What do you mean heels are a bad idea on a boat?
May 11, 2011 9:05 AM   Subscribe

What should I wear sailing in San Francisco this weekend? Bonus complication: I'm attending in a corporate wife capacity.

In the name of career enhancing face time, I told my partner that I would happily come along sailing with his boss this weekend. However, I have NO idea what to wear (for sailing in general, but especially for this purpose). It's supposed to be cold- in the high 50s in San Francisco this weekend.

I'm mostly a dresses and high heels kind of woman, which seems like the most unwise idea ever. So, how do I dress warmly, appropriately, and not like the fish out of water I feel like I am going into this?
posted by Zophi to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest good-quality casual wear, the kind of thing sold by Land's End.
posted by essexjan at 9:17 AM on May 11, 2011

Note: this is east coast based advice. California may be .. different.

The classic look is a pair of boat shoes (socks not recommended), a pair of khaki chinos, a polo shirt, and a crewneck cotton sweater that you can wear as a sweater or drape over your shoulders for effect.

Shoes are key, because you want something with a sole that will grip well (look for a siped sole) on the wet, slick boat deck, as well as a non-marking sole.

You'll also want some kind of a bright, lightweight raincoat that covers your butt. Here's a good one. This one is probably more waterproof, though.
posted by anastasiav at 9:19 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Shoes with good traction in the soles. They're called deck shoes for a reason. Ugly as crazy but they're what I wear on my Dad's boat. Go to any sporting goods store and ask for a pair of nonslip shoes with good traction. I prefer slip ons, myself.

Layers, otherwise. I've worn a sundress on the boat before. It's not really too bad an idea as long as the skirt is full enough that you can climb in and out of the boat unaided, but not too full to get in your way as you climb in and out of the boat. You need to be sure that the skirt is long enough to cover your knees while you sit on the floor and not flash everyone around you. Really, though, you should probably go with pants, so you're not fussing with your skirt. It's going to blow around and if you're constantly grabbing at, you'll probably look awkward--if it's polish you're going for, that won't help.

Any pair of lightweight pants will do (I don't like jeans on boats cause they are awful when wet), with a short sleeve shirt, a sweater and a light waterproof windbreaker. You want the jacket long enough to cover your butt. Do something to keep your hair from blowing around like mad, like wear a hat with a brim. A hat with a brim will also keep the sun out of your eyes. Be sure to secure it to your head.

Because this is a corporate thing, I'd wear a clothes in a fabric with a nice weight to it and as tailored a windbreaker as I could find. Since you've never been sailing, you probably won't get asked to do much other than sit there and enjoy yourself, so don't worry too much about ruining your clothes.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:20 AM on May 11, 2011

Great suggestions so far. I don't know about polo shirts in San Francisco, though. Any knit shirt would probably be OK, and you won't be warm enough to drape a sweater.

If there's lunch/dinner afterwards, you may feel more comfortable if you bring some clothes and supplies to freshen up when you get off the boat - either stashed in the car or in a waterproof bag. That way you don't have to be concerned with getting mussed up.
posted by muddgirl at 9:25 AM on May 11, 2011

Layers are key. I'm more accustomed to Great Lakes sailing, but it is damn cold out there even when the temperature on land is fairly warm. Good shoes that grip as suggested above plus the kind of layering that you would wear to an outdoor event on a windy day in early spring or late fall.
posted by readery at 9:25 AM on May 11, 2011

Do not wear a dress in SF on a boat for any reason. It will be absolutely FRIGID out there, and extremely windy. I'd put my hair back in a clip/bun, wear a hat that ties down to your head, multiple jackets, layers of pants...

Basically, don't worry about dressing up, boss or no. Don't conspiciously go in with sweats on as your first layer, but I'd wear them under some nice pants or something. Nice pants and tons of sweaters.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, how big of a boat are we talking about? If it's a small catamaran or another small craft with a significant chance of splashing water up the sides, then I'd reccommend wearing a bathing suit under the rest of your clothing (because I hate wearing wet bras/underwear), but if it's large enough then that shouldn't be a concern.
posted by muddgirl at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2011

Shoes with some grip. For this time of year on the water in SF, let me heartily counsel you against a skirt. Layers are very very good. Anything outdoorsy and a little upscale or stylish will be great. Do NOT underestimate how cold you might get out on the water. Being uncomfortable will make you miserable and self-conscious. You want to feel happy and relaxed with your hosts. Dress for warmth first, style second.
posted by jbenben at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2011

Yeah, is this "sailing on a boat with a cabin (even if it's just a few seats or something)," or is it "everybody will be outside the whole time?" The latter you will want more sailing-type gear like you were going to play in the snow. If it's more inside/outside a hat and jacket and non-slip shoes should be fine.
posted by rhizome at 9:56 AM on May 11, 2011

Layers and more layers. Thin wool, silk, or good-quality synthetic next to your skin, then a wind-blocking fleece, then a waterproof or -resistant jacket; no cotton - it won't keep you warm and it's terrible when it's wet. A scarf and a warm hat of the type that won't blow off your head. I've been sailing on the bay on a warmish (for us) day and it was still cold out there. Oh, and sunscreen. Do wear shoes that have some grip and won't mark the deck, as pointed out above.

