A Beaufort Wind-Scale for Canoe-Sailors

Beaufort Force


(what about sailing?)


[in miles per hour]


Land signs



Water signs


Canoe-Sailors criteria


[Suggested appropriate sail area for most people in typical cruising situations in square feet - very keen and capable canoe-sailors do push these guidelines at times, especially in decked canoes and/or when using outriggers - see notes below]




(on open stretches)


Coastal - open   sea state   (wave height in feet)


(not worth it - might as well paddle)




Smoke rises straight up

Leaves do not stir

Like a millpond/mirror



Don't bother to put sails up; paddle.  Use sponge to mop brow and swat flies [0!].


(barely worth it - paddling would be quicker)

Competence Level 1 - see link below

Light air

 Smoke drifts

Wind-vanes unresponsive

Only ripples - like scales.



Burgees unreliable.  Sailing very leisurely.  Paddling would probably be faster downwind, and definitely upwind.  Use sponge as headrest.  Move slowly and carefully in boat to avoid disturbing sails [60+!].



Competence Level 1 - see link below

Light Breeze [3.5-7]

Wind felt on face

Leaves rustle

Light flags not extended

Small, smooth wavelets, short, not breaking but more pronounced.



Burgees respond.  Good conditions for learning and relaxed cruising.  May need to balance boat.  Sailing downwind is faster than paddling but paddling upwind would probably be faster for the keener paddler.  Use sponge to sit or kneel on.  Tacking needs to be smooth [40-50]



Competence Level 2 - see link below

Gentle Breeze [7-12]

Light flags extended

Leaves in constant motion

Larger wavelets, crests occasionally breaking; ie a few whitecaps.



Ideal sailing.  (Maybe too exciting for learners!) Boat moves well on all points.  Need to move across to balance boat when reaching and beating.  Tacking needs to be smooth and purposeful.  Sailing downwind very rewarding; upwind may invite a little spray into the boat. Use sponge to mop out. [30-40].



Competence Level 3 - see link below

Moderate Breeze [12-18]

Most flags extended

Small branches move

Dust may be raised

Small waves growing longer.  Fairly frequent whitecaps.



Exhilarating conditions.  Too much for beginners and the inexperienced - it may be wise to reef or even paddle. Beam/broad reaching is fast: may even plane if pushed hard.  Downwind is exciting: with surfing but risk of broaching.  Upwind is fairly hard and wet: use sponge and probably bailer.  Tacking may fail due to waves stopping boat.  Gybes also need care.  [20-30].


(very exciting!)

Competence Level 3+! - see link below


Fresh Breeze


Small trees sway

Tops of all trees in motion

Moderate pronounced waves.  Many white- caps.  A little spray.



Canoe-sailors gale for the inexperienced.  Too much for most people. Upwind is very difficult:- reefing is wise - beam or broad reach for safe shoreline being careful of surfing too fast and broaching: or drop rig and paddle [15-20].


(forget it!! - unless you are very keen and good)

Competence Level 3++!! - see link below

Strong Breeze

Large branches in motion Overhead wires whistle

Large waves.  Extensive foam crests and spray.



Survival conditions for many:- drop rig and mast if possible; keep low and paddle for safety [0!]

Keen and experienced canoe sailors can still sail effectively if well reefed - [probably 10-20]

(offered as advice with open-decked canoes in mind; skilled and experienced canoe-sailors using strong, well-designed, decked sailing-canoes are able to push these limits/guidelines and indeed it is beneficial for anyone to take advantage of opportunities to practice sailing in challenging conditions, especially when support from others and/or a safety boat is available)

Link to Competence Levels page - related to conditions and windspeed

Link to UK Meteorological Terms etc

Link to Marine Forecasts glossary of terms

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