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rjbergen

Wave Height and Safe Boating

Safe Wave Height  

15 members have voted

  1. 1. What is the tallest wave considered safe for a 33 ft. boat? (May be very uncomfortable, but won't sink the boat)

    • 0 - 2 ft.
      0
    • 2 - 4 ft.
      4
    • 4 - 6 ft.
      4
    • 6 - 8 ft.
      5
    • 8 - 10 ft.
      1
    • 10+ ft.
      1


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After buying my 2006 Sig 330 last July, I want to take her on some trips in the Great Lakes this year. My home lake is Lake St. Clair which is relatively calm compared to Lake Huron to the North and Lake Erie to the South. I've never hesitated to take the Sig 330 out on Lake St. Clair due to waves. A "bad" day on Lake St. Clair is about 2-foot waves, maybe 3-footers.

My previous boat was a 1997 Four Winns Horizon 240 bowrider which also was never a problem on Lake St. Clair, but I wouldn't have ventured out into Lake Huron or Lake Erie with it due to the open bow and not having a self-bailing cockpit.

Now that I have a bigger boat, a closed bow, and a semi-self-bailing cockpit (water can still get in around the engine hatch, but majority will run out the transom walk through), I feel confident I can easily handle some cruises into the bigger lakes. My first trip, I plan to cruise about 80 miles from Saint Clair Shores up to Port Sanilac on the East coast of Michigan's thumb.

At what point would you consider a wave height to be too tall and dangerous to go out? I've heard reference to 30% of your boat's length overall, which would be right around 10-foot waves for me, is where the waves have the ability to roll your boat is caught beam-to. While I don't ever plan to boat in 10-foot waves as that would be dreadfully uncomfortable and probably dangerous considering I only have 5 years of recreational boating experience, what is considered safe for a boat like mine?

I'm talking real wave heights from forecasts and accurate measurements. Not eyeballing it which is usually exaggerated.

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30%?  I would never take our 27' boat out in 8' waves.  3-4' waves going to Bimini made the wife cry.  I wasn't afraid, but it certainly wasn't fun.  I would say no more than 5' for ours, or 6-8' MAX for a 33' boat.  But that's just me.

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1 minute ago, TexasPilot71 said:

30%?  I would never take our 27' boat out in 8' waves.  3-4' waves going to Bimini made the wife cry.  I wasn't afraid, but it certainly wasn't fun.  I would say no more than 5' for ours, or 6-8' MAX for a 33' boat.  But that's just me.

Just to clarify, the 30% rule means that waves equal to or greater than 30% of your length overall have the ability to roll your boat if caught beam-to and the waves are breaking.

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6 minutes ago, rjbergen said:

Just to clarify, the 30% rule means that waves equal to or greater than 30% of your length overall have the ability to roll your boat if caught beam-to and the waves are breaking.

Ahh...okay.  So that's the extreme max.  Sounds more plausible.  Thanks!

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I'm just a 23 footer.  With Lake Erie chop I don't bother going out if 1 foot or higher.  That's my own restriction based on comfort factor.  The boat will certainly handle 1 foot. 

As for the 30% "rule"  7 foot waves are several feet above my window frame.  From the water line to the top of my frame is 4 feet.  Can't imagine going out into Lake Erie with waves higher than me. 

But there are die hard fisherman..........

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Our 17 foot whaler will handle five foot waves, boat is rated to waves 6.58 feet.

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SO  SO many factors to consider...…….. Maximum number of people ?  calm weather to start ? Lots of food & drink COOLERS ? Almost full fresh water & fuel tanks ? Sudden SQUALL arrives ?Waves go to 8' ?   Do not worry .  Well past that point.

30 miles from shore ?  1 engine stops ?    Cabin cruisers are roll overs in high wind & waves. You ………….CAN NOT .........….go any direction but straight into the waves. Untill the rear deck scuppers are being filled faster by each wave then they can drain.   I have been slammed back and forth by waves in large 40' cruisers.

