By: Captain Bill Jennings
The weather office has issued a “small craft warning." Your boat is 28’ long and your buddies is 39’. Which, if either, boat should you take? Should be an easy call, right?
A small craft warning is issued, when over the next 12 hours, winds are expected to reach a speed of between 24 to 38 miles per hour. This part is clear, but what defines a 'small craft'? Try asking people in the industry and you will be surprised by the answers. By straight definition, the answer is 7 to 12 feet. But when I asked different U.S. Coast Guard, and Transport Canada personnel, the answer varied from 25’ to 50’. Nobody was sure.
Digging deeper, I learned that the true answer comes from the NOAA, the office of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. This body provides daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and marine commerce. NOAA’s scientists use high tech research and instrumentation to provide boaters, planners and emergency managers with reliable information. With such technology, you’d think they could define 'small craft'? Well, they did.
It turns out there are three classes of small craft. The first is 16 to 26 feet in overall length, the second is 27 to 39 feet in length, and the third is 40 to 65 feet in length. All are regarded as small craft.
Therefore, any boat under 66 feet is considered a small craft. With a ‘small craft warning’ issued, neither you nor your buddy should be going boating.