If in doubt - stay out
I've gained most of my experience in the Great Lakes and I know that sailors there can develope a false sense of confidence about coastal sailing because 8 foot seas in the Great Lakes are not uncommon, especially on shallow Lake Erie.
There are breakers but there is no current and little in the way of shifting sands in the Great Lakes. Sailors have local knowledge of their home port and most other large ports are not difficult to enter in rough weather, probably because they are also shipping channels.
The lesson I am re-learning from this sad story is one of the first adages I heard as a sailor; "If in doubt - stay out".
The guy was trying to escape the coastal high seas. He may have done it for the comfort of his grandson. I've been guilty of making a poor decision that I wouldn't have made if I were alone. But with a scared, sick crew, you feel the pressure to make them feel safe.