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I respect cumulonimbus clouds, especially at night.

In the daytime, cumulonimbus clouds are easy to spot, and you have no excuse for getting caught in a wet microburst with eighty knot winds that could capsize your boat.

At night, things are a little more challenging. On a moonless night, a cumulonimbus cloud may blot out the stars in a quadrant of the sky as the only clue of its presence.

I have spent many nights in the doldrums looking at a starless sky wondering what the night will hold. I wondered how much wind was in those clouds, and if they posed a threat to Exit Only.

When the stars are blotted out by storms, and there is lightning, it's easier to tell the amount of vertical development in the clouds by viewing their silhouette with each lightning flash. You can pick the cumulonimbus clouds out from their lesser cousins.

It's the cumulonimbus clouds that are the greatest threat. The base of these clouds can be at 6000 feet and the massive clouds can extend upward over 60,000 feet where their tops get blown off in the troposphere by upper level winds creating a typical anvil top to the cloud.

When rain and hail plummet earthward inside these clouds, they carry downdrafts with 70 mph of wind striking the surface of the ocean and spreading out in all direction.

More than once while sailing at night, I felt the sudden onset of cold wind replacing warm tropical breezes, and I instantly knew the wind originated high up in the atmosphere, and I am sailing in the presence of significant downdrafts. I might even be on the edge of a microburst.

If there is a sudden shift in wind direction and the air is cold, I know it's time to quickly reduce sail until the wind returns back to its normal pattern. I never want to get caught with full sail if there is a potential microburst in the area.

When I have unstable air masses with lots of vertical development in the clouds at night, I turn on my radar to discover what’s happening.

The radar shows the location of cumulonimbus clouds with associated rain, and it gives me fair warning and time to prepare for what lies ahead.

Radar makes it easier to stay out of harms way, and alerts me to watch for changes in wind speed, direction, and temperature that could signal the development of a microburst.

I love sailing at night under a full moon.

I also love sailing on moonless nights when I can see stars from horizon to horizon. That’s when I have the privilege of viewing the Milky Way in all its glory.

I don’t like sailing on moonless night with the stars blotted out in the sky. And when the air grows cool, and the wind shifts direction, I know it’s radar time.

If a sailor pays attention to wind speed, direction, and temperature, and uses radar to detect invisible threats, that sailor will have enough warning to be prepared for whatever comes his way.

Clear air microbursts are an entirely different challenge, and plenty of boats have been flattened or capsized by winds that came seemingly out of nowhere.

The moral of the story is clear.

A competent crew member needs to be on watch at all times, and the crew must be prepared to instantly furl their sails.

On Exit Only we put double reef in our mainsail at night so we don’t have any emergency reefing to do if there is a significant increase or shift in the wind.

Eternal vigilance and common sense push the odds of survival in your favor when you sail in unstable air.

Dr. Dave

Captain Dave - David J. Abbott M.D.





Exit Only

See what it's like for a family to sail around the world on a small catamaran

Captain Save Our Souls

Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.

Red Sea Blues

Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.

Red Sea Chronicles Trailer

If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 1 - When Flying Fish Attack

Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 2 - Pirate Alley

Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 3 - Aden, Yemen

Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 4- Gate of Sorrows and Sandstorms

After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.

Save A Tree Bookstore

Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.