Clothing for Arctic Sailing

Sailing in high lattitudes is very similiar to hiking or c limbing at altitude. The weather changes fast and sometimes without much prediction. Preparation pays off, as long as you know what to expect.

During our high lattitude sailing we found out there were two main types of situations: wet cold and dry cold. Although heat stroke situations could arise they never seemed to for us. Also most yachters are more prepared to handle over abundance of heat than lack of it.

This is what most people are used to dealing with except that the temperature can be somewhat lower, add wind chill factors to that and the situation can get nasty very quickly. With a northerly blowing arctic air down over a snowfield on an adjacent slope, then picking up what moisture it can while crossing the water to where you are, you must be prepared before you step outside. Each person is different and requires different levels of insulation. We started with

  • inner socks
  • thermal over socks
  • usual rubber waterproof boots, we did see other boats with large insulated boots of the type used to operate heavy machinery in the winter
  • thermal underwear
  • pants
  • normal sowepette rain pants, we had insulated rain pants but never used them
  • comfortable inner clothes
  • 2 fleece sweaters
  • Mustang floater jackets which have a neoprene inner and a nylon outer layer, the neoprene is intended to provide bouyancy should you go overboard but also serves well to thermally insulate
  • scarf
  • lined hat sold for powerd skiing, they have ear flaps that come down and join under the chin with velcro
  • gloves

Dry Cold

As there is no water flying around to stimulate the automatic preparations, this situation is somewhat more dangerous for boaters. We used essentially the same gear as for the wet cold but used insulated booties for foot wear. These are sold in hiking and climbing stores and are intended for use in the evenings when mountaineers wish to walk around in something a little less cumbersome than full climbing or skiing boots. The boots have either down or one of the synthetic substitutes for filling and are very good insulation. Also we used Helly Hansen fleece gloves which have a nylon outer lining. These gloves are no use in wet conditions as they soak through very quickly and also are no use for handling ropes as they will quickly wear out. But for stopping the wind completely and containing the body warmth from your hands they can’t be beat.

  • If possible try and cycle in and out of the wind. The wind is merciless at these lattitudes and carries enough chilling capacity to severely compromise anyone left out in for long enough. Simply going below or sitting behind a sprayhood makes a large difference.
  • We cut a piece of sleeping mat for a mat to stand on for the person tending the wheel, this makes a large difference at these temperatures no matter what foot wear is used.
  • Most winter activities involve movement (e.g. skiing, hiking, skating), this is where high lattitude sailing differs. Standing on watch at the wheel for hours is about the worst thing for maintaining body temperature. Walking around the boat is not really an option which means spelling each other off so one can duck in out of the wind is more important than one might initially appreciate.

All the clothing we used is available through chandleries with the exception of those items which are normally found in hiking or climbing stores.


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