when is it too windy to go on a boat

When is it too windy to go on a boat? 

The whims of nature can dampen the fun of going boating or any other outdoor activity, but how much wind is too much for boating?

 Whether or not it is safe to go out on the sea depends mainly on the wind.

 If you want to have a safe and happy boating experience, you need to know when the wind is too strong and what your boat can withstand in terms of wind speed.

Whether or not it is safe to boat depends heavily on your experience and the boat type, but wind gusts around 34 knots can easily topple a boat. 

Understanding the Impact of Wind on Boating

understanding the impact of wind on boating

When boating, you need to understand that wind has a huge role. It determines how safely you can enjoy your boating expedition.

Here are a few reasons why it is important: 

Wave Conditions

The interaction of wind with the ocean’s surface can lead to waves of varied heights.

The danger of capsizing or losing control of your boat grows with the wind’s intensity and the waves’ size.

Fact: Smaller boats that are not built for rough waters may have trouble keeping up with the momentum of the waves. 

Boat Handling

boat handling

When the winds pick up, it can be difficult to:

  • Steer the boat
  • Slow it down
  • Change directions

Heeling, in which a boat leans disproportionately to one side, or drifting off course are both possible effects of gusts.

This is especially dangerous on confined waterways, busy marinas, and when docking. 

Safety Risks

There is a strong correlation between increased wind speeds and increased danger levels.

Strong winds can be dangerous for the boat and its occupants for a number of reasons.

safety risks

The wind is another factor that might hamper rescue and recovery efforts after an accident. 

Comfort and Enjoyment

Lastly, if you are a rookie or have passengers who are easily seasick, windy conditions may not be the best for their comfort and enjoyment.

Fact: Wind gusts and turbulent seas can make boating a tiring and unpleasant experience. 

When Is It Too Windy to Go on a Boat?

wind limit for boating

Considering the dangers of boating in strong gusts, it is important to assess the wind conditions before you set sails.

Here are a few things to remember: 

Beaufort Wind Scale

Created by Sir Francis Beaufort in the early 19th century, the Beaufort Wind Scale is an indispensable instrument for mariners.

This standard method of wind measurement assigns numbers from 0 to 12 to different levels of wind, with 0 representing completely calm conditions and 12 indicating hurricane-level winds.

Incorporating both numerical wind speed measures and visual observations of the sea’s surface is important.

For instance, you should consider the numbers and observe the sea for signs like:

  • The presence of whitecaps
  • The size and shape of the waves

By combining both, you will be in a much better position to decide when it is too windy to go on a boat.  

Experience and Skill Level

experience and skill level

The safe wind limits for boating depend heavily on your experience and skill.

In the presence of wind, novice boaters should exercise extra caution because of the increased difficulty in maintaining control of the vessel.

Wind speeds of 15 to 20 knots are sometimes considered too strong for beginner boats.

On the other hand, experienced boaters may feel at ease in winds of up to 20 to 25 knots since they have honed the abilities necessary to control their boats in such conditions. 

But, remember, anything close to 34 knots is strong enough to topple a boat, so it is better to avoid boating in such conditions. 

An Important Consideration

Your expertise with your boat and the weather conditions you encounter will ultimately determine the safe wind limit.

Always be realistic about your level of competence and experience, and take extra precautions in trying or dangerous situations. 

Weather Forecasts

weather forecasts

Before heading out on the water, it is important to check the weather report to make sure you will have a good time.

You can learn a lot about the:

  • Wind speeds
  • Wind directions
  • Potential changes in weather

Boaters can use this data to better prepare for their voyages, make adjustments to their schedules, and decide whether or not to go forward with their excursions given the forecasted weather

An Important Consideration

Boaters can avoid situations where sudden squalls or high winds make it impossible or dangerous to control their vessels by keeping tabs on the weather.

In addition, keeping an eye on the forecast can help you get ready for sudden shifts in the weather, allowing you to take measures like securing loose things or donning extra safety gear. 

Local Knowledge

local knowledge

Understanding the area’s specific wind patterns and how they interact with the topography is essential for predicting how the wind will behave while out on the water.

If you are familiar with local topography, you will be able to prepare for hazards, such as:

  • Wind funneling through small passages
  • Abrupt gusts generated by hills and cliffs

This information helps you make decisions about your routes, timing, and whether or not you need to take extra measures. 

In the event that you need to seek cover from rapid changes in wind conditions, being familiar with the region might help you find sheltered spots or alternative destinations. 

An Important Consideration

Talking to seasoned boaters in the region, reading up on boating forums, and talking to marina employees or coast guard stations are important things to do. 

You will have a more pleasant outing if they combine local knowledge with weather forecasts and your own experience on the water. 

Boat Type and Size

boat type and size

How windy is dangerous for boating will also depend on your boat type and size.

Some boats are better able to deal with the wind than others.

The wind will greatly impact boats with very high hulls and/or large flybridges.

This is because all that exposed surface area on these boats will behave almost like a sail, catching a lot of wind and propelling them forward.

However, smaller boats will also do poorly in turbulent seas.

Boats with a tiny surface area are hardly impacted by the wind but struggle in turbulent water.

Fact: Bass boats are ideal for tiny lakes with mild waves even when the wind blows hard.  

Tips for Boating in Windy Conditions

tips for boating in windy conditions

As mentioned already, if the winds are stronger than 20 knots, you are less likely to have an enjoyable experience.

But, you can still try some ways to enjoy boating so long as the wind gusts are not too strong to topple your boat. 

Set Your Trim

Always ensure that you set your trim right, keeping the bow as high up as possible.

You do not want to risk submerging your boat by successfully navigating a wave. Never attempt to surf in conditions that are too wavy. 

 Be Sure to Check the Forecast and Get Ready!

forecast check & preparation alert

Always check the forecast and be ready for shifting wind conditions before heading out on the sea.

Make it a habit to refer to weather reports, especially advisories and warnings about the wind. 

Recognize Your Boat’s Limits

Learn what you can expect from your boat in different winds.

If you know how your boat handles different wind speeds and directions, you can make more informed choices when things go rough. 

Put on the Right Protective Gear

put on the right protective gear

Life jackets, a working VHF radio, and other safety gear like flares, a first aid pack, and a throwable flotation device can make a huge difference in the event of an emergency. 

Use Proper Seamanship

Safe boating in windy weather requires solid seamanship abilities. You should know the best way to navigate and understand how to secure your boat. 

Regular practice will help you become more skilled and confident. 

Be Careful and Realize Your Boundaries

be careful and realize your boundaries

Be cautious and mindful of your own and your boat’s capabilities at all times.

If the wind is too strong or you do not feel confident in your boat handling skills, it is best to wait it out.

Fact: In windy conditions but compact waves, gliding faster and above the waves is a much better idea. 


When is it too windy to go on a boat?

There is no set number because it changes with a change in your skill levels as well as the boat you have.

In most cases, the wind speed over 20 knots is not considered ideal.

But, you should bag the idea of boating if the wind gusts are close to 34 knots, as it is too windy to be safe on the sea.