Knowing the weather forecast from a local news agency or cable weather channel is not enough when it comes to safe boating. The skies may be clear, and the day warm, but unless you know the marine weather forecast, you don’t know if high winds have worked up large waves, or if a storm is brewing somewhere off the coast.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA (pronounced NOAH), provides marine weather forecasts through the National Weather Service. You can obtain a forecast by internet or NOAA weather radio, which broadcasts marine weather on a continuous cycle. The forecasts are updated at least four times daily, and the National Weather Service recommends checking the marine forecast often if you plan to take an extended trip.

The marine forecast consists of that day’s, plus a three-day extended prediction, of wind direction and speed, wave height, and any other specific weather information such as precipitation predictions or storm warnings. You can obtain a coastal marine forecast (up to 25 miles out) for the specific area you will be boating in. If you plan to cruise, know the off-shore or high seas forecast.

Knowing the marine weather forecast will help you make sound boating decisions. For example: if the morning wind speed is light at 10 knots, and waves are 1 – 2 ft., but predicted to increase to 20 knots and 6 ft. by evening, you may decide to take the boat out in the morning and return to port well before rough seas make for a dangerous situation.

The main thing to remember is that weather is not just what you see here and now. It’s dynamic and changes constantly. Before you go boating, get the marine weather forecast so you can make informed safe boating decisions.