Ever since I began sea kayaking, I've carried an anemometer. First one was the simple Dwyer with the little bouncing pith ball in the tube--worked great for probably 15 years until leaking deet (potent stuff!) ate it away. Now I have a Kestral 1000 hanging on a cord around my neck, inside my PFD, when I'm out on the water. It's important to know, really, how hard the wind is blowing. I remember a Message Board dialog with someone who had just returned from paddling on Lake Champlain, off Burlington VT (a lee shore) in "35 mph" winds, and it had been great! I inquired how he knew that the wind was 35 mph--did he take a reading with an anemometer? No, he hadn't, but the radio news that day had said that the winds had been 35 mph, so it was blowing 35. Now a 35 mph wind is high-end Beaufort Force 7, Moderate Gale. In Sea Canoeing, Derek Hutchinson writes,"Very Difficult--You MUST be strong and experienced; your equipment should be good. Seas are big. (Kayaks) difficult to turn. Very difficult to make headway. Wind catches at paddle blades. Foam is blown off in long white streaks, lots of spray. Communication very difficult."
My point here is that, without knowing what the wind speed actually was where and when he was paddling, the Lake Champlain kayaker still felt able to state that he had been out in 35 mph winds and it was no problem. And others might therefore conclude, Hey--Whatzit was out the other day in 35 mph winds, and it was no big deal. It may have actually been blowing 35 mph at some time that day on some anemometer high atop a building in Burlington, but maybe no more than 15 or 20 down at water level on the lake, but, without an actual reading in the boat, down on the water, who knows? My own experience is that it is best to form one's own opinions about what strength winds to paddle in comfortably and safely by actually taking the readings and comparing them with the conditions around you. Most people will find that the effect of the wind on you at any stated velocity is greater than you think it "ought" to be, based on reports supplied about wind speed that are hearsay or guesswork.