“Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight”

Informant Information — DD

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 68
  • Occupation: Professor
  • Residence: San Pedro, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: March 20, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

The informant grew up in San Pedro, CA, a port town where a large proportion of the town works on/near the water. He has sailed as a hobby and professionally for more than 50 years. He is still active in his town’s boating community and keeps up with sailing magazines, books, news, etc. The informant shared this information with me in an in-person interview.


Can you tell me about the connection between sailors and the weather? 


Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. The saying goes, “red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” right? I first heard that one when I started sailing over to Catalina and up and down the coast. 

It’s supposed to mean that if the sky is red in the morning, there’s an impending storm that might make sailing tough if it hits that day. If the sky is red at night, the storm has already passed. 

I don’t really know how true that is, but I believe it and I’ve definitely heard tons of other sailors say it before. 


In this piece, the red sky is a sign and the time of day that it appears determines whether it is a positive or negative indicator. Strangely, I’ve heard both this version, as well as the complete opposite (“Red sky at night, sailor’s fright”). If true, this could be a very useful way to forecast the weather, but it’s a bit problematic that it’s so easy to mix up the rhyming, opposite meanings (fright and delight).