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goldingds 11-12-2006 07:19 PM

Cold Weather Sailing
Do you go sailing when its cold/rainy? Is this safe and fun if wearing foul weather gear? I live in Washington State and I'm trying to decide how much sailing to do this winter.

Faster 11-12-2006 07:53 PM

How much sailing you do during the inclement season depends on many things: your own "hardiness", the boat, the weather, and the quality of the foul weather gear you choose.

One of the bonuses of living in the PNW is the opportunity to sail year round, but you will spend some time wet, possibly cold and uncomfortable. The safety of it all relies on your keeping abreast of the latest weather information (storms and systems move through more quickly and more often in winter), the condition and equipment level of the boat, and your and your crews' personal skills, abilities and experience.
One of the things that makes off season sailing much more enjoyable is the ability to thoroughly dry off and warm up at the end of the day.

Winter daysailing is just a matter of picking your days and dressing appropriately (you can warm up and dry off at home later). Winter cruising demands decent cabin heat and the space to dry gear and get warm again.

One thing to keep in mind in winter - if you're out for a daysail and your first leg is downwind, be mindful that the trip back, if upwind, will take longer and get colder as you go, so adjust your turnaround time accordingly. You can cover a lot of ground downwind in a typically stronger winter breeze, and find yourself a long beat from the marina if you aren't paying attention. Allow at least twice the return time, maybe more.

The greatly reduced daylight hours and increased likelihood of fog should also be taken into consideration as you plan your day or passage.

The benefits of doing this, of course, is increased utilization of your investment, a feeling of accomplishment, greatly reduced traffic and more privacy in your favourite cove or marina.

goldingds 11-12-2006 08:19 PM

Great advice. What's a good way to get the scoop on the weather before I take out a boat and set sail?

Goodnewsboy 11-12-2006 08:22 PM

Cold weather usually means cold water. You and your crew absolutely must stay out of it or be prepared (dressed) to survive in it for a reasonable time period.

On the plus side there will be less traffic.

hellosailor 11-12-2006 08:23 PM

GoreTex "extreme wet weather" rated outerwear, and silk underwear, are a good start to keeping warm and dry in the worst wx. Silk liners won't itch like wool can, and they keep you warm even when damp, just as well as the new synthetics do. With wool, silk, polartec, and the like, it is no longer hard to keep warm, even if you get a bit damp around the edges.

Once you figure out how to stay warm and dry, the rest can be fun because there's always good wind in bad weather.<G>

The rest depends on how or if you like it. Some folks use ski goggles in driving rain, some use a towel or scarf around their neck and a hat instead of a hood. Lightweight neoprene diving gloves (the thin ones) make a great way to keep some finger dexterity while keeping the fingers warm, too.

And of course, the big crowds just aren't out there.

camaraderie 11-12-2006 09:11 PM

What's a good way to get the scoop on the weather before I take out a boat and set sail?

This should give you the info you need:

SteveCox 11-13-2006 02:59 PM

The water is never warm up here! When I go out in the winter I need to concentrate more. No matter how warm I dress The cold and damp slow me down and can dull my senses. So, you need to think through everything slowly and carefully before committing to any actions. Also, don't forget to look around more. With a hood or ear muffs on you can't hear as well and your peripheral vision also suffers. Tugs with tows can sneak up on you pretty fast. Having said all that you can have the sound all to yourself at times and it is very nice not to have to contend with jet skis and big powerboats.

hellosailor 11-13-2006 03:12 PM

Goldie, NOAA and the NWS can be great but they are no substitute for learning basic local weathercasting. If they offer a local "SkyWarn" class in your area, sign up, the NWS will teach you how to locally observe weather and what the different incoming clouds, etc. mean. There is also a lot to be found at your local library or online about predicting your own local weather, and I'd argue that every sailor above the rank of "rail meat" ought to follow up on it.

Steve, if "cold and damp" are numbing you, you still aren't dressed or prepped right for it. Cold should awaken you--unless you are not prepared and it numbs you. Damp also intensifies sounds, damp air conducts sound better and it makes everything seem louder, until the noise of actual rain muffles things.

Sometimes it is not your dress but a metabolic issue. If you are not getting enough sleep, if your blood sugar is down (got up early, ran out without breakfast, body temp dropped a little because you're not dressed enough) you will get behind the 8-ball and the only solution is to get some hot food into you and get ahead of the curve again.

The right cold wx gear, in the right layers, shouldn't inhibit you much if at all. To me it beats all hell out of 98F with 87% humidity, a scorching sun and a half knot of teasing breeze.

Parley 11-13-2006 06:13 PM


Originally Posted by goldingds
Great advice. What's a good way to get the scoop on the weather before I take out a boat and set sail?

I've become partial to SailFlow:

RayMetz100 11-13-2006 07:19 PM

Winter Sailing in the Puget Sound
I'm 33 and up till now, had never sailed before. I live in Everett and about a month ago started lessons at Most of the lessons were on a 26ft J/80. After 5 days of lessons and passing my ASA 103 test, I showed up yesterday morning for my first day as "skipper". I had my two brothers with me and a neighbor for crew. None of them had sailed before.

The winds were reading 30kts, so of course the club wouldn't let us out. We waited around for the noon race and they called that off too, for the second week in a row. They don't charter out the boats when it's over 25kts. Luckily, one of the club members offered to take us for a ride in his own J/80.

It turned out to be a great sail and we all had a good time in the weather. I'm looking forward to more sailing this winter and reserved a J/22 for the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Hopefully the winds will be closer to 10-15knts for us, but we aren't worried about rain or cold.

Message me here if you want to join us that Sunday or later in the season.

Ray Metz

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