Sailors often fall into two camps. Fair weather sailors chase perfect sunny days and their calm waters and blue skies. And there are sailors who can’t miss a day on the water, no matter the conditions. Sun, rain, snow, big breeze, total glass – they’ll take it all. From the extreme hot temperatures of Caribbean cruising to the cold temperatures of winter sailing, we’ve compiled ideas to keep you sailing comfortably and safely year-round.
Staying hydrated is a no-brainer, but it is definitely still worth mentioning. When we’re cruising, it’s often easy to hang out on deck all day enjoying the beautiful weather, especially if cruising in a hot, sunny, exotic location. Dehydration can make you groggy, keep you from thinking clearly, and bring on excruciating headaches, all of which are sure to take away from an enjoyable day on the water. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Another great way to keep hydrated while fueling your body is eating foods with a high water content. Grapes, watermelon, and cucumber slices are just a few ideas for snacks that will keep you hydrated and fueled during those extra hot days.
Even though you may be tempted to expose your skin to the sun, it’s important to stay covered, especially in the heat. Choose lightweight breathable shirts and sun shields to protect you during long days on the water. Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and a wide-brimmed or bucket hat to shield your face. Put up the dodger to get some shade on deck or go below to get a break from the sun.
Staying as dry as possible in colder temperatures will make the sailing much more pleasant. Once you’re wet, you’ll get cold quickly, and it’s hard to dry out and warm up again. If you’re planning a cold-weather sail, invest in good outerwear and foul-weather gear. Most of the body’s heat is lost through the extremities, so be sure to have a warm hat, wool socks (multiple pairs in case your feet get wet), and a good pair of boots (Dubarry is a good brand). It’s also a good idea to have one or two pairs of rubber gloves to keep your hands dry. Thinner dish gloves or latex gloves can be worn underneath warm winter gloves as well. There are lots of options at your local hardware store, so pick something that works for you. Keep a quick-dry towel or chamois cloth in an easily accessible spot to help dry out wet hair or any other wet areas such as neck and wrists.
Hot food and drink
Consuming hot food and beverages is just what you need to warm up from the inside out. There’s nothing better than a hot coffee, tea, or whatever warm beverage you prefer after a long day of cold sailing. Many cruising boats have fully functional galleys, so don’t be afraid to turn on the gimbaled stove and make yourself a hot meal. You can also mix boiling water with freeze-dried camping style food. It often comes in pouches that make it easy to mix and eat without creating a huge mess in the galley, and there are quite a few delicious meals to try. Oatmeal is a great hot breakfast food that’s also quick, easy, and mess-free. Another note on food: Larger meals take more energy to digest and, therefore, your body will be focused on that rather than on keeping you warm. It’s better to eat smaller meals or high-protein snacks throughout the day.
Actively sailing the boat helps to keep you warm. Adjust the sail trim every now and then and rotate drivers to get different people on the wheel or tiller. Sitting in the same position for long periods of time will cause you to get much colder than finding a way to get your blood flowing. Invest in a portable waterproof speaker and play music and dance in the cockpit. Whatever you can do, keep moving.
Tell your friends
If it’s your first time embarking on a winter sailing adventure, ask friends about their experiences or bring one of them along for an extra set of hands. At minimum, communicate your sailing plans with a reliable friend and check in with them if you’re going offshore or somewhere without service. Safety is paramount at all times, but this is particularly true in colder weather.
Many of the recommendations from extreme heat and extreme cold apply to temperate weather.
The layered approach is most helpful when you’re constantly adding and removing layers based on changing conditions. Start with moisture-wicking base layers and build from there. Layers to have on hand include fleeces, down vests, lightweight down jackets, wool socks, and foul-weather gear. It’s always great to have a wool sweater just in case. Wool keeps you warm even when wet, blocks the cold due to its thickness, and is comfier and cozier than some of the other options.
Expect the unexpected
Be prepared for any kind of condition. You’ll get hot days, cold days, and in-between days. Storms can soak you and the boat and turn a warm day into a cold and miserable day very quickly when you’re not prepared.
Don’t be afraid to motor sail
Charge the boat’s batteries – as well as yours – with a bit of motor sailing. We all love the moment we kill the motor and the rhythm of the waves laps against the side of the boat and the wind is in our face, but there is nothing wrong with mixing in some motor sailing here and there to help you stay on track, give you a rest, or help you get through a storm.
A FINAL NOTE ON CRUISING YEAR-ROUND
We hope this information will help you sail comfortably in whatever elements come your way. Take on a new adventure this year cruising somewhere you’ve never been or in a season you’ve not tried before. Whatever you choose to embark on, make sure your sails are ready for the job with an annual inspection and sail check. Cruising year-round means you might think you’re too busy for an annual inspection, but your sails will thank you later. Don’t risk a major problem or sail blowout; keep up on annual maintenance to make sure you can get wherever you’re going with ease.