Sailing advice for cold weather

Cold weather sailing tips

The saying goes – “there is no such thing as weather, just the wrong clothes.”

As I write, the UK has just had its coldest March since blah blah blah, so in an effort to invigorate spring and induce a heatwave, here is some cold weather sailing advice.

So try these when the need arises:

  1. Take more clothes to the club than you think you might need. Carrying them should warm you up for a start! If your sailing wardrobe is inadequate, raid the cupboards for an old fleece or two. And it may be time to get the credit card out
  2. Basic principle: Never under-estimate the cold – it’s far easier to strip a layer off if too hot than heat yourself up if you get chilled
  3. If your boat lives ashore rather than on a mooring, dress warmly in civvies whilst you rig up, including extra layers, hat, gloves, etc. No harm in sneaking thermals under the jeans or putting a (dry) sailing waterproof on together with your coat
  4. But if it is also chucking it down with rain, get the sailing gear on first
  5. Rig with a sense of purpose, this is no time for faffing about. If someone fancies a chat, save it for the changing room. Move the boat out of the wind if practicable. Check the toe-stap strings and the like – this is hardly the day for gear-failure to induce a swim
  6. Eat well before going afloat – this is not a time for low blood-sugar levels. And use the toilets too. Stripping-off for a pee out in the elements is not going to help keep you warm
  7. I have a theory that your head is a good source of wind-information. But if it aches with cold, forget that. Put on at least a beanie hat and better yet a balaclava – or both!
  8. Don’t over-heat in the changing room, get sweaty then immediate freeze as you walk outdoors. Save putting on the last couple of layers until you have left the changing room, perhaps even until you go outside
  9. Don’t wade into the water to launch if you can avoid it. If you really have to go deep water paddling regularly, get yourself a drysuit. Making the crew do it to save yourself is unacceptable
  10. Take an extra layer or two afloat – but store them somewhere dry – in an accessible tank or a dry-bag
  11. Don’t wear leather sailing gloves – they keep your hands wet, which sucks the heat out of you. There are several alternative materials
  12. To some gentle exercise to get the blood flowing
  13. Don’t launch too early
  14. But once afloat, get busy. Don’t sit there feeling miserable
  15. If you must hang about (due to general recalls for example) heave too and get out of the wind as much as you can. Also, if possible, sail to somewhere sheltered but not too far away from the start
  16. If you fingers get cold, suck them – you will be amazed
  17. Do some more gentle warming up afloat around the time of the 5-minute gun
  18. Do not be psyched out by the weather – embrace it and laugh; doing so will give you a real edge on the miserablists
  19. Light airs and cold are the biggest challenge all that sitting still
  20. If you come ashore feeling really cold, get warmed up, showered and changed before packing the boat up (but do take the sails down first)

Here’s hoping this advice should put the kibosh on the freeze and herald a bit of proper spring

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