Sunday, May 09, 2010

Clouds, the Yachtsman’s Friend

Wind from the NE, Force 3
Force 3

The guardsman stands at the gate in the darkness of the night and shouts, “Friend or foe?” followed by the words, “Come forward and be recognised!” As the unidentified person advances, the guardsman has his rifle at the ready with his finger on the trigger. When he is satisfied the figure who emerges from the shadows is a friend, he lowers his rifle and says, “Welcome friend.”

A yachtsman is a bit like a guardsman who is watchful for Aeolus, at first not knowing if he is going to be a friend or a foe. If the wind is fair, and blows in the direction the ship’s master wants, all is well, but could this friendly wind be a foe in disguise? Will this slave of Aeolus turn about and increase in strength, or will he dwindle into nothingness? Will he blow steadily or will he gust? Will he be warm or will he be cold? Will he bear rain or will he bring sunshine?
While trying to answer these questions the yachtsman is ever watchful, just as the guardsman in the dark is vigilant.

Telltale signs can be found in the sky giving clues as to the wind’s strength and likely direction. High wispy clouds in the form of mare’s tails can herald strong winds and indicate from where they will come. Trails of cumulus clouds give a sure indication of wind direction. Black anvil-shaped clouds forewarn of very strong winds, and lowering dark clouds tell of the possibility of gale force winds coupled with rain. Rising clouds over the shoreline indicate the presence of onshore breezes.

There is truth in the saying, “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.” Red sunsets often come before days when winds are light, whereas red sunrises quite often herald days which are windy.

Clouds are a yachtsman’s friend, for they signal what Aeolus is doing and what he may do.

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