Strong Wind Warnings While Boating

August 22, 2022

Whether you are a beginner or an expert at sea, it is sometimes difficult to predict the onset of high or strong winds during your boating adventure. Maritime safety institutions provide information on how to be warned at all times before, during and after your journeys.

In this article, you will find out what types of strong winds exist and how to proceed to guarantee the safety of you and your passengers.

Types of strong winds

There are different types and classes of high winds. Each one has its own characteristic of wind strength that you may experience during navigation.

Strong winds

A wind is considered “strong” when it reaches a speed of 20 to 33 knots, or about 37 to 61 km/h. It can happen in coastal areas and along the coast itself.

Warnings for this type of wind are recurrent and are mainly issued during the boating season.

Strong wind advisories will not be issued in marine areas because these occur regularly.


The gale is a wind between 34 and 47 knots, or 62 to 87 km/h. Unlike strong winds, gale warnings can be issued at sea but only if the area has a marine forecast. These warnings are generated for coastal areas and coasts.


Less common, but just as intense, “storm” winds are between 48 and 63 knots, about 88 to 117 km/h. Like “gale” warnings, storm wind warnings are issued in coastal waters, for the coastal areas, and for seas receiving marine forecasting.


This is the most dangerous category of winds. Wind speeds can reach 64 knots or more, or about 118 km/h at a minimum. A hurricane warning does not necessarily indicate that a hurricane is forming. It only indicates that the wind forces will be equivalent to a hurricane’s wind speed.

How to receive high wind warnings

Alerts are one of the only ways that boat operators can receive wind warnings. Whether at dockside or out at sea, this information is crucial. Knowing how to receive and track alerts is a boating necessity.

Tracking weather alerts

The best-known alert is to follow the weather information forecast. This can be done by listening to the local marine radio or by having a weather receiver inside the control cabin.

The information transmitted by radios and meteorologists gives an idea of the nature and intensity of the winds forecast. This allows boat operators to make decisions before they leave.

If you are already at sea, you can always follow the Canadian Coast Guard frequencies and act accordingly.

Follow a high wind warning program

Institutions like Transport Canada recommend following Canadian marine wind warning programs like Environment Canada.

These programs provide information on the season, dates and location of potentially high winds across Canada. This information is not provided on a daily basis, but it is very useful when planning a trip. These programs use actual weather data to predict potential advisories that are called “deferred warnings”.

Using the Beaufort scale

The Beaufort scale is mostly found near lifeguard stations or harbors. It is an informative chart that includes:

  • Wind strength
  • Windspeed
  • Wind classification
  • Visible effects on the sea
  • Visible effects on the land

According to the strength indicated by the weather tracker, this table gives an idea of the nature of the wind of the day. The higher the Beaufort scale, the greater the warning, and vice versa. It is strongly advised to take note of this information before any marine activity.

What to do when high wind warnings happen

There are two situations where you may receive a wind warning while boating:

  • You are still at the dock
  • You are out on the water

If you are still docked or about to depart, it is best to delay or even cancel your departure. Even if the sky is clear, it is strongly advised to stay on land to avoid being caught against strong winds.

If you receive a strong wind warning in the middle of your navigation, it is essential to keep an eye out for any changes. Tune into radio and broadcast channels like the Canadian Coast Guard for real-time information.

Watch and monitor the waves and their heights. The waves are clear indicators of wind changes while on the water.

Watch for bad weather. Look at the sky and monitor the cloud types and their effects while keeping an eye on your course to look for shelter. If the sky darkens quickly, head back or go to the nearest coast as soon as possible.

If you are caught in a high wind alert, protect yourself by contacting the Canadian Coast Guard. Give them all the information they need to locate you and stay in contact with them until they arrive.

Boat safely with the National Boating Safety School

Following weather forecasts for high wind warnings and knowing how to interpret them to act appropriately is necessary for safe boating. Whether you’re out on the water boating, docked, or adventuring out at sea, everyone has a responsibility to act in the event of any wind warning.

To learn more about marine warnings and what to do about them, the National Boating Safety School can help you. Take our online boater safety course for ease of mind.

If you want to become a boater and enjoy Canadian waters safely, take our online boater exam to receive your Pleasure Craft Operator’s license!

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