If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am in Baltimore for the weekend. Today, we took one of Baltimore’s famous water taxis through the Inner Harbor and out to Fells Point and Fort McHenry. One thing that I noticed via a subscription weather service was that much of the Chesapeake, including the Patapsco River, which we were following, was under a small craft advisory.
That led me to a simple question. What is a small craft advisory? What are the qualifications for it? It’s not something that we have to deal with in the Upper Midwest all that frequently, and it is result dependent rather than weather dependent. Here is what the NWS has to say about small craft advisories:
” An advisory issued by coastal and Great Lakes Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) for areas included in the Coastal Waters Forecast or Nearshore Marine Forecast (NSH) products. Thresholds governing the issuance of small craft advisories are specific to geographic areas. A Small Craft Advisory may also be issued when sea or lake ice exists that could be hazardous to small boats. There is no precise definition of a small craft. Any vessel that may be adversely affected by Small Craft Advisory criteria should be considered a small craft. Other considerations include the experience of the vessel operator, and the type, overall size, and sea worthiness of the vessel. There is no legal definition of “small craft”. The Small Craft Advisory is an advisory in Coastal Waters and Nearshore forecasts for sustained winds, frequent gusts, or sea/wave conditions, exceeding defined thresholds specific to geographic areas. A Small Craft Advisory may also be issued when sea or lake ice exists that could be hazardous to small boats.”
That’s a mouth full. Essentially, what they are saying is that it is that there are weather conditions that are potentially disruptive to seafaring craft, but only smaller boats. It leaves a lot to the listener to decide what action to take. Additionally, different parts of the country have different criteria for the issueance of sad advisories. In the east and around the Chesapeake, the advisories are as follows:
“Sustained winds or frequent gusts ranging between 25 and 33 knots (except 20 to 25 knots, lower threshold area dependent, to 33 knots for harbors, bays, etc.) and/or seas or waves 5 to 7 feet and greater, area dependent.”
Today in Baltimore, the wind thresholds were met, but the waves were not. I’m happy to report me, my family and girlfriend are safe and sound, despite traveling the high seas in the midst of the advisory.