Most of us consider sailing and boating to be summertime activities made for the warm sun. However, there are diehard men and women of the sea who will sail in any weather and while the traffic is considerably less during the winter, there are other hazards boaters need to keep in mind to make sure they are safe on the water. Here are a few tips to ensure your winter sail is a safe one.
Dress Appropriately – The GQ look of white shorts, a bright polo and deck shoes won’t cut in during the chilly winter months on Long Island Sound. Remember, the wind is just as bad as the cold and if you wear cotton based clothing that loses its insulating ability you can be in for a cold, wet and miserable time. Polyester wicks moisture away from the skin keeping you drier and warmer. Wear rugged shoes with superior traction to avoid a slip that could land you in the ocean.
Another idea to consider is layering with a neoprene wetsuit. Not only will wearing a wetsuit keep you warmer acting as extra layers but will also greatly increase your chances of surviving the shock and cold if you happen to fall into the cold Sound or Atlantic Ocean. The skin tight suit is never bulky and can be a solid windbreaker under jeans, sweatshirts and rain suits.
Pack the Heat – No, not weapons… anything and everything that can generate heat. Bring along a thermos or two of hot soup and coffee, store plenty of pocket warmers near coats and jackets, also have warmers you can use in shoes and boots to keep your feet warm. Consider a storage space for blankets, thermal clothing, warm socks and towels. The more heating items you have the better.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst – There are plenty of activities more dangerous than sailing in the winter, but don’t underestimate the risks involved. Always let trusted people know if you will be on the water for any length of time and approximately in what area. Pack radio equipment and weather scanners to warn of impending storms that can create disaster situations. Don’t go into unfamiliar territory and keep your sails to a minimum since exposure to sub-freezing temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia.