Sailors of Metafilter: gear me up!
July 18, 2013 5:13 PM   Subscribe

I recently started sailing lessons (on the windy, wavy waters of the San Francisco Bay) and am at the point where I need my own foul weather gear (and some other stuff…)

I really don't like the gear I borrow for free from the sailing school -- it's too bulky and makes me feel like the Michelin (wo)Man. I want something as light as possible while still being waterproof/breathable. I don't really need fleece linings and such since I want to be able to layer up/down as the weather and interior temperature gauge dictates.

I know about Gill and West Marine and am looking for a.) personal reviews of those two brands, and/or b.) other options.

I'm also interested in knowing about your favorite sailing shoes and preferred brand/mode of sun/wind protection. I've been trying out different types of 50+ sunscreen and lip protector but seem to end up burned on face and lips no matter what I do. I do reapply a couple of times during the day so this may be sun exposure combined with windburn. If you have a technique for mitigating that combo please lay it on me.

Finally: what personal items do you carry in your sail bag? (Everything like first aid kit, flares, flashlight, etc. is already provided.) Assume day trips for now.

Any other sailing tips for a newbie sailor also appreciated!
posted by hapax_legomenon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
$75 or so for a Tilley hat is usually money very well spent. Especially if you measure your head to get the right size, you wear it low, read the directions, and learn how the shoestring chin strap is used 2 ways at once, to keep it on your head, in a good blow (50+ KPH)
posted by paulsc at 5:45 PM on July 18, 2013

Bear in mind that anything labeled "Marine" or from a sailing catalog comes with an inflated price tag for comparable, if not better item from the "normal" world of outdoor gear.

I just wear whatever appropriate gear I have. I just use whatever sunscreen is on the boat currently.

Have sailing fun. Isn't it great?
posted by humboldt32 at 5:47 PM on July 18, 2013

Are you in SF or the East Bay? For some reason the only chandlery in SF is that West Marine down in SOMA, but around Alameda and Richmond they are thick with them.

I avoid West Marine unless I am desperate-- their prices are inflated and it just doesn't feel... cozy. I typically don't wear shoes on deck, or I just wear Vans. One thing that I can't do without is a pair of the fingerless sailing gloves- I am clumsy and would beat the heck out of my knuckles all day otherwise. I should get some foulies, so will be watching this thread myself!

I don't have much advice for sun avoidance, I just use whatever SPF 50 Water resistant is in the house, and a long sleeve shirt and a baseball cap secured with a bun through the back (long-hair). Seconding that Tilley hats are really nice. I highly recommend getting "froggies" to keep your sun glasses from falling in the drink.
posted by otterpop at 6:05 PM on July 18, 2013

"... Any other sailing tips for a newbie sailor also appreciated!"
posted by hapax_legomenon to sports, hobbies, & recreation (3 answers total)

San Fransisco Bay and much of the Pacific off California is inherently cold water, at least as survivalists reckon cold water. For the peace of mind of yourself, and any kin you might have, buy a 406MHz Personal Locator Beacon, register it appropriately, and tie that thing to your life preserver, and wear it any time your feet aren't on dry land.

Without insulation, you won't get rescued soon enough, most of the time, to survive, especially out in open ocean, but your carcass will be easier to recover for your funereal.
posted by paulsc at 6:55 PM on July 18, 2013

Don't buy a PLB, unless you really want to waste hundreds of dollars on something you will literally never use. Disregard this if you just signed up for the double-handed farallones.

Just go to a store and try on foulies. West marine honestly is probably going to have the best selection. The one in alameda has lots of clothing. You can also try Svendsen's in alameda, but even though they might have more sailing gear, they probably have less clothing. Pants are more important than a jacket, as it sucks a lot more to be hiked out on the rail with a wet butt than it does to get a bit of water splashed on your jacket. I'd get those and gloves first, as gloves will save your hands when you're doing a lot of line-handling.

I have some medium-weight Gill gear and have been pretty happy with it, but I'm the skipper so I don't get very wet.

The only things on my sailing bag are: gloves, pants, jacket, life-vest, pocket knife, old iphone with iRegatta Pro on it.

I'm racing an Express 27 out of Santa Cruz. I used to sail a Santana 22 out of Alameda.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:46 PM on July 18, 2013

It depends. I have henri lloyd TP2 trousers that I've really liked. (with the pants - I buy mens because I don't want the bulk of the drop seat, and none of the boats I sail on have a head, anyway. Also, round up on the size, smaller is more constricting and in the way, not less.)

I have both a spray top and a jacket, but I wear the musto spray top way more.

for shoes, I have teva sailing sneakers that they don't make anymore. I prefer sailing shoes, but if you spring for them, try to wear them off the boat as little as possible. I also have dubarry boots, which are CRAZY expensive, but are an amazing, amazing joy in cold weather.

For better recommendations, it would help to know what type of boat you sail on, what position on the boat you are, and what body type you are.

