Gearing Up for Winter Sailing


During my admittedly few winters above the frost-belt, I have only fond memories of the last few days of the season. And I’ve always admired those who didn’t let the tilt of the Earth dictate the way they arranged their days.

This month, Practical Sailor contributor Drew Frye reviews measures to take if you plan to extend your sailing through the winter. It is something Frye himself has done for more than a decade on Chesapeake Bay, where winters, though hardly brutal, still drive many boaters away from the water.

Practical Sailor readers who have been with us for a few years are familiar with Frye’s work, much of which is carried out from the deck of his PDQ 32 catamaran. The boat, as far as I know, has not spent a full winter out of the water since Frye bought it.

The depth and variety of cold-weather-related PS tests that Frye has carried out over the past few years have made him our unofficial ambassador of chill. His reporting on winter goes well beyond the normal scope of season-themed articles. Most recently, he brought his testing experience to bear on bubblers and other devices that keep marina slips ice-free through to spring. The report hints at Frye’s other passion: ice climbing.

Fryes climbing habit routinely makes its way into Practical Sailors pages. His past research into fiber lifeline chafe and elasticity in deck cordage drew directly from his own experience with climbing ropes. And Frye, of course, was the brains behind our comprehensive reports on coolants and anti-freeze, and how improper their use can actually promote water-tank contamination.

A related pursuit that occupies Frye is the endless search for ways to reduce onboard weight. As the owner of a catamaran, he recognizes that for many sailors, every equipment upgrade presents an irresistible opportunity to shave extra pounds. His report on using high-tech fibers instead of metal shackles is an example of his work in this area.

The inspiration for this months article on winter prep, however, had little to do with an interest in ice or saving weight-it was the simple desire to sail year round.

One of the finer pleasures of winter sailing is the solitude it affords. As Frye wrote when he first pitched the story, It has always seemed a shame to me that the great majority of boats in the country are only used in the summer. Even on the middle-section of Chesapeake Bay, where the water freezes only a few weeks of the year, I have the waters virtually to myself on some of the nicest days.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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