There is no greater influence on safe boating than the weather. Multiple sources should be perused to insure that you are prepared and will make proper judgment on whether it is safe to be on the water. One sure measure of your staying on the dock is the issuance of a small craft advisory. Be sure that it pertains to your planned location and do NOT venture onto the open waters if a small craft advisory has been issued.
It is difficult to generalize regarding sea conditions. We have had boats that are very capable of handling rough seas and others that a sneeze could cause discomfort. It will take some experience for you to judge your vessel, but there are some environments that are conducive to overwhelming seas.
Inlets* are one location where you can experience exaggerated conditions. Usually running between the ocean and inland waters, inlets “squeeze” the differing conditions into a more narrow stream of water, creating stronger waves and currents, many times muscling boats into the usually rocky perimeters. Combine this with a strong wind, and you may have a harrowing occurrence. Avoid inlets if the weather is iffy.
A “Local Notice to Mariners” is a publication issued weekly by the US Coast Guard Navigation Center and may contain timely information on hazards on your local waters. It is available free online and can be reviewed for any relevant information.
There are some areas of the country where the possibility of thunderstorms is nearly a daily occurrence, so this must be taken into consideration. If I encounter a thunderstorm while on the water, how will I handle the situation. Do I want to be able to find a safe harbor until the storm dissipates? Would it be best to just stop my boat in a safe place, hopefully pointing the bow at a fixed object to maintain my location and issuing the proper sound signal so others can ascertain my position? Planning for these eventualities prevents negative outcomes.
*As an aside, handling rough seas in inlets can be a real challenge. Unfortunately, too many boaters make a mistake in this environment. In an effort to get out of the choppy seas as soon as possible, they gun the engines and go as fast as they can. This can cause the bow of the boat to dig into the waves in front of them, stalling the engines, as the next wave hits from behind and causes loss of control. Going too slow is also not a good idea, because the sea will control your boat instead of you. In my experience, staying with the same wave and riding it through the inlet has been the best way to handle this situation.