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YachtRacerMan 01-02-2008 03:22 PM

Staying Warm and Dry at Sea
 
In my first extended offshore experience, delivering a J-120 from Charleston to Key West with Captain Dan, we hit cold and windy conditions and the forecast indicated it wouldn't get any better. This was the first true test of my foul weather gear. I was wearing coastal jacket and trousers with layers beneath, and I can tell you that I didn't stay dry or warm for long, even with the help of the dodger.

I'd like to hear your suggestions, experiences and tips on managing the elements.

Freesail99 01-02-2008 03:34 PM

I have worn an old fashioned yellow rain suit over everything else I had on. It kept me dry. Think Gloucester fisherman......

sailingdog 01-02-2008 03:55 PM

First, layering is important, but you have to have the right layers.

The base layer should be synthetic, and something designed to wick perspiration and water away from your body. Most of the synthetic sports underwear out now will do this.

The next layer depends on how cold it is. On a nice day it might be pants and a shirt. On a colder day, it might be long underwear with pants and shirt over them. I'll often be wearing an REI t-shirt and set of Mountain Hardwear pants for my second layer, since they're synthetic, dry really quickly, and are tough as nails. BTW, the MH pants are fairly light, and can be converted into shorts... but, they're relatively warm compared to a lot of other pants I've seen.

The third layer is the real place you get the insulation. Polarfleece and related materials are excellent for this layer. Fleece provides a fair amount of warmth, even when wet, but is relatively light weight and doesn't restrict your movement much. When it is really cold, a set of heavy polarfleece sweats work wonders.

The outer layer should be either a good bib with a foul weather jacket or a drysuit, depending on how cold it is. A dry suit is better in colder, wetter conditions IMHO, but it is harder to regulate your temperature in a dry suit.

Special considerations:

Head and neck: Wear a fleece hat... 60% of your body heat is lost through your head. In really wet conditions, wearing a microfiber towel around your neck will help prevent water from going down the back of you foulies and soaking your clothes. Remember to wring the towel dry once in a while. :) The high collar of off-shore foul weather gear is worth its weight in gold in really wet conditions.

Feet: Don't forget good socks... and boots that you can cinch the legs of your foulies around. Wet feet are no fun...and lead to blisters, and other problems.

Hands: The gloves have to be waterproof. I like 3mm Neoprene gloves. Ideally, they'll have a gauntlet type cuff that you can tighten your double cuff foul weather gear sleeves around—with one cuff inside and on outside of the glove.

BTW, insulating your torso is far more important than your legs most of the time. If you can keep your feet, hands, and body core warm, the rest of it doesn't really seem to matter all that much.

Face: A set of ski goggles does wonders when it is blowing like stink and driving rain/spray in to your face.

Foul weather gear: The good stuff is worth the extra money you pay for it. It has to be waterproof... and the breathable gear is better than non-breathable gear. A high collar, adjustable length hood, neoprene, latex or PVC inner cuffs on the wrists, with an outer cuff on the sleeves, double flaps for the front zipper, drawstring for the waist and bottom of the jacket, velcro adjustable straps on the leg cuffs are all important.

Things to avoid: Cotton... worst material you can have for clothing... it soaks up a lot of water and doesn't stay warm when wet. Wool or synthetics are much better choices for materials. Coastal foul weather gear seem to be water repellent, and in a really good storm, leave you soaked as badly as not wearing anything at all.

Shivering is always a bad sign... it means you're losing too much heat, and that your body is trying to generate more by shivering. If you're shivering and then stop and get sleepy... hypothermia is setting in... and that's really not good.

Keep well hydrated and fed. Your body needs fuel on crappy days. Avoid alcohol and caffeine since both tend to dehydrate you and cause you to loose more body heat more quickly. Alcohol is worse than caffeine, so if you need one or the other, go for the caffeine.

pegasus1457 01-02-2008 05:13 PM

I agree with everything that SD said in the previous post, but would like to add a detail --

I have been using a Henri Lloyd suit for the last 6 years and it is fantastic.
The fabric was called TP2000 (it may have evolved into a newer product) and the trousers are salopettes -- this model has a top like a wet suit that goes over the shoulders. It is much more comfortable than bib-with-suspenders, which end up binding on your shoulders. If you can find this style of trousers you should go for it.

You should also count on buying your foul weather gear in a bricks-and-mortar store (not online). I went to the store looking for a different brand that got good ratings in a sailing magazine, but they didn't fit me well, whereas the HL did. It is important that they fit comfortably allowing for a heavy layer underneath.

I sat in the cockpit one whole night waiting for wind during a pouring rain and remained warm and dry, wearing my HL's.

sailingdog 01-02-2008 05:22 PM

One last point.... get your foulies a bit oversized, so that you can wear layers underneath them. :) Salopettes are better than bibs, but not as common and harder to find. In any case, you want something with a fairly high top, so splashes and spray don't get down your pants from the top.

tomaz_423 01-02-2008 06:36 PM

I agree with Dog that head is important, only IIRC 40% of body heat is lost through your head, not 60%.
Since head is perhaps about 10% of surface it really does not matter if you loose temperature 4 time faster or 6 times faster - it i important to remember to protect hour head.
Dog, As I am not sure in my number - could you provide your source - I do not have the book here, but I think 40% is from a diving school and was consistent with my previous knowledge from scouts and climbing.

pegasus1457 01-02-2008 07:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sailingdog (Post 244546)
One last point.... get your foulies a bit oversized, so that you can wear layers underneath them. :)

SD, you really have to form the habit of reading the previous post before you respond to it :) [I had just said that]

sailingdog 01-02-2008 09:07 PM

Peg-

Hadn't even seen your post when I wrote that... :)
Quote:

Originally Posted by pegasus1457 (Post 244598)
SD, you really have to form the habit of reading the previous post before you respond to it :) [I had just said that]


sandsailor 01-03-2008 12:04 AM

LADIES!!Don't make me put my heels on and come down there

wind_magic 01-03-2008 01:07 AM

I've been thinking about heated clothing too, like the kind bike riders use when they ride motorcycles in very cold weather. It's low voltage so you don't have to worry about electrocuting yourself I don't think :p But I would make sure before I tried it on a boat.

I'm concerned about hypothermia too of course. Right now when I get really cold I go in the house and take a warm shower and that warms me right up, but that probably wouldn't be possible on a boat. The next best thing might be warm drinks and sitting near the heat, or some kind of an electric blanket, but I don't know how much electricity that would use.

I've heard (read ?) that there are emergency suits that some people carry in extreme environments to respond to hypothermia, I assume they are electric. I'm not talking about the survival suits for life raft deployment, I'm talking about an emergency suit you use to bring people out of hypothermia. I remember at least one boater who claimed to have one on their boat.

If it's really cold I sometimes use the little chemical packets that heat up when you open them up. They are not a long term solution, but it's amazing how good warming your hands up can feel when you are really cold, especially if you need to work on something with your hands.

Edit ..

I almost forgot one of my favorite things - a warm water bottle. Yes, straight out of the 1930's, a plain old rubber water bottle that you put warm water in and then keep it with you. Best used for camping when you are going to sleep, but might be useful in the cockpit of a boat too. :)


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