Apr 21, 2020

Small Craft Advisory - credit Albert BarkusThe National Weather Service is proposing renaming “Small Craft Advisory” to “Small Craft Warning.” (Credit: Albert Barkus)

In a move that could simplify and potentially reduce misunderstanding of urgent weather messages used by recreational boaters in American jurisdictions to make critical boating safety decisions, the National Weather Service (NWS) has proposed renaming “Small Craft Advisory” to “Small Craft Warning” and is asking for boaters’ feedback. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) urges boaters to speak up now by taking a NWS survey for recreational boaters at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VZGX6BF. The survey closes May 24, 2020.

“Every day they go boating, boat owners check the weather and then make the decision to either head out or not,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Manager David Kennedy. “We think the name change will help clarify what this means, leading to a better understanding of the severity of a marine weather forecast, and help give recreational boaters the information they need to make smart choices about boating safely.”

For decades, NWS has used the Watch, Warning, and Advisory (WWA) system to alert users about forecasted hazards, but it has recognized this can be confusing. The proposal to rename a “Small Craft Advisory” to a “Small Craft Warning” is part of a larger effort to reduce the messages to just two flagship headline terms: Watch and Warning. NOAA also says the name change would better align with all other marine warnings – Gale, Storm, and Hurricane Force Wind – leading to greater understanding by recreational boaters.

Changing from an “advisory” to “warning” would not change the term’s definition or meaning. While there is no precise definition of a "small craft," today a “Small Craft Advisory” is issued when sustained wind speeds or frequent gusts have reached 20 to 33 knots and/or seas or waves 4 feet and greater and/or waves or seas are potentially hazardous. The requirements vary slightly by region, and local conditions may also dictate issuing a Small Craft Advisory.

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