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Old 03-27-2006
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Question Foul weather gear; what type to buy?

First, the backround: I sail an older Catalina 38 on the Great Lakes, mainly Lake Erie. We have previously only cruised but we are going to try racing this year. The only foul weather gear we have had is from our motorcycle days; very waterproof (rubber coated nylon?), not very breathable, and BLACK (not the color I would want to be wearing if I were in the water). We want to upgrade, but have limited budget. Also having to buy two sets really adds up. I received a sales flyer from a major marine retailer that had an ad for the following described jacket (this is the shortened version):

...provides great waterproof protection, but is now breathable..... Perfect for a day on the water or weekend trips in moderate conditions. The breathable...fabric with a hydrophilic coating is treated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) finish, so water beads up instead of soaking in.... The gear is fully lined, with a free-hanging nylon taffeta lining... to keep you dry and comfortable.
  • Best for daily use in mild/moderate condition, light wind, rain and spray
  • Ergonomic cut, breathable fabric
  • Two layer, breathable, coated Oxford nylon, DWR finish, fully taped seams
  • Hydrophobic interior chemicaly transfers the water vapor from the inside to the outside
  • High breathability
My questions are: Does anyone have any experience with this product? If so, since it says "Best for daily use in mild/moderate condition, light wind, rain and spray," how dry does it keep you in a strong rain? How about while on the rail when racing in a chop? If you don't have any experience with this, but still know something about it, please let me know.
I'll be honest, the reason I am interested in this product is because of the price. My next choice, described as "Designed specifically for coastal cruising and racing" costs exactly twice as much. I know, you get what you pay for, but we can't pay for a whole lot.
According to the descriptions, I should be more comfortable in item 2, but is item 1 good enough?
Any and all opinions are appreciated. Thanks
Russ Duff
Catalina 38, Hull #112
Lake Erie
Grosse Ile, Michigan
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Old 03-27-2006
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Such 'breathable coatings' applied to nylon taffeta are only 'temporary' coatings ... usually coming off the knees, elbows, or any place that you get 'aggressive' with the fabric. Such fabric is common in 'economical' ski wear - usually only lasts a single season.

Speaking of ski-wear ... many of the top end skiers equivalent of yachties foul weather gear is exactly the same and would be applicable for inshore and coastal use (composed of Goretex or many of the cheapy asian imitators) .... and the ski shops dont want to carry this stuff over the summer and at this time of year will discount 40-50% just to unload it. Try a ski shop for good quality Gortex wear: anoracks, bib pants, etc.
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Old 03-27-2006
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The issue with all "breathable" wet weather gear is (and this disregards seam, quality control and all the other stuff) is the break even point in terms of pressure. Errr...let me explain that a little.

Breathable membrane stuff uses your body heat to generate a micro pressure that is higher then that outside and allow moister to vent outwards. A chemical coating on the surface acts as a hydrophobic agent (repells water). On a micro level, the fabric is arrayed in little cone shaped flaps that supposedly work like one way valves. Thus the moisture form you exits on the underside of evey little valve and then hits the coating on the underlying flap. goes slick and runs off quickly.
If a big wave comes along and the pressure changes then the idea is that all those little flaps will close wherever the presuure is greater then the internal specs, so now the fabirc isn't breathing, but is keeping you dry(ish). But when you add a little more pressure the flaps fail and water can get in.
This is where the prices and qualities of the various breathable fabrics come into their own. The ocean going GorTex is about the best for having the highest "break even" point before the fabirc ceases to be water proof...and this is very much reflected in the price. Then again, every serious ocean going wet weather gear is made with genuine 3ply GoreTex.

From there it is a long slide down hill through about five brands ansd "systems" of water resistent breathable fabric till you get right down to the cotton/nylon blend that has the hyrdophobic coating and nothing else.

Now the good news is, if you do not face extreme circumstances where you are gong to be out in conditions where green waves are washing over the bows (You really hope it is the bows), and rain is not driving in at 50knots...then the cheaper stuff will work just as well as the expensive!