There is ALWAYS a set of wind ,wave and direction to capsize a big cruiser. More have been rolled over in...…………...BAY INLETS ………...than all else combined.  In my observations of older & risky N J bay inlets. Inlets are a way to destroy boats & people in 30 seconds or less.

Edit

Inlets & waves & wind are where YOU MUST HAVE MASSIVE POWER.  To be able to ride constantly in the space between 2 waves. If your boat IS as long as that space between the 2 waves.   you are forced to ride the back slope of a wave forever. That is how I survived a couple of squalls  when owner was in over his head.

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33 ft.? I will never know...    :rolleyes:

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Almost forgot the most important part of high wave cruising. THe waves from a passing BIG FREIGHTER !!!!!!!!!!!!  Depending on wind / wave direction.  His wake can add to the wave height.

Most important in any boat is ……….FORCING...…...people to be seated so the boat is riding bow up. Equal weight on both sides.

No you know why weatherforcasting is so very important.  Boats are not cars...…………….. You are screwed if you get in beyond control point.  You can & will roll the boat.

Not like a land vehicle.  Get out and sit on the ground until the sinking danger passes.

Cyclops motto...………..When in ANY doubt ?  NEVER go out.

 

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It all depends on the experience of the Captain and what the crew can endure really.  An inexperienced Captain can sink a boat my size in less than 4ft seas.  Me personally, I would stay around 5-6 foot range as a max.  But my family and I don't go into the ocean if it's above 4 feet.   I told my story not too long ago on this forum on how I faced 9-10 footers coming over my bow and windshield last summer.  It wasn't fun!  The boat handled it fine but to me it was an unsafe condition to be in - period.  My boat is 31 foot and I boat in the outerbanks of NC.  Very dangerous waters on any given day and the seas change in a blink of an eye.  Never exceed 8 feet in that boat!

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I actually bought a 2008 Sig 330 in Lake St Clair and took it to Cheboygan, MI, about a 300 mile trip up Lake Huron.  We ran a couple miles off shore and all was great until we got south of Saginaw Bay.  At that point we ran into 5-6 footers.  The ride obviously became a lot less comfortable, but we never had the feeling the waves were too much for the boat.  I have no idea what it could have handled, but the boat did great in some pretty rough water. We always felt safe in the Chap.

 

Greg

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This is hard to answer! As some one else said, there are so many factors.........  Wind, rain, are they slow rollers, going with, against or broad side.  I once hit 15 foot waves. But they were so slow and far apart you did not realize how big they where. 

 

For me, 1 to 2 footers are normal. Once going to Provincetown from Boston we were in 3 to 4 footer, but the packed a punch and just slammed the side of the boat. We had to do headway. But lets put it this way, you need to look at EVERY thing. Weather, between start to finish.  Is there a harbor to duck into along the way. Also knowing your boat and how good you are. Do you have the RIGHT equipment on board. Meaning radar, A.I.S., VHF and GPS to help you though your travels. 

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21 hours ago, rjbergen said:

After buying my 2006 Sig 330 last July, I want to take her on some trips in the Great Lakes this year. My home lake is Lake St. Clair which is relatively calm compared to Lake Huron to the North and Lake Erie to the South. I've never hesitated to take the Sig 330 out on Lake St. Clair due to waves. A "bad" day on Lake St. Clair is about 2-foot waves, maybe 3-footers.

My previous boat was a 1997 Four Winns Horizon 240 bowrider which also was never a problem on Lake St. Clair, but I wouldn't have ventured out into Lake Huron or Lake Erie with it due to the open bow and not having a self-bailing cockpit.

Now that I have a bigger boat, a closed bow, and a semi-self-bailing cockpit (water can still get in around the engine hatch, but majority will run out the transom walk through), I feel confident I can easily handle some cruises into the bigger lakes. My first trip, I plan to cruise about 80 miles from Saint Clair Shores up to Port Sanilac on the East coast of Michigan's thumb.

