Clouds are a sailor's friend.  As long as there are clouds in the sky, you have a good idea about the type of sailing conditions you will experience for the next couple of hours.  They won't necessarily tell you what's going to happen tomorrow or the day after, but if if you listen to what they say, it's not too hard to stay out of harms way when you are sailing offshore.

Clouds start at the sea surface extending up to eighteen-thousand feet, and when you look at them, you can figure out what's happening to the wind at different altitudes.  High cirrus clouds tell you what's going on in the upper levels, and trade wind cumuli tell you what's happening at the lower levels.  When you look at their speed and direction of movement, you discover what the winds are doing at your location.

Clouds aren't static.  Their size and shape continually change throughout the day.  Trade wind cumuli increase in size and height until late in the day.  As the sun sets you can watch them shrink as they literally melt away in front of your eyes.

Thunderstorms announce their presence as vertically developed cumulus clouds that go all the way to eighteen-thousand feet, and they usually do it long before lightning and thunder make their appearance.  When clouds are taller than they are wide, you have a condition called vertical development.  When you are sailing offshore, you always look to see how much vertical development there is in the cumulus clouds, because you know it's highly unlikely to have thunder and lightning with associated squalls unless there is significant vertical development.

It's easy to avoid thunderstorms and squalls, because you can see them forming and alter your course to avoid them.  There's no need to be pummeled by fierce downdrafts of forty to sixty knots; you simply sail away from them or around them.   I usually don't get caught by squalls and thunderstorms unless I am not paying attention to the clouds, or if I am at anchor, and there's nothing I can do to avoid them because I am stationary.

Paying attention to clouds isn't rocket science, and you don't need an advanced degree in meteorology to use clouds to your benefit.  You simply need to pay attention to what is going on around you.

In thirty-three thousand miles of sailing I have been in squalls quite a few times, and I can't remember a single instance in which I was caught off guard with too much sail up because I pay attention to what the clouds are saying.  I am careful to not be over-canvassed, because blowing out sails and loosing a mast in high winds is expensive and dangerous.  I sail in damage control mode most of the time, and that means fear is not a member of our crew.


The sailing photo at the top of the page shows Exit Only confidently motor-sailing into the sunset.  The low level cumulus clouds are breaking up as the sun sets over the horizon.  Those clouds tell me it's going to be a quiet night at sea, and I feel good.


The photo at the bottom is a fully developed example of "red sky at night, sailor's delight."  A red sky in the evening usually means the weather is going to be relatively benign during the night.  It will be a "no worries mate evening," and that's reassuring because there are lots of clouds in the sky.

Even when the sky looks ugly with billowing cumulonimbus clouds on the horizon and black squalls heading your way, you have plenty of time to prepare for the onslaught.  Thunderstorms don't last forever, and squalls pass quickly by.  If you listen to what the clouds are saying, you will handle these meteorological inconveniences in stride.  You will reduce your sail to a safe level until the tempest is over.

The real problem isn't the wind and waves.  It's the storm of thoughts blowing though your mind that gets you into trouble.  If you listen to the voice of fear, your sailing adventure becomes a nightmare.  But if you listen to the clouds, you will recognize the voice of fear for the imposter that it is.  People who sail offshore in a well-found yacht have little to fear from the weather ninety-eight percent of the time, and the clouds usually tell you what to do.

The clouds are your friends, and if you listen to what they say, your life will be good as you sail on the ocean of your dreams.


Log 1 Peter Pan Around the World
Log 2 Weapons of Mackerel Destruction
Log 3 Pirates of the Malacca Straits
Log 4 Kissing Cobras
Log 5 Debriosaurus Rex
Log 6 Go Ahead - Live Your Dreams

Log 7 The Man Who Built His House on a Rock
Log 8 Ambivalent Eagles
Log 9 One-Shovel Full at a Time
Log 10 Hitchhiker's Guide to Planet Earth

Log 11 Keeshond

Log 12 The Red Sea Blues

Log 13 Feel the Freedom

Log 14 The Danger Zone

Log 15 Lucky Man
Log 16 Dream Machines - Land Rover Defenders

Log 17 Trade Wind Dreams
Log 18 Logs With Fins
Log 19 Everywhere, Everything
Log 20 Shark Slayer Is History

Log 21 Viking Funeral - Burial at Sea
Log 22 Improbable and Impossible

Log 23 Keep on Trucking
Log 24 Dream Machines II
Log 25 Bodysurfing Whales
Log 26 Hitting the Wall
Log 27 Surviving the Savage Seas

Log 28 The Next Step
Log 29 Welcome to Barbados
Log 30 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Log 31 The Man with the Unplan
Log 32 Dali Dolphins
Log 33 Flying Like a Turtle
Log 34 The Foolish Man Built His House on a Pitch Lake
Log 35 Go West Young Man
Log 36 Crossing the Atlantic in a Row Boat
Log 37 The Unsinkable HMS Diamond Rock
Log 38 Catamaran Capsize in 170 mph Winds
Log 39 When Are You Coming Home?

Log 40 Master and Commander of Anegada - Frigate Birds
Log 41 Baths of Virgin Gorda - Batholiths of Central Arabia

Log 42 Free at Last
Log 43 Stalking the Wild Manatee

Log 44 Spreaderman
Log 45 Attack of the Flesh Eating Bees
Log 46 Sharks and Coconuts
Log 47 Stingray Picnic
Log 48 Boo Boo Hill
Log 49 Whale Slayers
Log 50 Noddies (Not Naughty)


Log 51 Exumas Land and Sea Park
Log 52 David and Goliath
Log 53 Turquoise Clouds of Paradise

Log 54 Momma Nightjar
Log 55 Maximillian The Great
Log 56 Chiton Kingdom
Log 57 Flying and Holding On
Log 58 Far Horizons
Log 59 Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend
Log 60 Getting Connected
Log 61 Fear
Log 62 Grand Schemes and Other Important Things
Log 63 If Jellyfish Had a Brain
Log 64 Cousins That Don't Kiss
Log 65 Swimming With Sharks
Log 66 Perfect the Way You Are
Log 67 Space Travelers
Log 68 Aliens
Log 69 Monsters of the Mind
Log 70 My Butterfly Collection
Log 71 Somewhere Other Than Here Societies
Log 72 Five-Hundred Pound Spiders
Log 73 Red Sea Sunsets
Log 74 Gibraltar Sunrise
Log 75 Big Sea - Small Ship
Log 76 Just Cruising
Log 77 Castle Mania
Log 78 You Must Know the Sea
Log 79 Flying Like a Goat
Log 80 The Joy of Photography
Log 81 Universal Camouflage
Log 82 My Rainbow Collection
Log 83 Indian Ocean Reward
Log 84 Fiber W
Log 85 Turkish Reflections
Log 86 Mirrors and Mirages
Log 87 Lycean Tombs Rock
Log 88 Rigging Emergency
Log 89 Pamukkale
Log 90 Volcano Land
Log 91 Sniffing the Air
Log 92 Why I Don't Kite Surf
Log 93 Resurrecting Exit Only in Turkey
Log 94 Greased Pole Competition
Log 95 Tsunami Damage
Log 96 Afraid of Living
Log 97 Living on the Edge
Log 98 Borneo Adventure
Log 99 Uligamu Tree Tender with Full Benefits
Log 100 God's Fireworks Display

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This web site is a companion to Outback and Beyond.com.