At that point it is a matter fo looking at the quality of seams and cut and fit (honestly, so many cheaper companies bothch the seam so that they are the weak and watery point, I have taken off a jacket after an hour of being out in mild drizzle to have a perfectly dry T shirt underneath apart from line of wet that made me a walking sewing pattern for the jacket I had just taken off (Ronstan gave me a refund on that one).

Hope this rambling has provided some useful info.

The way to think about gear like this is to match it to your specific sailing needs and not to shop as if you are a maxi yacht in the Sydney to Hobart race.

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Old 03-27-2006
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Re: wet gear

Anyone reading marine catalogues and magazine ads can find the bigname pricey suits, some of which do perform well, but at a considerable price. Amongst our crew and acquaintances we have seen lots of gear go by, Helly Hansen seems a good bet if you can get them on sale. Gill seems to have occasional problems with longevity but has a generous replacement policy.
For weekend racing in the moderate climates I think you can get a lot of service out of run-of-the-mill raingear sold by, eg, Workwear World. On the West Coast they are sold under the name "Wetskins" for under $250 CDN for jacket and pants and I'm going on 5 years and still staying dry. Not the best "breathable" style but for short races and shoulder season cruising it seems a good bargain.
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Old 03-28-2006
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For our purposes Gill seems to be the best bet. We too are Great Lakes Cruisers from Southern Lake Michigan.

I know you can spend a lot more money on other brands, but for the money and type of sailing we do, the Gill product line suits our needs.
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Old 03-28-2006
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Musto is impossible to beat!
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Old 03-28-2006
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ummmmm the intrusion pressure of liquid/free water of typical gortex material is in the range of 75 pounds per square inch of surface area when loaded with free water - and that pressure to allow free water to pass would crush a puny human body into 'paste'. The way a hydrophobic membranes works with respect to vapor transmission is that the amount of relative humidity from one side to the other 'equilibrates' from the higher humidity to the zone of lower humidity (partial pressures of the mixture differences) ... no little 'flaps' or valves involved at all just a structure that microscopically looks like an open celled foam. The moisture/vapor *diffuses* through the fixed pore structure membrane.
The 'competitors' and cheap equivalent suppliers of coated hydrophobics simply coat each microfiber with a hydrophobic substance .... and the permeability of the open structure allows the diffusion and equilibration of humidity to the lower side. Such 'coatings' are very vulnerable to coming off the microfiber .... but are a lot cheaper than the PTFE expanded Goretex, etc.
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Old 03-28-2006
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Good sailing foul weather gear has features you won't find on other normal foul weather gear. Things like retro-reflective tape, latex or neoprene seals at the wrists—which help keep you dry, and in some cases attachment points for safety harnesses or PFDs.

Really good foul weather gear will last you years, and should really be looked at as a long-term investment. The cheaper stuff will not last as long or be as really do often get what you pay for.
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Old 03-31-2006
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I second Denr's opinion, Musto is by far the best, but a little pricey for the offshore race suits. I bought a set of Musto coastal racer and have been very pleased. It was every bit as good as my (made in england, not the new stuff) Henry Lloyd I paid a kings ranson for back in the 80's. Quality, design, material, and construction were all first rate. I would be hard put to find anything I didn't like about it. APS has it online, and occasionally has a good blow-out sale.
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Old 03-31-2006
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I feel your pain--both my husband and I need to replace our foulies this year. I had posted on the 'hersailnet' forum regarding foulies because the jacket I had tried on at my local WestMarine was NOT cut for a woman (I'm not a big person, but was not comfortable with how restrictive it was). I got many good suggestions, and am going to be checking out some climbing wear in addition to marine gear. Unfortunately, none of this will be cheap!

Anyway, my suggestion is to have your wife try on whatever you decide to get as well...she might find that she won't be comfortable in the same things that suit you.
Lake Michigan - Racine, WI
Pau Hana - Pearson 35

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