Oliver Perkins Author and Journalist Posts


I am going to start a series of quick sailing tips. I will try to post these regularly until I dry up of ideas. I hope these tips are helpful and I will keep them short and to the point.

My first quick tip is to add a marker on the ship’s wheel when the rudder is centred. Our boat has a large wheel and there is no indication of when the rudder was centred, except for a small diagram on one of the instruments. Staring at a small instrument is difficult and it often detracts from the pleasures of cruising. Most boats overcome this issue by using a ring of electrical tape around the wheel. When the rudder is centred this marker is at the top of the helm.

This solution is ugly and still involves looking down at the helm to see if it is centred so I devised a solution, which solves both of these issues. In the place of the electrical tape I tied a Turk’s Head knot which you can learn here – http://www.animatedknots.com/turkshead/index.php. This allows the helmsman to feel when the helm is centred without even needing to glance down. The knot looks traditional and if the end is glued or melted into the knot it is a permanent fix.


Weather lore or weather proverbs were the most accurate way of forecasting the weather for centuries. Some of them are still well-known phrases and many of them have some truth in them. I have bought together some of the most accurate weather lore here and explain why it works.


Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors warning.
This is the most well known of the weather proverbs. It finds its origins in the bible dating back to the first centry AD, where Mathew mentioned it in his gospel When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.” This proverb works due to the position of the sun and the clouds. For a red sky to occur, it must not be cloudy where the sun is. However, there have to be clouds in the other side of the sky for the sun to shine its red light onto. If there is red sky in the evening it means that there must be clear weather to the west, but poor weather to the east. This means that the weather is improving as weather systems generally come from the west. In the morning the opposite occurs, the poor weather is to the west and the good weather is to the east, this indicates deterioration in weather. This proverb is only correct in the mid-latitudes where the weather systems generally travel west to east. It is often quite accurate however it is possible that when the sun is setting the sky clears briefly in the west allowing the sun to shine on the other clouds and the poor weather is still to come. Equally if the sun is rising and there

This proverb is only correct in the mid-latitudes where the weather systems generally travel west to east. It is often quite accurate however it is possible that when the sun is setting the sky clears briefly in the west allowing the sun to shine on the other clouds and the poor weather is still to come. Equally if the sun is rising and there happens to be a few clouds in the west, then it will look like poor weather is coming, but in fact, there may be fair weather.


Mares’ tails and mackerel skies make tall ships carry low sails.

Here ‘Mares’ tails’ refers to cirrus clouds and ‘Mackerel skies’ refers to altocumulus clouds. This sky often means that a depression is coming. These clouds are the first indication of a warm front, so there ill be no rain for the first 12 hours at least. As depressions are windy, it indicates to ships that they should lower their sails in time for the storm. This can be quite accurate as there are almost always cirrus clouds and sometimes altocumulus clouds before a depression. However, altocumulus clouds and cirrus clouds can sometimes be seen without a frontal system approaching.




A halo around the sun or moon, means rain or snow coming soon.

The refraction of light in the ice crystals in cirrostratus clouds causes halos. Cirrostratus clouds are often present before a depression approaches and as we know, depressions bring rain or snow. Cirrostratus clouds are not often seen unless a depression is approaching so this is usually quite accurate.


Long foretold, long last. Short notice, soon passed.

This is an extremely important proverb, even nowdays. If a weather system is first seen a long time before it actually arrives, then it indicates that it is travelling slowly, so it will pass slowly. However, if a weather system is only first seen just before it arrives then it indicates that it is travelling fast, so it will pass quickly. This also applies to showers, which are only seen for a few minutes before they start, however they only last for a few minutes. This weather proverb is almost always correct and is one that is extremely important to know to forecast the weather.

A sunny shower won’t last an hour.

A single cumulonimbus cloud (shower cloud) is never bigger than about 15km. Often cumulonimbus clouds join to form a multicell, but multicell clouds do not have sunny gaps between them. This means that if there are sunny breaks between showers, then the showers will pass over in much less than an hour. This is almost always correct due to the nature of cumulonimbus clouds.


When your joints all start to ache, rainy weather is at stake.

Here is another pressure related proverb. When there is low pressure, it allows tissues to expand in the body which can put pressure on the joints, causing pain. This is why arthritic people often say that they can predict when bad weather is coming. Obviously, this proverb is not the most accurate as your joints could ache due to countless other reasons!


If the spiders are many and spinning their webs, the spell will soon be very dry.

