Interpreting Weather Forecasts for South Florida Dive Boats

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Ironborn

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I just moved to Miami and look forward to the opportunity to dive locally in the Keys and in Palm Beach County/Jupiter on the weekends.

As I look at weather forecasts in an attempt to gauge whether or not dive boats in the Keys and Palm Beach County would be able to operate on any given upcoming weekend, what should I look for? For example, what wind conditions or wave and swell heights in a forecast would probably cause boat operators to cancel?

I get the sense (and please correct me if I am wrong) that Key Largo boats are more prone to weather cancellations than the Palm Beach/Jupiter boats.

Is the Blue Heron Bridge usually still a good shore dive if the local boats cancel due to weather?
 

Wookie

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No one is running in 6 footers or more which translates loosely as 20 knot winds. It could be lower winds in the Gulf Stream if the wind and sea are opposing.

That’s a good rule of thumb.
 

Ana

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I imagine different boats follow different thresholds. Also some capts may actually drive by whatever inlet they use and see the conditions to confirm (or not) what the forecast calls for.

For me to go out I need 3' or less but I also check the webcam.
Now sometimes even if it looks too sporty we go out hoping it may lay down or that is not as bad as it looks. Those times we get a variety of results. Maybe getting a dive buy get beat up in process, or make a U-turn just before getting to open water, or also once in a while get our dives and be happy we came out and check, instead of calling it from the dock.
 

Ana

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No one is running in 6 footers or more which translates loosely as 20 knot winds. It could be lower winds in the Gulf Stream if the wind and sea are opposing.

That’s a good rule of thumb.

Yeah... Like the rest of day today:
" East northeast winds 20 to 25 knots with gusts to around 35 knots. Seas 6 to 8 feet with occasional seas to 10 feet"
If boats go out this pm , coming back on board will be challenging.

The rest of the week doesn't look promising either .. not thrilled about it
 

Wookie

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Yeah... Like the rest of day today:
" East northeast winds 20 to 25 knots with gusts to around 35 knots. Seas 6 to 8 feet with occasional seas to 10 feet"
If boats go out this pm , coming back on board will be challenging.

The rest of the week doesn't look promising either .. not thrilled about it
You have time to paint the bedroom.
 

Ana

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You have time to paint the bedroom.
I don't wanna.. already did house chores this past weekend.

Besides the weather is turning, I want to get few more dives without neoprene.
 

scubadada

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Hi @Ironborn

@Wookie rule is a good one. In addition, the inlet makes a difference. I dive out of Boynton Beach, Jupiter, and West Palm. BB is the most affected by conditions, West Palm the least. I can get out of West Palm sometimes when there is no diving out of BB or Jupiter.
 

CosbySweater

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This is from my limited experience boat diving from Jupiter, from extensive experience boat diving in the keys, and from extensive experience running small boats off the coast of MD. There are a lot of variables that go in to answering this question, but to keep things simple, I have some general rules of thumb that I live by.

For boat diving off a 30+ foot dive boat - 1-3 feet is ideal, 4-5 feet is marginal, 6+ feet is typically too rough to safely get on and off the boat. Wave period makes a big difference too. A period that is 2-3x the wave height is good. For example: 4' @ 12 seconds wouldn't be a bad day but 4' @ 4 seconds would be rough.

In terms of wind speeds: 20+ kts usually keeps most boats at the dock. Any component of the wind from the North will make seas more rough.

On marginal days, the condition of the inlet is usually going to determine if boats are going out or not. An outgoing tide with a wind component from the East is going to make most inlets in S. FL rough. Each inlet is different though, and there are a lot of variables, but that's a general rule of thumb.

The Blue Heron Bridge is a great option when the weather keeps boats at the dock. Just keep in mind that every diver in S. FL knows it's a great option so it can get crowded on weekends. Still very much diveable, but may take a little extra patience.
 

johndiver999

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You also need to pay attention to the wind direction. For example, with respect to the Palm Beach Inlet, the inlet is relatively safe and deep, so boats can go out in swells. Also a good bit of the diving out of Palm Beach inlet is within 2 miles of the shoreline, so you can have decent conditions, even with a strong west wind.

On the other hand, a northeast wind in that area is going to be opposing the gulf stream, so the waves pop up and there is no protection from the Bahamas, so NE wind can get ugly. South or Southeast wind is much more forgiving in that area.
 

Tom Winters

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People still dive during this global pandemic? I have a tough enough time just suiting up to go to Publix.
 
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