I have been checking my stats, and this subject seems to be the most searched for subject for sailing, so I thought I would post this again with some additions.
What to wear sailing would seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how people dress for their first sail. People have this image of sailing like the Kennedy’s and show up wearing high heels and their Sunday best or even worse, flip flops! Guard your toes should be your motto. Sailboat decks are slippery and there are tons of protrusions from the deck where you can stub your toes. I for one love my Keens (pictured above is one of the many styles that Keen offers) as they practically have tractor tire bottoms and a terrific big rubber guard for the toes. I have actually worn mine for three sailing seasons straight, and now into my forth, and you’d never know it looking at the bottom of the soles.
Another thing people don’t consider is the temperature on the water, particularly here in Chicago, can be 10 to 20 degrees colder than on land. So bring layers. Nothing will ruin an evening more than your teeth chattering on a sail and your tush freezing off. Also, you are likely to get wet while sailing, especially on a windy day so keep that in mind if you get cold easily.
You need to bring what are known as “foulies”; gear for wet weather. Foulies typically include a pair of bibs, a sailing jacket that is water proof and where the sleeves, neck and face can be either cinched up or velcro closed to keep water from seeping in, good non-skid sailing boots and no matter the weather…sailing gloves.
There are dozens of manufacturers and dozens of styles out there to fit every budget and style. Even budget foulies are better than none.
For warm weather number one on your list should be sun tan lotion and lip balm with spf protection. Remember the water reflects the sun and you will be in the wind so save your lips. You may want to bring a hat and you definitely want some sun glasses, polarized is preferable, and did I mention sailing gloves, yes sailing gloves. You will be working lines and the last thing you want besides a sun burn is a rope burn. Swimsuits are great in warm weather especially when you stop to take a dip, just bring a set of dry clothes for after your sail or after your swim.
For hats, look into those that have an spf rating and those that have a draw string to keep the hat on your head as you sail. No sense in having to rescue it from the water if it goes overboard. If you prefer a hat with no draw string, then a hat clip will come in handy. We have had many a folk lose a favorite hat overboard that did not have either of these features.
For gloves, there are dozens of choices depending on your needs. Gloves come with all the fingers covered, all of the fingers except the tips covered, and in combination of some fully covered and finger tips uncovered. If you are a racer and handle some of the lines that may cause a lot of wear like I do as the main sheet trimmer, then a set of gloves with extra padding in the palms may be in order. As noted above, gloves are essential on a sailboat, so bring a pair with you on your sail. I actually keep three pair in my sail bag. That way if a pair gets wet and it’s cold out, I can switch to a dry pair and keep my hands warm.
As to sailing jackets, they are designed to repel water and keep you dry. As mentioned above, they cinch around your extremities to help keep you water tight. Another important feature of these jackets is that they have reflective material sewn on to them to keep you visible (mostly at night) should you go overboard trying to retrieve your hat.
Another item of clothing is bibs. These are basically overalls that you wear under your jacket and they cinch at the legs again to keep you water tight.
As noted earlier, all of these items are priced at every budget level. You should also keep an eye out for sales where you may pick up a last year’s model for a reasonable price that serves the same function as the newer model.
Yes, it’s a whole new wardrobe to consider, but one that could mean the difference between a fabulous sailing day and a miserable day.
See you on the water,
Sail Away Girl