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Better Boating: How to Safely Run Ocean Inlets

Jim Hendricks
 (Source)

From the shifting Outer Banks of North Carolina to the tempestuous coast of the Pacific Northwest, boating anglers regularly face potentially hazardous inlets. Entrances such as those at Florida’s Boynton and St. Lucie inlets, Oregon’s Columbia River bar, California’s Golden Gate, and North Carolina’s Oregon Inlet host some of the world’s most challenging sea conditions.

A combination of ­factors can turn inlets nasty in a hurry, says Bill Cordes, director of sales and marketing for Opa Locka, Florida-based Invincible Boats. Cordes has run inlets all of his adult life, and witnessed breakers so tall you couldn’t see over the top.

“A powerful outgoing tide streaming through a narrow channel and a strong onshore wind tend to pile up steep seas,” Cordes explains. “Combine these two factors with shoaling, and you have big, breaking waves at the inlet, resulting in very ­dangerous conditions.”

Cordes and others offer the following tips for staying safe when running an inlet, with special advice for tackling entrances that are new to you.

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