Fair Weather Doesn’t Make a Skillful Sailor (8)

… but it is the better weather to take a novice sailor out onto the sea to talk through steering and halyards. But with Ernest’s brain awash with charts, compass points and tides, how would he fare when it comes to talking about the weather?

“What do we need to sail then Earnest?”

“We need lots of things Uncle. We need a boat with sails, plenty of water, a good tide, a chart mixed in with some local knowledge and wind. Lots of wind.” Ernest was pleased because all that information he was bombarded with was beginning to make sense.

“Yes, we do need wind but too much is not a good thing. Do you know how wind speed and conditions are communicated to sailors?”

“Ummm… miles per hour?”

“Yes, they are in a way but we also talk about forces. Wind force readings are universally accepted of descriptions of the wind and conditions at sea. Listen to the shipping weather forecast and it gives all the information.” Continued Ahab, surprised at how much he was enjoying teaching Ernest.

“Force 0 is at one end of the scale – that means there is no wind – and Force 14 is at the opposite end. That is hurricane conditions blowing 73 miles per hour plus or 64+ knots. That’s no fun and very dangerous too.”

“Just like walking in the hills, you need to have a good idea of the weather conditions on the sea where you plan on sailing. Clearly, if you want to win a race, the more wind you have the better, providing you know how to sail safely in it, that is. But, “continued Ahab, “as the saying goes: a calm sea doesn’t make a sailor.”

“So, we need some wind, but not a lot?” asked Ernest.

“In some ways, yes, but we need to understand how our sails – the boat’s wings – work in wind and the best way of capturing this wind and using it so we get to the place we decide we want to go”

“R-i-g-h-t. We need the wind to blow in the right direction then?” said Ernest, nodding his head thinking to himself I’ve got this sailing lark.

“Sort of. We have to move the through wind because if we waited for the wind to be in our favour, we would never cast off from this harbour wall.”

“Before we set sail, we need to make sure we have planned our journey. We need the chart and we need to plot a course. We need to know the times of the tide and we need to know the forecasted weather conditions. And,” continued Ahab barely drawing breath, “we need to know the direction of the wind. If it’s not in our favour, we’ll need to be doing a lot of tacking.”


“Yes, moving the sails through the wind so that we pick the wind up to push us one way, and then change the sail round to pick up the wind to push us back in another direction. It’s fun! You’ll see!”

With Ahab humming contentedly, Ernest wondered if he would ever really get this sailing thing off to a T.

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