At what point would you consider a wave height to be too tall and dangerous to go out? I've heard reference to 30% of your boat's length overall, which would be right around 10-foot waves for me, is where the waves have the ability to roll your boat is caught beam-to. While I don't ever plan to boat in 10-foot waves as that would be dreadfully uncomfortable and probably dangerous considering I only have 5 years of recreational boating experience, what is considered safe for a boat like mine?

I'm talking real wave heights from forecasts and accurate measurements. Not eyeballing it which is usually exaggerated.

My take is not to be out if there in anything beyond 2ft chop.  Simple.  There is absolutely no reason to face 6-8 footers or more in a 330 Signature unless you've gotten caught in a freak storm or didn't check the maritime forecast.  Doing the latter is a must for us in New England since we go out on the ocean all the time, and the ocean is no joke on a bad day and there's an old saying in New England, "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes."  That's how quick things change around here so you really need to be aware of the maritime forecast.  But from what I hear, the Great Lakes can be just like an ocean simply because of their size and location.

The 30% rule is only good and applicable to you to know as a general rule of thumb IF you get caught out there.  But the idea is to NEVER be out there dealing with 10ft waves.  Why?  Unless you're a guy who really enjoys fishing and have a 30-35 ft CC and even then, you don't need to go out in that weather.

The other thing I learned after being caught in 6-8 foot waves is that quartering them is the BEST way to navigate high, rolling waves.  Quartering means approaching the wave at a 45 degree angle and throttling lightly to climb it, then in neutral at the top of the wave and then roll down its backside.  It takes a little practice to time the throttle etc. but this technique works great.  This is probably the most important factor IMO in dealing with waves as you can navigate through them and not risk getting engulfed or rolled over.  You can head into them @ 12 o'clock, but only up to a certain height.  Once you start going straight into 10 or 12 footers, you're pretty much screwed and will get engulfed.  If you try to parallel them, you'll get rolled over.  So you go in between at 45* which is quartering.

Plus there's big differences in wave types.  You got chop and wind and current.  You got swells which can be as large as 20 footers but 50 to 100 yards between them and they only feel like giant speed bumps.  They're still very intimidating because they can decrease that space in no time at all and become very large waves and you got a combination and many variation of all put together.

Here's a great example of why you don't want to be out there during high waves and also never in parallel with them.  What height do you suppose this wave is?  Judging by the height of the pier, the guy standing holding the rudder and just other little hints, that's around 8 feet.  If an 8ft wave can do this, imagine a 10 or 12 or anything bigger.  And if the boat was facing the wave at a 45* or less, it wouldn't have rolled.

GZN96L.gif 

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8 hours ago, Hatem said:

My take is not to be out if there in anything beyond 2ft chop.  Simple.  There is absolutely no reason to face 6-8 footers or more in a 330 Signature unless you've gotten caught in a freak storm or didn't check the maritime forecast.  Doing the latter is a must for us in New England since we go out on the ocean all the time, and the ocean is no joke on a bad day and there's an old saying in New England, "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes."  That's how quick things change around here so you really need to be aware of the maritime forecast.  But from what I hear, the Great Lakes can be just like an ocean simply because of their size and location.

The 30% rule is only good and applicable to you to know as a general rule of thumb IF you get caught out there.  But the idea is to NEVER be out there dealing with 10ft waves.  Why?  Unless you're a guy who really enjoys fishing and have a 30-35 ft CC and even then, you don't need to go out in that weather.

The other thing I learned after being caught in 6-8 foot waves is that quartering them is the BEST way to navigate high, rolling waves.  Quartering means approaching the wave at a 45 degree angle and throttling lightly to climb it, then in neutral at the top of the wave and then roll down its backside.  It takes a little practice to time the throttle etc. but this technique works great.  This is probably the most important factor IMO in dealing with waves as you can navigate through them and not risk getting engulfed or rolled over.  You can head into them @ 12 o'clock, but only up to a certain height.  Once you start going straight into 10 or 12 footers, you're pretty much screwed and will get engulfed.  If you try to parallel them, you'll get rolled over.  So you go in between at 45* which is quartering.

