We have a 27 foot Azure boat that we enjoy taking to Lake Powell. The boat handles the waves well in even the most intense storms. We were thinking about trailering our boat to California to boat on the ocean. We have no experience with the ocean and have no idea how our boat will react to the large waves. We have a VHF radio on the boat, a 70 gal. Fuel tank, and gps chart-plotter. If we boat on the ocean, how far should we go out and is there any information that we need to know? Also, what additional equipment should we get before we go?

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Categories: Dear UBI

3 Responses

  1. Derrick S says:

    There’s a world of difference between Lake Powell and the Pacific Ocean. You have some boating experience with your boat on "Inland" protected waters, however, the rough water that you’ve encountered is nothing compared to the Pacific. I’ve gone out on the Pacific as far as 40 miles with my 26′ Express Cruiser and been tossed pretty good. The difference is that I’ve been doing this for decades. The open ocean waters can be extremely rough with waves 6′-8′ on a calm day! This is more than enough to get you into trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing. You must know how to navigate and handle the boat when you can’t see land or the horizon. I’d recommend you have at least Type 2 life vests one board. You really need to know how to read and use a paper chart and also how to plot a course. Make sure that you have GPS info for the Pacific Ocean, Many equipped with only inland waters won’t have the info for the ocean in the Datum card.

    As a beginner in the Ocean, I recommend you NOT go any farther than 5 miles out. This will give you some near shore experience and you’ll be within easy rescue should something happen. The general fuel rule is 1/3 out, 1/3 back, and 1/3 reserve. This is the safest fuel rule for all boaters. Never use more than 1/3 of you tank going out. Distance is relative to water conditions. There are days that I can go 40 miles out, and days that I barely make 28 miles out. So don’t let distance be your guide.

    The Pacific Ocean has swells that you’ll never see at Lake Powell. Swells are given as median height. That means the average height. In reality a 8′ swell can actually measure up to 16′ peak to trough! The next piece of important info is the amount of time between those swells. Typically 15 seconds to 30 seconds is manageable. Even the 27′ Azure can and will take water over the bow in the ocean, I have may times. One extremely important piece of advice, if "Small Craft" advisories are posted, don’t go out at all! These are hazardous conditions for boats even as big as 65′.

  2. tom says:

    "Intense storms" experienced on a lake are not the same as the same speed of wind on the ocean. The wind acts on the sea surface for a longer distance (hundreds of miles) and builds up the waves much higher than anything you’ve ever experienced on an inland lake.

    I suggest you stay within sight of land until you learn how to surface navigate without the GPS. Take the advanced navigation course with the US CG Auxilary. As far as addional equipment, you need the basic equipment reguired by the Federal Rules for a boat your size including lifejackets for everyone, a throwable device in case someone falls off, an approved fire etinguisher and distress signaling devices. You should consider an EPIRB, magnetic compass, navigation tools and paper charts of the local waters.

  3. Richard C says:

    There are a few things you need to be watchful for. If you become disabled, the current and waves can take you into the surf, where braking waves can be very dangerous. I’ve taken a 24′ boat out to Catalina Island several times, and had on problems. But, you must make good judgments on wind and weather conditions. If you can tag along with another boat it’s much safer.

    I wouldn’t venture more than 15 miles off shore. You should carry, emergency food and water, and back-up radio, and battery. Also a "drogue anchor" may prove it’s worth. Even with moderate water depth your anchor line is likely to short.

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