Tartan Ten Ratty

Montrose Harbor

Chicago, Illinois

There are two ways to incorrectly outfit yourself with the wrong personal gear:

  1. Not enough of the right stuff
  2. Too much stuff
  • Racing is a team sport, performed outdoors, without "rain delays."
  • You'll want to have appropriate outdoor sports gear. Best is designed for sailing gear. If you don't want to invest in foul weather gear right away, probably the closest is gear for camping, or distance bicycle racing, with some qualifications.
  • Sailing Gear
    1. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
      1. The skipper is required to have a PFD for everyone on the boat.
      2. Personal Flotation Devices PFDs
      3. Inexpensive foam PFDs are fine but they aren't the best. They are bulky, hence somewhat movement restricting. They are also hot in the summer. They will be of no help unless you are wearing one.
      4. Good quality foam PFDs are perfectly suitable for racing. Dinghy sailors sometimes have non-Coast Guard approved "bouyancy aids" that provide flotation, but won't turn you right side up. They are compact, so as to not get in the way when racing a dinghy. Probably not the best for offshore racing. A Coast Guard approved, full-time floating, foam PFD would be a good choice. For serious offshore work, you may want a separate harness.
      5. Inflatable PFDs are more likely to be worn and the best ones have other advantages.
        1. Manual Inflatable. Only inflate when you pull a lanyard. Not much good if you can't pull the lanyard. Sort of OK if you're doing something like swimming to clean the bottom. It won't inflate until you need it.
        2. Belt pack. Forget it. Only lulls you into a false sense of security. You not only have to pull the lanyard, you have to unpack it and put it on before you pull the lanyard.
        3. Automatic Inflatable.
          1. Water Actuated -- A "capsule" of some kind dissolves rapidly when it gets wet. Cheaper than the other kind (below). If you are wearing it, it counts as a Coast Guard approved PFD for the boat count. Disadvantage is that if you get hit by a wave or something, it can inflate when you neither need it nor want it.
          2. Hydrostatically Actuated -- requires water pressure. So it will inflate only when you are in the water, like a meter below. These are the best.
          3. Both --
            1. Have a recharge cylinder. If you use it once, it won't inflate again. Particularly if you are on a distance race, if you need it a second time, you want it recharged. Coordinate with others in the crew and the skipper. If all are compatible, maybe the crew only needs a couple.
            2. Harnesses can be integral with any inflatable. The harness is like a seat belt. You use it to clip on to the boat with a tether so that in adverse conditions you won't go overboard, or if you do you will be closely attached to the boat and it will be easy for your shipmates to get you back on deck.
            3. If you are short in stature, check the specifications. You want the harness to grab you across your rib cage, not your lower back.
            4. Skippers will often have enough hydrostatic inflatables for the crew. But if you bring your own, you will always have the one you like, designed and adjusted to fit you, and it will be one less thing to concern the skipper. You'll be an asset.
      6. We go through this detailed discussion of PFDs first because safety is paramount. In statistics for 2014 there were nine drowning fatalities involving sailboats big enough to have engines ("Auxiliary Sailboats", p. 65) where the victims did not wear PFDs. There were zero drownings wearing PFDs. We want everyone in the second category.
    2. Weather gear
      1. Foul weather gear for wet weather
        1. "Foulies" typically bib trousers and a weather proof jacket with hood and ways to tighten the sleeves. Sailing foulies are durable. Some of the camping or bicycling rain suits won't last and probably don't have the overlapping bib trousers and jacket, so the waves can sneak in. Spring for breathable Gore-Tex or equivalent treatment. This is a sport and you'll be sweating and wet on the inside if it isn't brethable fabric.
        2. Spray tops are for warm weather, close to shore, day sailing. Foulies will be too much, both uncomfortable and extra weight. If you're out for a couple of hours on a summer day, and of course you've already checked the weather, will you really need full foul weather gear?
        3. Dry Suit. For "frostbite" sailing in the Spring, when the ice first leaves the harbor and the water is in the 30s, a necessary survival tool. But a Gore Tex drysuit on an offshore, overnight race, even in the Summer, can have advantages, if you have one. Here we're talking top quality equipment, although price is comparable to top quality foulies.
      2. Cold Weather
        1. It can get cold and wet out on the Lake, way later in the season than you'd think, if you've only gone to the beach. Since "wet" is part of the equation, don't count on cotton for warmth, because when it is wet, it is not warm. Good old wool insulates even when wet. Modern, synthetic, "techinical" fabrics also can both insulate and wick moisture away from the body.