In high humidity spiders’ webs absorb water and become heavy causing them to be more obvious to prey and to break. As spiders are very sensitive to moisture in the air, they are aware of this so when there is high humidity they will hide away and will not spin their webs. When the spiders sense low humidity, they will come out and spin their webs. This is useful because if there are lots of spiders spinning their webs we know that fair weather is probably here for the next couple of days at least.


Sharp rise after low, foretells a stronger blow.

The quicker pressure changes, the closer the isobars are together and the stronger the wind will be. A pressure change of about 5-6 millibars in 3 hours will result in a strong breeze with winds of around 25 knots. A change of 8 millibars in 3 hours will result in a gale and a change of 10 millibars in 3 hours will result in a storm.


Seagull, seagull stay out from the land, we’ll ne’er have good weather while you’re on the sand.

Seabirds and wild fowl react to bad weather signs long before we may know about them. Seagulls which normally forage far out to sea will come close inshore to fish and they will be noisy and will fly carelessly and aimlessly. The counter to this though is on beaches in the summer which will be busier when the weather is good and will attract more seagulls to steal the Cornish pasties.


When the wind backs and the barometer falls, then be on your guard against gales and squalls’

As we have discussed earlier, one of the first signs of a depression is a backing wind along with falling pressure. A depression will often bring gale force winds and squalls as the cold front passes.


Find out about more weather lore and many other, more accurate, methods of forecasting the weather in my book “The Message of the Clouds”. My book details how to forecast the weather with the clouds, coastal and mountain weather, weather folklore and it explains how the weather works, so you can understand the reasoning behind your observations.

You can find out more about my book here http://oliverperkins.com/the-message-of-the-clouds-book

To keep up to date with my latest blog posts and articles, or to get subscriber only deals for my book please sign up to my newsletter.

Tom Cunliffe has very kindly written a foreword for my book ‘The Message of the Clouds’

You can read it below:

It’s so much better, and far more fun, to be able to read the sky and make your own conclusions about the weather than it is to punch a button on a computer and let someone else tell you what’s happening. Of course, we’re all going to use modern methods, but it’s like anything else, if you understand the essence of the subject, you know what questions to ask the computer and can make a lot more sense of its answers. That’s what Olly’s book does. It leads you gently through the guts of what I used to call single-station weather forecasting.

I’ve known Olly since he was a small boy. I was impressed then by his keenness and the intelligent questions he asked. Now he’s a strapping young teenager, he’s moved on and is already representing his country in sailing. His first book, The Message of the Clouds, is so good that my Yachtmaster Instructor candidates would do well to read it. Driven by instantly available internet forecasting, the subject of weather lore is falling off most people’s radar. This is a poor state of affairs because, out at sea, there may only be the sailor to decide on what’s happening and what to do about it. Olly has given us all a helping hand. I learned something from this book. I’ll bet you do too.

Tom Cunliffe (Yachtmaster Instructor Examiner) May 2017

You can find out more about The Message of the Clouds here: http://oliverperkins.com/the-message-of-the-clouds-book/

We visited the Firth of Clyde on our recent charter holiday and I particularly liked this anchorage so I decided to write an article about it.
Scotland is known for its wild countryside and many islands and Caladh Harbour is a perfect example. Caladh Harbour is nestled between steep Scottish hills and Eilean Dubh in the Kyles of Bute, a small forested island with rocky cliffs. This harbour is perfect to shelter in from bad weather. Caladh is Gaelic for harbour so Caladh Harbour literally means harbour harbour – clearly referencing its sheltered waters.

