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From the Cruising Fleet Captain

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Norman Plotkin
Cruising Captain 2019-2023

As the weather cools and we look forward to Fall and Winter sailing, it is nice to remember how best to enjoy sailing when it is cold outside.  Growing up in South Florida, I never considered sailing in cold weather and much prefer the tropics and hot summer days. But living and sailing in Atlanta, I now have a new perspective about sailing in winter.  A few years ago, I found Starcatcher, my Catalina 28 Mii lying on the hard in Maine for sale.  This 20-year-old Catalina only had 298 hours on her engine!! That was because they only sail their boats up there a few weeks out the entire year!! I was reminded about how lucky we are in the South to be able to enjoy sailing all year round.  In Maine, they put their boats in the water in late June and pull them out for the winter in mid-September.  We, however, can enjoy year-round sailing on our lake.

Why sail in the winter on our lake?  Several good reasons. It is cool and sometimes very cold.  But there is usually more wind than in the summer and there are few if any power boats to make wakes and noise.  And our lake is very pretty in the winter. We are fortunate that there are many winter days when the sun shines, the temps are in the 50s and the breeze is nice but light.

Here are a few tips about sailing on our lake in winter that may make you more comfortable and the experience more enjoyable:

1. Cotton is NOT your friend.  Cotton garments do not wick. They absorb moisture and make you feel colder.  Best to wear synthetic wicking fabrics.

2. Layer up.  A good base ware is very important. Gill, REI and other outfitters carry an assortment of high-quality wicking base wear. But you don't have to spend a fortune to obtain good quality base ware. Several big box discount chains sell very good base ware. COSTCO for example, this time of the year stocks a brand they call "Heat" that is very reasonable.

3. When it is very cold (for me that is any day below 50 degrees when the wind is blowing and the sun is not shining), add more layers. Base wear underneath (both top and bottoms), then a heavy shirt, then sweater, then a jacket or heavy winter foul weather gear if it is wet out (go to this link).

4. If it is very cold out (below 40 degrees for me) I will wear two base wear layers, a thin overshirt (not cotton), shirt, real wool sweater and then a heavy jacket.

5. You lose a good percentage of your body heat through your head. Good winter head gear is very important. And if the wind is up or it is very cold, I add a Balaclava to cover my ears and face and neck. (Google "Winter Head Cover")

6. Fingers and toes get very uncomfortable in winter on a boat.  A heavy pair of sailing gloves is a must.  If it's very cold I add a thin hand silk liner under my gloves. For my feet, I found several vendors on the internet that sell thin socks woven with metal threads that keep my feet and toes very toasty.  I wear these thin socks under a pair of thick real wool socks. (Here are links to: thermal socks and gloves).

7. Remember to always wear a PFD in winter.  Our lake water temperature does get colder in winter.  I always wear a PFD when I sail in winter.  

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