          Here's where that camping or cycling gear can often be dual purpose. Wool or fleece tops and bottoms are at home on the water. Under your foulies or drysuit they can really keep you in good shape. Layering with wicking inner layer, fleece and the waterproof outer layer is the best.

        2. Hat and gloves can be invaluable. Anyone who does outdoor activities already knows you lose most body heat through your head. A "watch cap" is so-named because you wear it on watch, on shipboard.
      3. Summer
        1. Hat -- sun protection
        2. Tops -- sun protection; wicking;
        3. Bottoms -- you don't want your shorts to foul on deck fittings, but you do want enough pockets to keep your knife, and sail ties, tape, etc. that you need to do your job on the boat
        4. Gloves -- sailing gloves protect your hands from blister causing chafe from line handling. Fingerless gloves give you the dexterity to tie and untie knots. Bike gloves look similar, but the fingers are too short for chafe protection when you are feeding a line past your index finger. In appropriate conditions, you might need gloves for warmth, too.
    3. Footwear
      1. Slip resistant, especially when wet
      2. Non-marring -- rubber won't rub off on deck, and sand and grit won't scratch the deck. Consider keeping your sailing shoes packed and only used on the boat.
      3. Reliably attached to your feet -- no flip flops
      4. Protect your toes -- no open toed sandals, consider Keens or shoes
      5. Sea boots -- see above for foul weather gear. Waterproof, warm and non-skid. Consider, though advanced laminated socks from Hanz or SealSkinz. These give you near sea boot warmth and waterproofness, with lighter weight and you can wear them with your regular sailing shoes.
    4. Knife -- carry a light weight, no rust, one hand deployable knife -- a one hand opening pocket knif or a fixed blade knife. When it is time to cut a fouled line, make a quick repair with the right length lashing, free yourself from a fouled tether it is not the time to wish you had a knife. A folding marlinespike and/or shackle key is nice to have.
    5. Light -- if there's a chance it might get dark while you are out, have a personal light. Best is a headlamp with both white and red lens to preserve night vision. Borrowing the boat's searchlight to look for something you dropped below is disfavored.
    6. Sunglasses -- UV protection and glare protection. They tend to fly overboard so have those wire temples or attach a lanyard.
    7. Cosmetics, medicines
      1. If it will be sunny bring sunscreen.
      2. Any other skin protection -- lip balm, hand creme, whatever you need if you will be in sunny, rainy or cold weather (or all three in one day)
      3. Seasickness -- lots of people don't get seasick. If you do, figure out what works for you and if you need to take it a certain time before getting underway, do so.
      4. Other medicine -- sometimes schedules get screwed up by the wind, or the lack of wind. Have any regular medicines. And if you need regular medicine, let the skipper and/or other crew members know about your needs.
    8. Hydration and nutrition
      1. Bring a water bottle and water
      2. Bring sports snacks/nutrition bars if you need them for a sports event that will be several hours long.
      3. Figure out if you need lunch or dinner.
      4. As with medicine, if you have any special nutrition needs, make sure you advise the skipper and/or other crew and have things covered.
      5. For distance races, coordinate for nutrition and refrigeration. Grabbing a couple of pizzas on the way to the boat for an 18 hour sail may not be the best solution.
  • Too Much Gear. We're racing. Too much stuff is usually bad because it is in the way weight makes us go slower. Don't pack your foulies and seaboots for a summer afternoon race where you're near shore anyway, and if weather is really nasty the race will be abandoned anyway. Have a change of clothes if you come to race after work. But it's better to get a locker and leave your gear there. One skipper, on a long distance race, mandated only one pair of footwear. If you wanted seaboots, up to you, but then no shoes. See above for Sealskinz/Hanz for the solution.
  • dbrezina@rcn.com

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