Plus there's big differences in wave types.  You got chop and wind and current.  You got swells which can be as large as 20 footers but 50 to 100 yards between them and they only feel like giant speed bumps.  They're still very intimidating because they can decrease that space in no time at all and become very large waves and you got a combination and many variation of all put together.

Here's a great example of why you don't want to be out there during high waves and also never in parallel with them.  What height do you suppose this wave is?  Judging by the height of the pier, the guy standing holding the rudder and just other little hints, that's around 8 feet.  If an 8ft wave can do this, imagine a 10 or 12 or anything bigger.  And if the boat was facing the wave at a 45* or less, it wouldn't have rolled.

GZN96L.gif 

2 foot chop is just another day on the water around here. There's so much boat traffic that anything less than 1 foot is unheard of. I can't say that I've personally boated in anything greater than 3 foot waves probably, but 2 footers are very common.

I'm quite familiar with the quartering technique. Use it all the time crossing large boat and freighter wakes as well as general waves across the lake.

The example you posted was catching a breaking wave beam-to. It that had been a roller rather than breaking, they would not have flipped most likely. Breaking waves that are taller than 30% of the length of your boat stand a high probability of rolling your boat if you're caught beam-to.

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ive spent too many days on lake erie in 21-24' boats, fishing in 6-8' waves growing up.  when you dropped into the swell of the wave, the top was higher than the bimini and all you saw was water around you.  when you popped back up, you could see forever.  That said, now, a bit older and wiser, I don't recommend that.  However, you would be SAFE in 10' waves as long as you didn't get broadside to them.  also depends on if they are rolling or breaking.  Breaking is much worse of course and could break over the transom if you are going with them.  I wouldn't be concerned about safety if you got out there and it blew up into 5-6' waves.  may be uncomfortable, but that boat would handle it great.  As always, watch and follow the weather and let that be your guide as to whether to go or not.  if in doubt, stay home or close to home port.

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On 4/17/2019 at 3:07 PM, rjbergen said:

2 foot chop is just another day on the water around here. There's so much boat traffic that anything less than 1 foot is unheard of. I can't say that I've personally boated in anything greater than 3 foot waves probably, but 2 footers are very common.

My rookie season in 2014, had my wife, son, brother-in-law and his 12 and 13 year olds onboard and when we went out, it was 85 degrees and bright and sunny.  1 hour later and we're about 2 miles offshore anchored and chilling and suddenly the skies go black, winds pick up and the seas turn into the Drakken.  We pull up anchor and start heading back only to be confronted by 6-footers that just came out of nowhere, and these were rollers.  That's when I learned about quartering, I just kept trying to get through the waves and in some instances, it felt like we were vertical coming off the waves and then bracing for the hull slamming back down.  My wife told me later that she had never seen my eyes look that frightened in our -- at the time -- 26 years of being married lmfao.  Not ashamed to admit I was scared @#$%@#less.  I had all those people's lives (including my loved ones) in my hands.  But I learned a lot from that very dangerous experience.  I was told later that what I was doing was quartering and that it actually is a technique.  I had no idea at the time, only that I discovered it was the best way to get through those dangerous waves just by trial and error.

On 4/17/2019 at 3:07 PM, rjbergen said:

The example you posted was catching a breaking wave beam-to. It that had been a roller rather than breaking, they would not have flipped most likely. Breaking waves that are taller than 30% of the length of your boat stand a high probability of rolling your boat if you're caught beam-to.

Yep, agreed. 

Seems to be a combination of a lot going on here.  2-foot chop with some pretty nasty what, 10ft swells that are probably 50 yards apart?  The hull basically disappears behind the swell in the 2nd picture.

fb_img_1536587496326_1e18650c3ed79f44780

fb_img_1536587501026_e19ccb2aabb8fcec9e0

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combo of wave height and spread - on the GL's - anything more than 3' is just painful - 33' boat can handle it but your fillings will be rattled out.  anything over 5' is a no-no and requires quartering the waves or risk the next wave to crash over your bow.

 

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