Quite a few months ago now, we created a list of just a few of the World's Roughest Seas and detailed a little bit of what makes them so treacherous. Turbulent, or perhaps even violent oceans have been a hindrance to sailors throughout history; making some exploratory missions at the time impossible, and even turning the tide right before a decisive naval battle. But what must we fear the most when the sea summons up such fearful weather, and why only in certain areas?

The Many Ways of Waves

The state of the sea can be so variable depending where you are and at what time of the year. When it comes to dangerous water conditions, two particular factors pose a threat to sailors: Wind waves, and swell.

Wind generated waves are created by an imbalance of pressure and friction forces, caused unsurprisingly by wind. blowing. The waves are generated from energy transferred from the air to the water and, as current theories suggest, have their speed controlled by the relationship between wavelength and water depth, and despite this maths being pretty solid wind waves remain fairly unpredictable (hence why the BBC does not include sea state in its shipping forecasts).

Swell on the other hand is akin to the ripples made when a stone is dropped in water. They are initially created by winds at its source, but depending on how strong those winds are they can persist long after the wind has ceased, whilst the swell remains fast moving and extending far deeper than the waves originally produced. Wind waves can often be superimposed on swell too; which poses a big issue to yachtsman in open seas as it makes handling difficult and dangerous (even cargo ships take a pounding!).

Areas where the relationship between swell and wind waves, as well as ocean area, bottom depth, and the degree of land enclosure is most volatile can be exceptionally dangerous, with the Raz de Sein, the Alderney Race, the Swinge and Portland Bill being just a few of the nearest rough seas created by this aquatic cocktail.

 Knowing Whether to Weather a Storm...

In one of our recent blog posts we talked about having the "Weather Eye" and learning to watch the weather at sea. Whilst oceanic phenomena like huge wave height, current and water depth, weather is an unpredictable beast that can turn even calm waters into something vicious. When the difficulty of rip tides is matched with the loss visibility and the high winds of a squall, the rapidly building seas can cause panic and very rash reactions.

Whilst predicting the weather is hardly a perfected art, knowing which oceans will be at their worst when you're out on their waters is rather easy to grasp. For example, the The Mediterranean Sea tends to have rougher storms and winds in the fall and winter, whilst at the Caribbean, tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes that crop up during hurricane season (June to November) can make some storms very much worth avoiding.

If you have any expert knowledge to share on the nature of rough seas and how best to deal with them, feel free to pass on some sage ocean wisdom to us on our Facebook page, through Twitter or on Google+.

Post By Graham