small craft advisories

We have planned a paddling trip at the North Carolina coast this weekend for quite a while. The plan was to paddle in some estuarian waters near Swansboro, NC (not the open ocean) – that is salt marshes, tidal creeks.

However, the last weather forecast calls for 18-25 mph(20-33 knots) winds out of the NNE through the weekend. The NWS has issued a small craft advisory, with seas of 6 ft or greater.

Should we call off our plans to paddle? We have to be down there for another (non-paddling event) on Saturday, but I don’t want to drag the kayaks down there if it’s not safe.

I think I already know the answer to my question, but I’m new to this sea kayaking stuff.

if you have to ask…

– Last Updated: Sep-18-08 11:43 AM EST –

you're right; you know the answer to your question.

It always comes down to your own best judgment on the whole risk/reward - skills/conditions teeter totter and it sounds like you're already on the way to making that go/no go call for yourself.

..and agree, Lamar at BIK is a great resource!

talk to the locals
Barrier Island Kayaks

I’m local…
I know this area, and while I agree with the “if you have to ask” notion, I can also say that there is plenty of wind protected area behind BIK to paddle in the creeks. Just don’t get out in the inlet channel and you’ll be out of the wind for the most part. When it comes out of the NNE like that, it’s blocked by Emerald Isle and spoil islands when you’re in the marsh creeks around Huggins and Dudley islands.

You’re going to be there anyway …
… if I understood your post correctly …

Why not not go ahead a take your yaks ??

You can have a look at the day and place , and take it from there as to go out or not . Can’t be that big of a deal to strap on a couple boats , paddles and PFD’s to take along with you … What’s the worse that could happen , you “don’t” unstrap them and put in , you just bring them home again ??

Just don’t make a decision to go on the water only becuase you brought the boats , only make that decision if you feel comfortable enough once at the waters edge looking out … it’s easy to say “NO” not today also … it;s also easy to stay close to the shore and check things out more before going farther out .

btw. , mph divide by 1.15 equals kts./hr. … kts./hr. times 1.15 equals mph.


– Last Updated: Sep-19-08 6:46 AM EST –

if you find and paddle a "protected area" where you won't get dragged or blown out to sea, and have bail out points, paddling in those conditions, with some wind and chops, is great way to gain some additional experience.

Risk and challenge tolerances vary. So, take the boat and play by gut/head/heart, or whatever you use to make a determination.


who usually picks up a paddle mostly when a small craft advisory is up.

Your Profile says beginner.

The threat of 25 knot winds should keep you off the water. Wind directions change and do it quickly.

If your profile is old or you have strong company to paddle with you may be fine.

Slow rivers, flat-water indicates 6 foot swells and breaking waves may not be an good idea.

There are likely sheltered places that some local can help with but I am 1000 miles away so may not be aware of some anomaly there.

15 knots makes for breaking waves, 6 foot swell is more than double my height sitting in a kayak; 25 knot winds will give blowing spray in these conditions.

Other issues are: What kind of boat are you in? What are your rescue resources (roll?) what is your rough water skill level? Gear? skill with that gear?

I have paddled in that stuff but I don’t initiate a trip in those conditions. We practice in that type of water but in selected safe places with good company expecting to swim and gather our gear from a soft beach.

I would take the boat but I would be very careful.


– Last Updated: Sep-19-08 2:39 PM EST –

Looks to me like there are plenty of sheltered areas to explore. My limited experience in coastal NC is that you can still have a good wind in the estuaries, but you won't have the waves.

Areas with barriers like that can be great for learning -- with an onshore wind, you can find the degree of exposure you're comfortable with, and then push yourself a bit while having an easy retreat.

Does the introduction of
physical challenge bring about feelings of determination? If any of your group fall into that category, they will likely have a great time, picking up skills if they haven’t paddled in those winds before. Not really any huge out-of-the-ordinary danger with the warm water and the nearby shorelines. There’s no harm in going for a swim - simply plan on it. Find some current flowing opposite the wind and you may be able to take short rides in front of the chop.

