The weather and the seas are ever-changing. Something that looks calm on the sea might not be as calm as you think. So, let’s talk about the importance of the weather forecast for a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

Weather: How does it affect the boating experience?

When it comes to enjoying the seas just by the shores, maybe keeping an eye on the weather may not matter as much. You can still drive a boat relatively safely even with little training. However, as you go deeper, understanding the weather becomes significantly important.

Besides that, every seasoned sailor knows that every boat is unique. It operates uniquely and not every boat is made to face all sorts of weather and storm situations. Now, it takes skill to handle weather situations, waves, and storms. For some, it might even sound heroic. However, take it from us. If you can avoid an adverse weather situation or a storm, that is the best course of option.

The weather drastically affects how rough a sea can get. Even though it may not look like it from a distance, waves can be really tall, up to 5m on rough waters. They are even capable of concealing other vessels on the seas, affecting your visibility and judgement. This makes understanding the weather forecast for a safe boating experience extremely crucial. Your life literally depends on it.

On the other hand, winds can also affect the stability of your vessel. The winds can tilt your boat in the water even before you realise it. Winds, combined with waves can also affect the hull adversely if the boat is not handled properly.

And this is why understanding the weather forecast and predicting the weather on the seas is an important skill to have.

South Africa and the Weather Forecast

As a mariner or a sailor going out on the sea, watching the TV weather forecast alone is not enough. But fret not, as there are weather forecasts specially made for sailors. For example, you can visit Afriwx or SAWS to check the current and forecasted condition of the weather and the seas.

Furthermore, it is highly advised to stay tuned to radio forecasts on VHF radio. Each region in South Africa has a different frequency. For more information, please read Marine Notice No. 12 of 2017 issued by SAMSA.

South Africa generally has dry weather with annual rain precipitation of around 464mm. On high seas, the winds can achieve up to 12 knots of speed and the temperature fluctuates around 19.5 degree Celsius. (Source: SA Facts)

Weather Forecast and a Safe Boating Experience

As mentioned previously, not knowing the weather forecast can adversely affect your boating experience. By staying updated with potential weather conditions, you can consider planning your trip accordingly.

However, you should not solely rely on weather forecasts issued by government authorities. The seas, especially the high seas are uncertain and the weather can shift drastically in a matter of minutes. However, you can ‘feel’ the change in its early stage before it occurs. Here’s how.

a. Carry a Barometer

A barometer is an apparatus to measure air pressure. If you are going to the high seas, the barometer is your friend. If you notice a sudden drop in pressure, this is most likely a precursor to a storm. This will help you look for further physical signs such as a gathering of darker clouds, clouds descending down closer to the surface, light flashes in the distance, light drizzle, and so on.

b. Keep monitoring your thermometer

A sudden drop in temperature is another precursor to a potential storm or likely the rain is approaching. It is always a good practice to take temperature drops as a warning even if you do not observe any other immediate physical signs of a weather change.

c. Always carry the latest charts

The charts are primarily for navigation. Storms can impact your electrical navigation system significantly, rendering you helpless. Besides that, maps also show you varying depths in the seas. This is especially helpful during low tides as shallow objects that are generally underwater may resurface and damage your hull.

d. Carry battery and fuel backup

Following the weather forecast and deciding your trip based on that is the ideal way to go. However, if you are unfortunate and get caught in unexpected storms or other adverse situations, backup batteries and fuel would actually be helpful for you.

Rough conditions can wear your boat out really quickly. How can you deal with rough waters and situations is an entirely different topic which we have covered here. However, here, we just want to state that unexpected situations may occur and it is always good to have a backup… And an emergency kit.

e. Know how to eyeball weather conditions

Seasoned sailors know how to look for subtle signs of weather change; whether it is the change in wind direction or the formation of clouds.

It is a practically earned skill. If you are looking for more knowledge on this topic, we highly recommend giving this article a read.


Rough sea conditions can definitely ruin your seagoing experience. This is why knowing the weather forecast is important, as it can definitely help you with making a decision. Especially with South African shores harbouring two distinct oceans in the world, it becomes essential.

So, if you are out there on the sea, make sure you tune in to the weather forecast radio frequencies often, heed warnings, and stay safe out there. If you are looking for a VHF Radio Course, Skipper Training SA can help you. Contact us today for further information if you are interested.

The Importance of Weather Forecast for a safe Boating Experience