Head protection has become a hot topic among sailors. Volvo Ocean Race helmsman wear surf helmets with retractable visors. Americas Cup crew wears them, along with body armor and breathing equipment. Amateurs in high performance beach catamaran and dinghy classes are adopting them in big numbers, and some youth, college, and Olympic sailing programs have made them mandatory, like PFDs. Even cruisers are beginning to wonder about trips up the mast, heavy weather sailing, and even routine bumps. Is it the new thing, or just transition period until we work out where they make sense?
I like the outdoors. I sail year-round, and I can endure as much heat and cold as my passions demand. But whether it is summer or winter, I just cant abide cold, wet feet. There is something about damp socks that chills me through. If my feet are warm, Im warm.
Regarding your recent Inside Practical Sailor blog post Drysuits vs. Survival Suits, I raft the Colorado river in Grand Canyon where water temps are around 50 F, even in the summer. The whitewater down there is furious and sometimes dangerous. I wear a 3 millimeter neoprene wetsuit under a full drysuit. If the drysuit rips, the wetsuit should slow down thermal loss. The problem is heat buildup in the sun. The solution is to jump in the cold water now and then to keep from over heating. On a sailboat that would be harder to do. There have been a few times sailing solo when I wore both garments, but it was pretty clammy inside. There is no perfect solution, just reasonable compromises by which to stay alive. Something to remember is that once a drysuit rips, it will take on hundreds of pounds of water. A high flotation PFD is mandatory, at least 26 pounds I would think.
Whether you want to cruise the higher latitudes or extend your sailing season this winter, youll need to think about clothing. Over the years, Practical Sailor has published a number of tests and reports on garments that we can count on to keep us warm when the wind chill dips toward freezing. In this report, well take a broader look at the essentials, focusing on the first principles; under layers, accessories, how to wear them, and what materials stay dry.
The tools and materials required to maintain and repair everything on a boat will barely fit in a room. Just the kit required to maintain vital systems will raise the waterline of a large boat and is impractical in a smaller boat. Fortunately, when day sailing and even cruising locally, all we really need to do is get back to the dock...any dock.
Battered sailors make good test subjects, especially when we are talking about gear to preserve our joints and appendages. That is why we sent technical editor Drew Frye and his surgically repaired knee out into the world of orthopedic accessories for sailors.
The problem with survival suits is that theres no telling when the big wave or brutal wind gust will hit, and it may not leave time to don a survival suit. Some survival suits have sewn-in gloves that make it almost impossible to turn on the radio or deploy a personal locator beacon. Thats why wearing a comfortable, breathable drysuit makes sense. It leaves you much more ready to manage the boat in heavy weather. And should the unexpected happen, your odds of survival in the water are better than they would be in foul weather gear.