine Weather Service Charts listed under "You Need This..." and other publications for specific locations, schedules, and frequencies.

U.S. Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Weather Service
NOAA PA 94058

June 1998

blue bar


Small Craft Advisory: Observed or forecast winds of 18 to 33 knots--Small Craft Advisories may also be issued for hazardous sea conditions or lower wind speeds that may affect small craft operations. Issued up to 12 hours ahead of conditions. (There is no legal definition of the term "small craft.")

Gale Warning: * Observed or forecast winds of 34 to 47 knots.
Storm Warning:* Observed or forecast winds of 48 knots or greater.
Tropical Storm Warnings: * Observed or forecast winds of 34 to 63 knots associated with a tropical storm.
Hurricane Warning: * Observed or forecast winds of 64 knots or higher associated with a hurricane.
Special Marine Warning: Observed or forecast winds of 34 knots or more associated with a squall or thunderstorm and expected to last for 2 hours or less.
*Issued up to 24 hours ahead of conditions.

Contact the National Weather Service office nearest you for the following brochures:

blue bar

You Need This . . .

National Weather Service publishes Marine Weather Service Charts for the following segments of the U.S. coastline.

MSC-1 Eastport, ME to Montauk Point, NY
MSC-2 Montauk Point, NY to Manasquan, NJ
MSC-3 Manasquan, NJ to Cape Hatteras, NC
MSC-4 Cape Hatteras, NC to Savannah, GA
MSC-5 Savannah, GA to Apalachicola, FL
MSC-6 Apalachicola, FL to Morgan City, LA
MSC-7 Morgan City, LA to Brownsville, TX
MSC-8 Mexican Border to Pt. Conception, CA
MSC-9 Pt. Conception to Pt. St. George, CA
MSC-10 Pt. St. George, CA to Canadian Border
MSC-11 Great Lakes
MSC-12 Great Lakes
MSC-13 Hawaiian Waters
MSC-14 Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
MSC-15 Alaskan Waters
MSC-16 Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands

These placemat-sized charts contain information about warning and forecast products and list all NWR, U.S. Coast Guard, and private marine radio stations broadcasting weather for the area covered by the chart. To order a chart, send $1.25 (check or money order) to: National Ocean Service, Distribution Branch, N/ACC33, Riverdale, MD 20737-1199 or

Recommended Information:
Selected Worldwide Marine Weather Broadcasts

Lists stations, schedules, frequencies, etc., for all major marine weather broadcasts in voice and print modes in English. To order, contact U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, (202) 512-0000.

Return to National Weather Service Publications 

Analyze, Forecast and Support Offices
National Weather Service
1325 East-West Hwy
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3283

Questions or comments:
Last Modified: 09/07/01