For sun protection, I like the neutrogena stick best, because it provides some wind protection, too, and you can put it on without getting it on your hands.
posted by mercredi at 9:17 PM on July 18, 2013

I used to sail an F-27 in Puget Sound (outside of Seattle), my kit included:

* Coppertone Water Babies 50spf sunscreen: it goes on like grease, and it never comes off, but it won't blind you when you sweat and it runs into your eyes. I also use it for mountaineering.
* West Marine foul-weather bibs: affordable, quality, and they will keep you dry and warm. Don't get yellow because it will just show lots of dirt and if you fall overboard you wont' be floating bottoms-up. Skip the jacket though, it's overkill unless you're going open-ocean cruising in large boats.
* Splash top (kayaking jacket): it's waterproof, but also low profile. I'd wear it over a sweater and my bibs, perfect. The foul-weather jacket is just too much jacket for most days.
* Inflatable life jacket with harness: the built-in harness is overkill, but it's nice knowing it's there if/when you ever need it (and only an extra $30). Inflatable life jackets are amazing - low profile, easy to wear and move around in, you forget you have it on.
* Tall sailing boots: nothing fancy, stick with the cheap ones until you're tired of taping them, then splurge for something better. Combined with some quality insoles, anti-stink insoles, and comfy wool socks they are awesome.
* I never found a pair of gloves that I really liked - I just went bare handed which apparently is unusual. Good luck with gloves!
* Emergency whistle: aka the Rape Whistle, always have it attached to you. If you go overboard nobody will hear you yelling - the whistle is louder and will last long after you've gone hoarse. Mine was in my bib pants pocket so it'd be there regardless of jacket/sweater changes.

Also, learn to distinguish between sunburn and windburn. I'm really sensitive to both, but if I applied my sunscreen then I'd only be windburned. Sunscreen will not protect against windburn - you have to either slather on a layer of petroleum jelly or suck it up. The good news is that windburn usually disappears in a day or two and doesn't result in peeling. There's also the fingerprint test - if you push your finger to your skin (forehead, cheek, etc) and then take it away and the fingerprint lasts longer than a second then it's a sunburn. Otherwise it's just windburn and you can ignore it.
posted by jpeacock at 9:23 PM on July 18, 2013

Response by poster: For better recommendations, it would help to know what type of boat you sail on, what position on the boat you are, and what body type you are.

We are learning on J-24s; my goal (in the next year or so) is to take the class that will certify me to skipper boats 30' and under on the SF Bay. (Ultimately, I want to learn to sail larger boats anywhere in the world, including blue water - but that is a longer-term goal.)

Having said that, I don't really know how to answer the question about "what position I am" -- beginner? crew? skipper? We're learning to do everything, if that helps.

Re: body type, I'm female, 5'7", average body type.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:25 PM on July 18, 2013

Hey, I just got back home from my Thursday night sail out of Berkeley! It was blowing like stink tonight! A little foggy but that's why we like it here...

I wear Gill "offshore" weight bib pants, and a Gill "coastal" weight jacket. They work great for me. Definitely feel like the Michelin Man in port, but out in the slot they are none too much - seriously. Do get actual marine foul weather gear. Honestly, "regular outdoor gear" foulies are not built for SF bay.

My current shoes are Adidas mesh boat shoes - super light & comfy but I don't know how long they'll last. For years I wore good old Sebago boat shoes until they literally fell apart (ten years at least).

For sun I slather on good old banana boat and thick spf lip balm but it's the wind that gets you eventually.

Wool socks and long fleecy undies and two sweaters. Plus a wool watch cap.

Get good gloves. I wear winter-weight full finger neoprene sailing gloves. I wore fingerless gloves for years but my Reynaulds always kicked in after an hour on the bay. Full finger gloves keep my hands warm. But they wear fast, so I buy them cheap and plenty (that means west marine).

Keepers for your sunglasses and a leash for your ball cap if you wear it, because it will be blown off.

I have a little waterproof iphone pouch that I carry - it lets me run Motion-X GPS (great app, btw) on the phone so I can record our tracks.

Finally - as to where to get this stuff, West Marine is actually fine, but Svendsens in Alameda is probably the best place in the bay area - when they have your sizes in stock - grrr.

Pls. feel free to pm me with more specific questions - I used to work on boats here in the bay (rigging) and I'm out there at least once a week and have lots of opinions about this kind of stuff.

Welcome to the bay - this is the best place on earth to sail!
posted by gyusan at 10:44 PM on July 18, 2013

Having said that, I don't really know how to answer the question about "what position I am" -- beginner? crew? skipper? We're learning to do everything, if that helps.

Don't worry about this yet. With race boat crews, normally each person specializes in one job, but you're not there yet, and when you get there, your job may be dictated by what's available on the boat you want to crew on. Unless you buy the boat, then you get to be skipper.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:00 PM on July 18, 2013

I asked this question about sun/wind protection when sailing a couple of years ago and ended up using the Dermatone 30SPF, which was great. The tins are small, but it's pretty thick so it lasts well.
posted by penguin pie at 6:59 AM on July 19, 2013

penguin pie: Awesome recommendation. I have no idea how I've sailed so long without knowing about Dermatone.

jpeacock: You are a bizarre, iron-fingered mutant. I carry backup gloves to my Gill fingerless leather-palmed ones because just one missing glove means burns and blood for me when I'm working the jib.

I like Mustang's H.I.T. inflatable PFDs for light weight and the pressure-activated inflator. My old dissolving-pill inflatable got activated a couple times per season in humorous ways. I still go for an ordinary foam PFD on cold days.

And I'll drop a recommendation for a Gill product that's not really a foulie: this knit fleece. I get compliments on it all the time, including from our crusty Norwegian engineering manager.
posted by Kakkerlak at 8:29 AM on July 19, 2013

Oh! Just re-read your question and noticed you also asked about footwear. I am fanatical about the Sharx I got for my trip: I wore them without socks for 10 sweaty days sailing from Southampton to Madeira and they didn't stink at all (thank you, anti-microbial insoles!). Also super comfy and I love the way they look.
posted by penguin pie at 5:02 PM on July 19, 2013

Oh, another tip - if you do have a regular foam Type III PFD, and your jacket is large enough, wear the PDF inside your jacket in the winter to keep warm. It's awesome at insulating, and there's less weird edges to snag on lines since your jacket is covering it all.
posted by jpeacock at 12:02 PM on July 24, 2013

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