Friday, February 6, 2009

Beaufort Sea State Scale

February 5, 2009, Thursday.

Down to "The Shores" for a quick paddle on my morning break. Wanted to get in before the storm hit this weekend. From the Lifeguard Tower to the Boat launch there was virtually no surf. What surf there was had a height of about 6 to 8 inches. However, I could see that the surf north was big. Upwards of six feet at Scripp’s Pier.

But the wind was blowing and there was quite a bit of wind chop. Back in my Coast Guard days I was able to gauge the Sea State visually, using the Beaufort Scale. By observing the characteristics of the wind generated waves you can estimate the sea state and wind speed. Today the wind was generating some good-sized chop with the occasional white cap. Trying to recall what sea state this was I guessed it was about a 2 or 3. But I could not remember the wind speed that is associated with this part of the scale. Probably around 5 to 8 knots.

So when I got back home I searched for a website that showed the Beaufort Wind Force and Sea State Scale. (See link to this under Dive Links) I found one and determined the Sea State. It was about 3. The description of that level on the Scale is 7 to 10 knots with a wave height of 2 feet (.6 meters) described as a Gentle Breeze, and the appearance of the Sea is as follows; "Large wavelets. Crests begin to break. Foam of glassy appearance Perhaps scattered white horses."

This Sea State of 3 is exciting to be in. Going with the wind it pushes you right along at a nice clip (The winds are going between 7 to 10 knots, or about 8 to 12 mph.) And on the return this wind is not too much to paddle against. But you must definitely pay attention to your aspect to the waves. Coming directly at your Bow or Stern is fine and even or even from you quarter is okay. But at this Sea State a wave on your Beam could tip you. And if you were to find yourself in a Sea State of 4 or greater it would most likely tip you if it caught your kayak on the beam. And fighting the wind would be very exhausting. Being out in a Sea State of 4 for a short while would not be too bad. But any extended period in a kayak out in this weather could lead to trouble. A Sea State of 5 is now up to 19 to 24 mph and six-foot waves. It would be very difficult to paddle against winds and seas of this force. Beaufort Scale 6 is a Small Craft Advisory.

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