Dressing appropriately for a sailboat on the windy, choppy bay and dressing appropriately for land-based boss-centric activities are two entirely different things, which I'm sure you know, and which I'm even surer the boss knows.
posted by rtha at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2011

I think deck shoes are hideous so wear something like these classic Sperry sneakers instead. (they're plenty "boaty" but can be worn with regular casual clothing too.

Don't forget to wear sunscreen!
posted by vespabelle at 10:05 AM on May 11, 2011

Be sure to bring chapstick and sunscreen, if you do not always have it with you, and put it on beforehand. The constant wind while sailing can really do a number on your lips (and I say this as very much not a chapstick sort of person, and even I use it while sailing).

Only clothing suggestion I have to add is be sure to bring enough clothing so that you can stay topside the entire time; many people get seasick if they go below, and it's very unpleasant to have to choose between seasickness and freezing, as I've seen some inexperienced people have to do.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:27 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whatever you expect the temperature to be (and don't go by the forecast high, take a realistic range for the hours you expect to be out and allow for returning 2 hours later than planned), subtract 10 deg-F to allow for the wind, and dress to that. This forecast suggests 50 - 60 deg-F both days, and that's probably for the city, not the bay.
You'll need a wind- and water-proof top layer. If it has a hood so much the better. At this time of year you might be more comfortable in a deck boot over wool sox rather than a more open shoe. A wool hat and gloves don't take up much room. Make that several pair of gloves - you'll get them wet.
If you bring too much, great - take it home unused, having been comfortably dressed. If you bring too little, you'll be really uncomfortable and without much recourse. Keep warm and have fun!
posted by TruncatedTiller at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2011

Thank you all so much! This is incredibly helpful, and I'm feeling a whole lot less daunted. It's a 31 foot sailboat. My plan is tons of warm layers, a good jacket, hat and gloves, boat shoes, and tons of sunscreen and chapstick.
posted by Zophi at 10:59 AM on May 11, 2011

If you don't have boat shoes, tevas or sneakers are probably okay. Non-marking soles, as boat owners get testy if your shoes leave black marks. For safety, shoes must not be slippery, gripping soles are better. Cute leather sandals can be treacherous. Khakis or shorts, and yes, layers, topped with something wind-resistant. Fleece is cozy, but wind goes right through it; fleece topped with a windbreaker or raingear works.

There may be drinks served, but make sure you have a bottle of water; if you feel seasick, take small sips, breathe slowly, and keep your eyes on the horizon. In fact, bring some saltines and gingerale, too. Ginger is an effective anti-nausea herb, and nibbling saltines helps things stay settled. Wear a cap; the wind will mess your hair, and getting a sunburn on your scalp is unpleasant, esp. if it peels. Sailing is one of my favorite things - have fun!
posted by theora55 at 11:19 AM on May 11, 2011

When we sailed aboard Lady Washington in February (sailing out of Jack London Square, Oakland), daytime highs in SF were in the upper 50s, but it was absolutely frigid with the marine layer on the bay in the morning.

A windbreaker isn't going to cut it. Pretend you're going out to Ocean Beach, where it's windy and cold. Expect breezy conditions, overcast skies, and a chance of rain. It'll be pretty cold. Dress warm.
posted by phoebus at 11:33 AM on May 11, 2011

I sail on the bay twice a week. It will be cold. It will potentially be wet.

We sail a Yankee 30, which is a pretty heavy racer/cruiser type sloop. I wear long underwear top & bottom. Next layer is rather normal jeans/flannel shirt/sweater - sometimes two thin sweaters. Then I wear full foul weather gear - bib pants and a jacket. I top it with a wool baseball cap or a beanie if it's cloudy. A short wool scarf. Sunglasses with little keeper thingies so you don't lose them.

We keep extra wet weather gear on boat for guests and would be pleased if someone asked ahead if it was available.

Depending on where you are going in the bay the weather can be remarkably different - if you are coming out of South Beach harbor it will be calmer and there will be less wave action until you get to the central bay. If you are leaving from the Marina, you will be out in "the slot" almost immediately and you''ll be shocked how wet and cold it is. We sail out of Berkeley and the wind is strong and the waves are pretty choppy (the bay is shallow near Berkeley) so it's a wet ride initially. If you are coming from Marin, it can be calm and hot behind Angel Island, but again when you get into the central bay it is windy, wet, and cold. My point is that conditions vary widely but at some point it will be really windy and cold unless your skipper is toodleing around behind the islands the whole time.

Have fun - this is the best place in the world to sail!
posted by gyusan at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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