Does the introduction of physical challenge make you miserable and you typically avoid it in reality, even though you sometimes think it would be good to get in shape? A lot of kayakers fall into this group (nothing wrong with that). I’m a short distance south of there, and although there are lots of salt marsh creeks to paddle through, you would be exposed to the wind in sections while trying to get from here to there. For lack of a better way to put it at the moment, whimpier types who will be prone to complaining and giving up in little challenges should cancel. Everyone else could go and have a lot of fun. I suggest taking on new challenges in the summer and warm water - saving cancellations for times when swims would be more dangerous. Just take all necessary safety precautions.

Spot On…

– Last Updated: Sep-19-08 7:41 PM EST –

only the individual knows what type he is. In my second year, I loved going out right in the middle of nor'easters because big waves and winds were pushing everything to shore. Worse that can happen was I take a trashing and swim to shore. I tried initially to get others to join in but soon realized others thought I was nuts. Just wasn't their cup of tea. Funny thing was that I later noticed some of these same folks getting all white knuckle grips in 15 knot winds and 2' chop.

These days I mostly go it alone, or have a very select few (less than a handful) that I am willing to make plans and surf with on big days. How folks react to decent head height surf (6') in the break zone tells me alot about they would handle conditions.


6 ’ swell
will stack quite high.

If a front gets ahead of itself you may have 25 nm winds pushing you off shore.

6 ’ waves going over a shoal become 12 ’ waves as they shorten and slow down.

I surf 6’ waves but 12 ’ waves breaking over me do things I don’t like.

A small craft advisory may be worth listening to. A kayak is kind of a small craft; resilient but small.

Certainly I would take the boat but be very careful.

I wonder if tarwheel will …
… follow up and let us know if he (she ??) took those kayaks and some paddlin was done ??

Kinda interested in the out come , because my “youngest” nephew lives there in Newport , and paddles his yak around that area .

He’s familiar with the White Oak river (Swansboro area waters), the Emerald Ilse barrier waters , and the Newport river area waters (other end of the Emerald Isle) .

He’s stationed (Navy) at Norfolk,VA. and commutes home every week or so …

It was funny that he called me today , we talked about the the OP (tarwheel’s) post … my nephew really likes paddlin his yak !! … we are always planning trips together , him in his yak and me in my noe … I took him on his first over nighter down a mountain river long ago , I think it was also his first time in a paddled boat ??

We have talked forever about hiking the whole Appalachian trail . Somehow I don’t think I’m going to make that one , though he might … he’s hiked to some high summits in the Rocky Mts. .

follow up …
Well, we didn’t take the kayaks. If I were going with other experienced paddlers, I would have gone for it. However, I had planned the trip with my wife, whose idea of a hard workout is noodling around on a calm lake for a couple hours.

When we got down to Swansboro on Friday afternoon, there were whitecaps on the open waters. We could have avoided much of the wind and waves by staying in more protected coves and marshes, but I think the whole situation would have freaked my wife out.

Our kayaks also are not equipped for rough water. Mine is a Necky Manitou 13 and her’s is a Pungo 120. Neither of them have spray skirts. So I think we made the right call. Thanks for all the advice.

Another Experience
We were down in the Swansboro area as well this weekend. After a fair amount of discussion back and forth our group split in two. Half paddled on a well protected area of the Newport River and the other half went out to Bear Island from Hammocks Beach. The Newport River group reported some beautiful scenery and no wind or waves at all. I went with the Bear Island group and we had a good time, but the paddle back against the tide and wind was a good workout if not a struggle for some. All but one of our group were in sea kayaks with skirts, but our lone rec boater wasn’t in any danger she just had to work harder than most.

Long story short, there are lots of paddling options almost without regard to conditions. Next time you have to make this decision check out the White Oak River from Haywood landing or for a bit more of a drive Newport River launching from old Hwy 70.

what sing says
take your boat and paddle in waters that are protected–waters where the wind doesn’t blow for a long distance over open water (called fetch) and where you can bail out on dry land if you need to. Also don’t paddle in waters where the prvailing wind and/or currents would take you out to sea.