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Preparing for The Cold: Sailing Gear for You and Your Boat

Not all of the sailing that is done, is done in the Caribbean in the sunshine. For those that are passionate about sailing and the sea, winter sailing is a common activity.

So if you are looking to sail as the temperature drops, read on about the sailing gear you will need to stay safe and enjoy this winter sport.

The Sailing Gear You Need for Foul Weather

Just like with most winter sports, gear is important to keep you comfortable and safe. Gear for winter sailing falls into 4 categories: safety, comfort, storage, and winter sailing trip tips.


Sailors tend to be prepared individuals, often having redundant systems. The first step to enjoying winter sailing is to do a complete, winter checklist.

Top Off Your Tanks

There are a couple of reasons to always keep tanks topped off during the winter months.

First, because fewer people participate in the sport during the winter, less marina’s are open.

Second, when things freeze, it may make for great winds, but make it hard to use hoses needed to fill gas or water tanks.

Finally, condensation is your enemy in the winter months, having full tanks means less space for condensation.

Take Time to De-Ice Your Decks

Water is slippery, but icy decks can be lethal. The easiest way to de-ice your deck is to grab some seawater and a brush. You should be able to clear the decks in short order, assuming you are not sailing in sub-freezing air.

Make sure you de-ice before anyone else comes on board.

Dry Off Your Lifejacket

When water stays on your lifejacket, it can start to corrode firing mechanisms. This can cause problems if you are tossed overboard.

Lifejackets are, really, really important in the winter. Coldwater can knock you off if you are inadvertently tossed overboard. Wear your lifejacket.

Don’t Forget Your Batteries

More power is required to start an engine when the temperature drops. Consider using a solar panel to keep batteries topped off in the colder months.

If you are moving your boat to colder weather, explore why sailboat technology chooses lithium over traditional batteries.


Most people think comfort in winter months, first. So let’s address how to stay warm.

The Right Clothing

No one wants to feel like they are in a snowsuit that is overstuffed but being warm is important in all cold-weather sports.

When sailing in the winter, consider dressing in layers. Focus on base layers that pull moisture away from your skin. Your mid and surface layers are focused on keeping heat in.


Talk to any skier or snowboarded and they will share the importance of eye protection in the winter. The sun still reflects off the water in winter and can cause damage to your eyes. Grab a pair of polarized shades that wrap to minimize the cold air coming in through the sides of your glasses.

Heads, Feet, and Hands

You lose about 7-10% of your heat through your head. You also lose a significant amount of heat through your hands and feet. In winter sailing gloves are important so that your fingers will react and move as you need them.

Upgrade your footwear to include non-slip, water-resistant shoes. Use them, combined with a thin pair of moisture-wicking socks to keep you feed warm while sailing.

Avoid Condensation

Condensation happens with water vapor hits a cold surface. The result is a damp, unpleasant winter environment. Improving insulation will reduce condensation.

You have easy options, like running a small dehumidifier at night if you are connected to show power.

You can also insulate your hull. This is a much bigger project so do your research before you start.

Winter Trips

Here are some tips to make your winter sailing more enjoyable successful.

Plan Short Passages

The longer you are out, the more likely crew and passengers will tire of the cold. With shorter daylight hours, safety is also a consideration.

Plan shorter passages in the winter or start pre-dawn to ensure you make it to your destination during the daylight.

Food and Drinks

Avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffeinated beverages, it is harder to recycle the fluid the more layers you have. Consider keeping a thermos full of hot chocolate to keep you warm from the inside. You can become dehydrated in the winter, so make sure you carry extra water and drink it regularly.

You should also keep plenty of warm snacks on hand. You and your crew will use more energy in the winter to keep warm. You will want to keep food handy and prepared so that you don’t have to take warm hands out of gloves.

Install a Cabin Heater

Cabin heaters make your winter sailing more pleasant and can help control condensation. Onshore you can use oil-filled radiators.

Away from marinas, there are 3 options for dry heat. Diesel heaters, from companies like Ebersp√§cher, Webasto or Wallas, use your boat’s tanks and batteries. You cannot run these all night they will drain your house batteries but they keep boats warm and dry.

Other heaters use kerosene, but you can also consider wood or coal-burning stoves. Just make sure you keep your carbon dioxide detectors in batteries.

Winter sailing can be fun and exciting. If you have never tried it, take a little time before you launch to ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable time. With a little prep, you can enjoy your favorite activity year-round.

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