Being Scotland there is no charge to visit Caladh Harbour. The anchorage is between Eilean Dubh and a shallow bay in the mainland. It is quite a cosy anchorage with space for up to 4 or 5 boats. The harbour is sheltered from all angles apart from South Westerly gales.
The approach to the harbour is from the south, just keep the large white beacon to port and go mid channel to avoid the rocks. Holding is very good between the bay and Eilean Dubh however watch out as the west side dries a considerable way at low water. Anchoring is in 3 meters of water but be careful of kelp as there is some which could clog up your anchor. If the anchorage is full it is possible to anchor east of the southern entrance beacon in 3-5 meters of water – but be careful of the spit extending about 100 meters south to the west of the entrance. If the wind is from the south west, I recommend anchoring in Wreck Bay next to the Burnt Isles.
There are, as with any remote Scottish anchorage, no facilities ashore however there is a small slipway for the tender on the mainland. Eilean Dubh means Black Isle, which we thought was not an apt name due to the huge amount of bracken and Rhododendrons on the north side. There are paths on the south side but when we visited we didn’t notice them and we made our way through the tall bracken and shrubs until we hit a path.
On the mainland there are well maintained paths around what used to be the estate of a large country house which was blown up in a military exercise due to its rampant dry rot. It is well worth climbing the steep hill to get to a viewpoint (marked on OS maps) of the whole of East Kyle, Loch Riddon and even Largs. Since we visited the viewpoint the amazing view seemed to pop up everywhere – it was even on an advertisement for Portavadie Marina some 20 minute drive away.
Caladh harbour is a tranquil anchorage with an abundance of wildlife. Porpoises swim to the south of the anchorage, seals often bask on the rocks and deer come right down to the water. Keep a good lookout for the Herons on Eilean Dubh as many love to swoop around the cliffs there.

I wrote the information for this article and then Practical Boat Owner changed it a bit, however, most of my writing is intact.

East Head, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is a 1km-long spit of beautiful sand dunes owned by the National Trust and is situated in an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty., Yachts can anchor north of East Head, to the east of East Head spit bouy but south of the main channel. There is good shelter from all round apart from the north-east. The Cruising Almanac advises that anchorage is also uncomfortable with winds from the north-west. Holding is good in the sand a few meters below the surface. The anchorage is very popular in the summer but is never full. Maker sure not to anchor east of the starboard lateral mark on the east side – boats often end up aground here.

A speed limit of 8 knots is in place from the harbour entrance, and all vessels are requested to ‘mind their wash’. All craft that enter the harbour are subject to harbour dues. The weekend charge is £6 for yachts of 6.31-1`2m (20ft 8in-39ft 6in) in length. Rates can be found online at http://po.st/rates.

There are beaches all round East Head, and the southern end gets quite busy with people from West Wittering. To escape from the crowds, try climbing over the side of the dune, where it is quiet and very sheltered from the wind. The tides are very strong around the spit, and care must be taken when swimming to avoid being swept away.

When visiting East Head, it is tempting to have a barbeque – but make sure you have it on the beach, not in the dunes as that is forbidden. No trip to East Head would be complete without a walk through the hot sand on a summer day. The area offers an opportunity to spot a great variety of rare wildlife including ringed plovers and sand lizards.

A total of 156 sailors took part in the UK Laser Association World and European Qualifier held in Weymouth. On the first day sailing was out of the harbour and there was about 12 knots of wind and quite choppy conditions.

The Standards and the 4.7s started their races but the Radials had a general recall and then thick fog meant they were unable to start. The rest of the day was abandoned due to visibility being down to a couple of hundred metres.

On the second day the racing was postponed for just over an hour due to lack of wind although all classes managed three races in the harbour when about 10 knots of breeze filled in.

Overall Elliot Hanson won the Standards with 4 points, in second was Alex Mills with 10 points and Lorenzo Brando Chiavarini came third. Georgina Povall won the Radials in a fleet of 85, in second was Ali Young and in third was Jon Emmett. In the 4.7s Matt Beck won on countback with Oliver Sturley in second.

One problem I have with boats is that there aren’t many places to put cups in the cockpit when at sea. However with some scrap wood or plastic, thin rope and a spare snap shackle or hook you can easily make a swinging cup holder.

Most cups on boats are stackable however every type of cup will work. First I measured the diameter of two points in the cup. I luckily had access to a laser cutter at school and made a CAD of my cup holder. My design has a hole in the middle for the cup to partially fit through and 4 holes for the rope to go through round the outside of the holder.

However, a laser cutter is not essential, the holder can just as easily be made by cutting a large hole through a piece marine grade wood or plastic and drilling 4 holes around the side.

You need to make two of these rings with different sized holes through the middle so that they sit at different places on the cussp.

Next is the difficult part, you must pass some thin rope through the cup holder and tie stopper knots just below where each of the rings go. Make sure that both the rings are tight around the cup so it does not rattle.

Lastly tie the end of the ropes to a small snap shackle, carabiner or even a hook so that the cup holder can easily be attached to the guardrail.

If your cups are not stackable or you want to use mugs instead place the top ring lower down the cup and don’t cut a hole in the middle of the bottom piece and rest the cup on top of the bottom piece.

These cup holders can be easily placed anywhere where there is a horizontal wire or rope and are perfect for small cockpits because it stops them being cluttered.