Squalls – What are they?

Look out – there’s a squall coming your way!  Squalls can occur in any hemisphere as a sharp and sudden increase in wind speed. They’re often associated with oncoming changes in the weather like rain showers or thunderstorms and can also occur before snowstorms. Squalls provide a sustained increase in wind speed but may also have gusts of higher speeds within them.

The origin of the word ‘squall’ is not known however one theory is that it is related to the old Norse word ‘skvala’ to squeal.1 The World Metrological Organization definition of a squall requires the wind to increase a minimum of 8 m/s and to attain a top speed of a minimum of 11 m/s and must last at least one minute.


Squalls – What to do

So what should you do if you’ve kept an eye on your weather but you still get caught in squally conditions? Here are some suggestions:

Stay out of the way – If you can find a safe harbour or coastline that will shelter you from the worst then stay there or get there. But be careful if you are trying to outrun the oncoming storm – staying in deep water may be a safer option if you cannot guarantee to avoid the shallows (they may get choppy) – no yachtsman wants to get caught on a lee shore. In difficult conditions, it is also sensible to avoid natural hazards, tricky navigation and complex passages.

Secure your yacht – Close and batten hatches, reduce or strike sails, secure your dinghy on deck, ensure your topsides are neat and tidy, note your position and your navigation plan. If you’ve made it to a safe anchoring spot ensure your anchor is dug in and let out the extra chain. Consider your swinging circle. Fix your wheel or tiller in the centre so that your boat does not swing unnecessarily.

If you believe that an electrical storm is approaching i.e. you experience thunder or lightning, go below if possible. Put on your shoes, stay low but never lie down and avoid touching metal, if possible unplug your electronics. Lower antennas. Stay out of the water.2

If no electrical storm is coming you might consider getting the most experienced boat handler to gently motor forward into the wind in order to take the pressure off the anchor. If the rain or sea spray is driving into your face consider wearing swimming goggles.

Maintain station – If you’re at sea – you might choose to motor slowly forward head to wind and tackle waves at an angle of 200 – but avoid presenting the stern of the boat to the wind which then risks swamping and also avoid presenting the side of the boat which could risk broaching or capsizing. To maintain the control you may need to throttle up the face of steep waves and once over the wave slow down to allow the wave to pass beneath you. This may assist you in avoiding slamming into the waves or hitting the trough on the other side. Motor sailing is possible with small amounts of sail and may assist to steady the boat. Consider reefing your sails or using storm sails.

Heave-To – Consider your sea room and visibility first and only if there is no danger from other shipping and there is sufficient space to allow a gentle drift downwind can you heave to. By backing the jib whilst it is sheeted on the opposite tack and holding the rudder on the opposite lock to the backed sheet the yacht will drift gradually downwind at a very slow speed. But don’t wait until you have to do it, practice heaving-to in calm weather.


1 From “Squall” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Jul. 2016. Web. 26 Aug.
2 Tips adapted from: http://www.boatus.com/magazine/2015/october/when-a-squall-comes-calling.asp


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Sail around the World – a dream or reality?

Is it a sailor’s ultimate dream to sail around the world?  Look at how these people did it!


You don’t have to be mad to sail around the world – but a small element of madness certainly seems to help in some cases!

Are you the intrepid explorer who would want to sail around the world in the fastest possible time?  Or are you the more laid-back sailor who enjoys a leisurely pace, and would treat this amazing circumnavigation as a big long holiday?  A 36-year long holiday maybe?  But more about that later….

Whatever your persuasion, to actually sail around the world is no mean feat.  And over the years there have been many people who have undertaken and completed this challenge – however not without a fair degree of controversy in some cases.

Take for example the first person to sail around the world.  To the reasonably educated, or maybe an avid quizzer, Ferdinand Magellan would probably be the answer.  Wrong!  He was the mastermind behind the expedition but did not complete the voyage as he was killed in a fight with islanders in the Philippines.

The accolade went to Juan Sebastian de Elcano who, after Magellan’s death, eventually sailed the remaining ship back to Spain and completed the journey in 1522  – with only 18 crew out of the original 260 that set off in 1519 – the remainder having lost their lives during the voyage.

Maybe the 260 crew who initially joined Magellan wouldn’t have been so keen to go if they had known it was his intention to sail around the world.  That point Magellan had omitted to tell them when they applied for the crewing jobs – just in case he frightened them away!

The first-ever solo, single-handed circumnavigation was made by Joshua  Slocum.  He set off to sail around the world from Boston Harbour, MA  in his 37-foot sloop, Spray-on April 24th 1895 and returned into Rhode Island on June 27th 1898, taking just over 3 years for his trip.

British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston, made the first-ever solo non-stop circumnavigation, starting his journey in June 1968, and arriving back in the UK 313 days later in his hand made yacht Suhali.  And Ellen MacArthur still holds the record she set in February 2005 for the fastest solo non-stop sail around the world by a woman.  Her record sail in her trimaran, B&Q, took in 71 days 14 hr 18 minutes.

The French also hold several circumnavigation sailing records including the fastest crew to sail around the world.  This was achieved in January 2012 by Loick Peyron and his crew in trimaran Banque Populaire V, during the Jules Verne Trophy taking 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes.

French yachtsman,  Francois Gabart, 29 won the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race after 78 days at sea, setting a world record and becoming the youngest person in a mono-hull boat to win the competition.  The Vendee Globe, held every four years, is the only single-handed, non-stop around the world sailing competition and recognised as probably the most challenging sporting event in the world.

Or are you looking for a significantly more leisurely pace?

Abandoning the rat race and sailing off into the sunset is the stuff of daydreams for many.  And that’s just what intrepid couple Bill and Laurel Cooper did.  And they didn’t just sail around the world once – they did it four times – in 36 years!  Bill quit his high flying City job and sold their home in 1976 and sailed away on a boat they built themselves.  In 36 years at sea, they have notched up 100,000 nautical miles, sailed across seven seas, travelled 22,000 miles along canals and rivers, and have dropped anchor in 45 different countries.

Or would you go for the super-luxury way to sail around the world, waited on hand and foot in your suite on a cruise liner.  Well if money is no object you could spend £64,000 on a suite for two on a World circumnavigation cruise, taking in 36,746 nautical miles covering 22 countries and 33 ports over a 110 day period.  There’s no hurry to book up for this voyage as it doesn’t go until 2014 – the 2013 sail around the world cruise is completely sold out!

To many avid sailors with time on their hands, the best way to sail around the world would be in a yacht or sailboat of their choice, at a completely leisurely pace and take as long as they want.  Maybe that planned stay in the Caribbean could turn into something a lot longer – and why not!

And if you want to sail around the world with that special person or a friend – or if you’re looking for crew – you could find them on lovesail.com. The ultimate honeymoon –  to sail around the world?   Well check this out – Finding Love on the High Seas

A special journey – in more ways than one!

sail around the world