Cold Water Sailing--Wetsuit Gear

I intend to sail in late fall and early spring when the water is want to be ready if we go over to right her. Our lake is at 1850 ft elevation and freezes over in the winter often.
I would like to know what wetsuit thickness rating/brand model do you use up north or in cold coastal water California....the 2/3 or 3/4 or full 3 mm thickness, etc. I have a connection to get Oneill so very interested in that brand. Also can get Gill at Masthead at reduced price. Also what boots and gloves do you wear.
Thanks a bunch.

You may want to consider a baggy drysuit, if you are really concerned with getting wet. The other option is to dress like a paddler. Many wear a "farmer john" type wetsuit, which covers from your ankle up to you shoulders, but not your arms. Then wear a polyester fleece, that has a fast draining, fast drying fabric and wear a paddling jacket over it. Under it, I would wear some nice warm fast-wicking synthetic long underwear. Patagonia, LLBean, and most of the sailing outfitters make gear that would tend to work well.

In a Scot, you are mostly dry 99.99% of the time. You want really fast drying, windproof, and easy-to-move-in clothing that is comfortable. In a capsize, you are going to get wet, and cold in almost anything. The gear I have described above will keep you toasty in cold air and comfortable.

Wear your life jacket, be sure to have bow bag installed, and sail when there are other folks around. Wear a warm, fast drying, hat, as a lot of heat leaves through your head. If you forget the hat, you will have cold hands and feet. You lose a lot of energy as that heat escapes through your head.

Where we live in PA, the water is MUCH colder in spring than right now. Fall is generally not when people get in trouble with water temp. It's spring, when really cold water and eagerness to push the season combine, that you have to be careful.

Have fun,

Phil Scheetz
FS 4086

Phil, why do you say that a dry suit will not keep warm in event of capsize? I was considering dry suits for my wife and I so we could go out earlier next season in the spring. But this is new territory. please advise.

Drysuits do keep you nice and warm, and if you are using a loose fitting type, you can layer under it.

A drysuit is great if you are at all concerned about capsizing or getting wet on a really cold day, and you have any likelihood of either being immersed for a long period, or getting wet and then not being able to return to shore relatively quickly. This could be the case on an early season weekday, with few other boats.

If you are sailing big open water, and are worrying about capsize, a drysuit is the safest bet. I was referring to sailing a Scot, on a lake.

Scots don't capsize that easily
Scots are relatively dry sailing
I sail on a lake where I can sail back to the dock in minutes
I tend to consider the "who's around" factor.

If there are a bunch of other sailors, like for a race, and the chase boat is out, I have very little concern that I am going to get stuck in the water for an extended time. I capsized my Scot this fall, and I was able to get it righted very quickly with only the water from the wet spinnaker and wet sailors in the boat.

As such, the unknown of how easily the boat can be righted is behind me. I have rescued many hypothermic catamaran sailors at our lake over the years, who were turtled and stuck on the bottom. If you are looking for insurance on safety, the drysuit is a safe bet. Frank, you may have misunderstood me. The gear I describe gives great freedom of movement is warm, etc. but a drysuit is definitely warmer if you are actually in the water.

Phil Scheetz
FS 4086

what a tragedy. thank you for sharing such news with us that we might learn.

Well today I ordered an Oneill Heat 4/3 wetsuit through my son who has a connection with Oneill. I asked some surf shops in California which suit would be good for my use in daysailing in cold water conditions and they recommended this model for flexibility, durability, and economy (does not have all the frills or technical stuff like other Oneill models). I am also getting gloves and boots. The local college sailing club goes out training in early spring and late fall and require wetsuits of members if water and air temp are less than 130 deg...they also have a motor chase boat ready if needed to help. I support/assist this club. I teach the public safe boating class so always profess safety first and once myself capsized in 1982 in cold water and lost use of my arms from hypothermia and had to be rescued. I had 3 kids on top of the hull while I was in the water waiting for help. I was not very knowledgable and invinciple at that younger age. After that incident, I bought a $25 used wetsuit full of holes which I filled with shoe-goo...didn't even fit but usable. Was poor as a church mouse then. My first sailboat cost $250.

Do you know the circumstances of the guys who capsized in Maine. What type of sailboat was it and the weather conditions and their experience?