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coriffithq 08-18-2003 12:26 PM

Hello all,
I have just passed my ASA basic keel boat (sailing 101) course. I have been crewing for about 2 months now, and the skipper of the boat I crew on wants me to go out on some CCV races with him and his old crew. I am honored that he would invite me to crew with him for races, and I have learned alot from crewing. But my dilemma is this: I do not like cold weather, and these guys race all the way to Jan. I had a wonderful time in the summer months, and I really want to go out in the winter but do not have a clue how to dress warmly enough for this as, I have never sailed in the winter before. I need some assistance preparing for the cold weather assistance before it gets here. I am located in the Chesapeake Bay area, and I need to dress warm for this area during the winter months of sailing. My questions are these:

1) Do I go out and buy expensive cold weather gear for this type of sailing?

2)Do I buy a rubber suit and then wear something over it?

3) it the foul weather gear more important than, wearing something to keep the cold water off of me?

4)What do you longterm and more experience feel I should get to allow me to continue to sail even in inclimate weather?

Where do I acquire this gear from the internet or from some local sports store or from some department store?

Appreciate any information you can provide. So far I have found this site and and a few regulars that always provide me with legitamate information. I want to thank you for this info. Thanks....

paulk 08-18-2003 08:53 PM

You will not believe how cold your hands will get. Find the best gloves you can to keep them as warm and dry as possible. As in skiing, keeping your feet warm is also key. (Warm feet= happy skiers) So boots & socks with room to wiggle the toes are important. After the hands and feet, there''s a reason sailors traditionally wear watch caps. IMHO that the wool ones itch too much. A fleece one will dry out quicker, won''t itch, and won''t smell funky either. You can also try the handwarmer packs from camping stores in case you under-estimate the cold. Sail fast! Think warm thoughts!

Nereus32 08-19-2003 12:21 AM

Hey coriffithiq,

I grew up in Michigan, but now live in the desert southwest, so this is from memory. . .

Your goals are two fold: Stay warm and stay dry.

You can stay warm by layering clothing - t-shirt, thermals, shirt, sweater, jacket, for example. This allows you to adjust to your temperature situation as needed (warmer, remove a layer and cooler, add a layer). Keep in mind that sweating is not staying dry and will make you uncomforatble in the end. Prepare so you can find a comfortable balance for your conditions. Don''t forget your hands, feet, and head.

Stay dry by investing in decent foul weather gear. Again, don''t forget boots, hats, and gloves. Many manufacturers make gear that breaths and repels water, which minimizes the added insulation properties of heavier gear.

Preperation is key. Properly prepared, you should have a great winter of warm, dry sailing.

Have fun. Different seasons make familiar cruising grounds delightfully unfamiliar. Don''t forget the hot chocolate!

coriffithq 08-19-2003 08:32 AM


Thanks for the information, I will definitely follow your advice. From what I gathered from your information, the most importantitem is the foul-weather gear. I can easily layer, I already have the items for that, but I should invest in some quality foul-weather gear. Thanks again, I will start looking for a place to obtain good quality moderately priced foul- weather gear.

coriffithq 08-19-2003 08:35 AM


Thanks for your insight. I agree about the warm feet part. Once my feet and hands get cold I am no good to anyone not even myself. Appreciate your response.

bob_walden 08-19-2003 02:08 PM

I started racing here in SF about 6 months ago. Things I know now that I did not know then:

1. You can''t over-prepare for changes in temperature. Bring lots of layers, even if you don''t use them (get a big boat-bag.) Over-dress to start, and peel down as needed. When you''re on the rail, sit behind the big guy.

2. Wear synthetic socks & long underwear. Wicks persperation away fast. 2nd, 3rd layer of socks for fit/warmth.

3. No cotton.

4. Layers of fleece warmups and fleece vests work well.

5. Drink water.

6. Spend the money on good foulies--it''s worth it. I bought crappy ones to start with, and suffered. Now I have a nice set, and it''s great. That includes goot boots. If you''re on bow, I suggest traditional fisherman''s boots. Pit, mast crew and rail meat, dinghy boots are OK.

