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 Ive always admired those who didn’t let the tilt of the Earth dictate the way they arranged their days.

The past several winters, Practical Sailor contributor Drew Frye has outlined the measures to take if you plan to extend your sailing through the winter (see Winter Sailing Tips for Diehardsand Trouble-free Winter Sailing). 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 Fryes 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 Fryes 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
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at