Checking the weather

Weather conditions on NSW waterways can change quickly, especially on open waters. Check forecasts before you go out and while you're on the water.

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Weather conditions

Checking the weather forecasts before you go out and regularly while you're on the water gives you the best chance to alter course or return to shore safely if the weather changes suddenly.

Bad weather can create a situation of heightened risk. In these situations, the dangers to you and your vessel increase – for example, the vessel may capsize or be swamped by waves, or you may fall overboard.

You should always be prepared for extreme weather conditions. This includes having:

  • lifejackets for everyone on board
  • warm clothing and wet weather gear
  • sunscreen, sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, hats and drinking water
  • the required lights and safety equipment on your vessel.

Before you go

When planning your trip, check:

  • weather conditions affecting safe navigation – for example, restricted visibility due to fog, heavy rain, glare or darkness
  • weather conditions affecting comfort, such as extreme heat or cold
  • wind trends – for example, wind changes, storms or a front bringing strong winds
  • wave conditions, including swell and wave heights
  • tides – the times for high and low tides
  • current warnings for the area
  • the location and weather conditions at coastal bars.

For safety information about wave heights and vessel size, see Waves and swell.

If the weather looks likely to change or the water looks rough, postpone your trip or choose a calmer location. If in doubt, don't go out.

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)

The BOM provides a 24-hour forecast and wind warning service for Australian coastal waters.

Warnings are issued and updated for:

  • hazardous surf conditions (wave height and period)
  • strong winds (average 26 to 33 knots, plan for gusts of 36 to 45 knots)
  • gale force winds (average 34 to 47 knots, plan for gusts of 48 to 65 knots)
  • storm force winds (average 48 to 63 knots, plan for gusts of 67 to 88 knots)
  • hurricane force winds (average 64 knots or more, plan for gusts of 90 knots or more).

Note that wind gusts may be up to 40% stronger than the forecast average. 'Significant wave height' means that maximum waves may be up to twice the forecast height.

Before you head out, download the BOM app or visit the BOM website for the latest weather information:

  • Marine and ocean for warnings and forecasts, including hazardous surf warnings
  • MetEye for detailed forecasts for your area.

While you're on the water

When you're on the water, check the weather regularly by:

  • listening to your marine radio for Marine Rescue NSW weather warnings broadcast on VHF 16 and 27 MHz 88
  • checking the BOM mobile website to monitor the weather and check for new or updated warnings, forecasts, heavy rain and thunderstorms.

You can also call the BOM Weather Warning Service on 1300 132 536.

Always keep an eye on the sky and the water. If you see changes – for example, threatening clouds in the sky or whitecaps on the water – make sure everyone is wearing a lifejacket and head for shore.

Weather systems can be deceptive. From a distance they can appear to move slowly, but can change quickly and suddenly. Take extra care when travelling on open waters and alpine waters.

Waterway safety apps

Boating apps give you quick access to helpful information about waterways on your smartphone or tablet. For example, navigation aids, weather and safety. See boating apps.

Related apps


Thumbnail image of BOM weather app

BOM Weather

BOM Weather is the Bureau of Meteorology's weather app, giving you accurate weather information at your fingertips.

The BOM weather app includes current conditions, forecasts, warnings and radar.

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