Dangerous Waves: 5/26
Each year boaters encounter waves that cause significant damage to their vessels, or result in a sinking and loss of life. To keep safe boaters need to understand how waves are formed, when they can become steep, and the type of wave conditions that their vessels can handle.
Wind creates waves and they are influenced by the size and duration of the wind fetch. Waves generated locally are called wind waves, and those that are generated at a distant fetch are called swells. These waves are further modified by currents, refraction, and shoaling. Ultimately, steep waves create many problems for boaters of all shapes and sizes. Steep waves are those with wave heights that are nearly equal to their wave period. Steep waves create hazardous navigation conditions that can be compounded by tidal currents near bars, inlets, or port entrances.
When waves are expected to become large or steep, boaters should strongly consider remaining in port until conditions improve. If you encounter steep or large waves, point the bow of the boat into the waves. Never ride parallel to the waves during these conditions so that your vessel does not overturn. Always make sure that you and your crew are wearing properly fitted and U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.