Wind Fills Sails but…

People often use the old saying, ‘Knowing which way the wind is blowing’ but in fact this is vital information and may not always be as it would seem.

Winds are designated based on from where they originate, a wind blowing from the sea in the direction of the shore is an on-shore wind, conversely a wind blowing off shore – out to sea is an offshore wind, clearly the force of the wind is also a key factor.


Good, knowing the difference is a good start especially for new and inexperienced boaters.

However, reading the signs helps sailboat skippers cope with heading out to sea or returning to shore and combined with tidal information is essential knowledge. Keeping a weather-eye means checking for changes in the wind because it can veer away from its original direction and sneak up from somewhere else – what starts as an on-shore wind can swing (veer) around and become an off-shore wind making sailing back to the Marina more challenging for new boaters, the stronger (or stiffer) the wind the tougher the challenge.

It is worth mentioning that topographical variations affect the wind also, inland waters, lakes, inland seas and upper reaches of rivers and basins etc are affected by winds making inland sailing challenging and sometimes much worse, always check with the experts on land at the sailing club or marina for expected wind/weather conditions before setting out. As discussed previously wind can herald the onset of other weather conditions such as rain, plus turbulence.

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Similarly wind along the shore-line can be affected by the prevailing land heights, when we walk along a cliff top the wind may be strong but when we are in the lea of the cliff – at the bottom – we are sheltered from it, the same applies to boaters at sea level.

Thereby hangs a serious point, winds can quickly affect body temperature, even on a sunny day a stiff breeze can reduce core body temperature causing hypothermia, it makes sense to wear – or have with you – warm clothing for just such an occasion. The same information is universal, where ever people sail the same wind information and concerns apply, and because boaters are used to sailing in warm waters it doesn’t mean that basic rules do not have to be observed. Certainly in hot countries the risk of sun stroke or heat stroke are probably greater but serious boaters will always err on the side of caution, always hope for the best but plan for the worst, even three kilometres out at sea is a long way if someone succumbs.

cautions-in-hypothermia-first-aidHypothermia takes about 30 minutes to set in for an adult – less for a child or smaller person. Water conducts heat/cold 25 times faster than air making body heat loss far quicker for someone in the water. Hyporthermia can take between an hour and two hours to kill someone. Clearly in the extreme North and Southern hemispheres water temperatures will be much lower and cold shock will make loss of life far quicker.

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Serious boaters should undertake First Aid training to ascertain what must be done in such circumstances. Time is of the essence.

Sailing and boating are about having a great time on the water. Accidents often occur because people either don’t know the basics or choose to ignore them often endangering other people who then have to mount a rescue. Accident prevention does make perfect sense.

All boaters, sail or motorised, are advised to attend a professionally run course of training and then follow the rules.

Love sailing and enjoy.




Author : Roger Langley