7. Get good offshore auto PFD (SOSpenders, etc) with built-in harness, & wear it. I hope the rest of your crew does too. Practice using it, and know how to repack/rearm it. If you need inspiration, go to and search for "drowned PFD" and so forth. Note how well the generally stories turned out when the COB was wearing a PFD, and how poorly they fared otherwise. Good news: many racing associations (including those here in the SF area) will disqualify any boat with any crew (especially the captain) who isn''t wearing a PFD from start to finish.

8. Kneepads will save you from a lot of bruises and cuts.

9. You will have a black-and-blue butt after a good race--my wife, sailor but non-racer, can judge how well the race went by observing my marks of honor each night. Nobody I know wears padding, but then I don''t know them that well...

10. Put up the hood on your foulies _before_ the wave washes over you. If you do it _after_, it just keeps it in.

11. Keep everything zipped and fastened. Winches and loose clothing don''t mix. If you''re too hot, unzip and flap while on the rail, but get it all fastened again before tacking.

12. You need to figure out a compromise between warm, dry hands and dexterity. I wear open-fingered gloves, and keep my hands in the warmup pockets on my jacket unless using them.

13. Wraparound sunglasses with a strap: keeps water out of your eyes, no frames to block peripheral vision, less eye fatigue.

14. A hat with a bill is great if it''s sunny. If it''s not, a fleece watchcap is better. If you like it, tie it to your harness. The old salts use twine & bowlines; us newbies use thingies from REI with ''gator clips on each end.

15. A folding, blunt-ended knife on a lanyard--you won''t use it until you really, really need it, and then you will be very glad you have it.

16. If you''re going offshore, collect the following and put in your foul-weather jacket pockets:
- lifeline
- strobe
- whistle
and practice using them.

17. Leave cameras, etc wrapped in a waterproof bag in your sea bag below. You''ll never have time for pictures while racing--and if you do, you''ll have time to go below to get it.

All I can think of for now.

LarsofSpokane 09-30-2007 01:36 PM

winter gear
Good morning all.

As a novice sailor looking forward to the first winter aboard my newly acquired cutter rigged sloop, I'm now in the process of learning how to stay dry and warm throughout the autumn and winter months here on Lake Pend Oreille (Idaho). I've searched this sight and have read most of your comments... thanks... the combined experience and wisdom here is most helpful... and I'll practice much of what y'all are recommending.

While I've seen the recommendation of a dry suit as the ideal off shore winter gear, I've not seen any mention of wet suits. I'm wondering if any of you have experience (good/bad) with wearing a wet suit (eg. hooded once piece long legged suit) as a bottom layer.
It seems to me that when combined with appropriate hand and foot coverings, a wet suit would be affective protective gear.


Thanks. Best wishes. G'day.


CapnHand 09-30-2007 01:53 PM

The short answer is no. I've never worn a wetsuit sailing in cold weather, but I've been scuba diving lots in all kinds of weather. I live in Canada and have dove here in every month.

Wetsuits are for keeping warm under water. On the surface, water will evaporate from the neoprene and chill you. For example, between dives it's better to strip out of the wetsuit and get into something dry to stay warm.

The other thing is mobility. We use mostly 6mm suits which are restrictive. This might not be as much of an issue with thinner neoprene, but still applies.

While this thread is 4 years old, the advice is still sound. The best bottom layer is synthetic microfibre, like polar fleece. Avoid cotton altogether.

sailingdog 09-30-2007 07:45 PM

No, you really need a dry suit. As CapnHand pointed out, a wet suit will tend to cool you off if you're out of the water, since the water will evaporate. The other advantage of the dry suit is that you can layer under it... and adjust for the temperatures that way. In cool weather with cold water, you might want just the drysuit over your clothes... in cold weather, you'd probably want to add polar fleece as additional insulation.

BTW, you really shouldn't revive dead threads, since it is considered poor net etiquette to do so.

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