Rule #1: Always Bring a Change of Clothes
You never know when you might experience a capsize. It doesn't happen often, but it usually happens when you least expect it, and it's guaranteed to happen at least once during the introductory course. It can be a long cold ride home, if all you have is dripping wet clothing.
Rule #2: It's Always Cooler by the Lake
Sailing aside, just lounging around by the waterside often requires an extra layer of clothing. While this is a blessing during the hot summer months, it makes for cool conditions during the spring, late summer, and fall. Regardless of what the weather is like at home, always bring an extra sweater or jacket down to the club.
If you are going sailing for the first time, come prepared. Unlike some other sports, sailing only requires simple outfitting. Much of what you need is already in your closet. Turtlenecks, T-shirts, fleece tops, socks, wool hats, sun hats, sun screen, sun glasses, shorts, pants of quick dry material, rain gear. Some folks have so much gear that it boggles the mind. However, with a few basics, you can be well-dressed for any occasion. For cooler weather, fleece or marino wool tops (wool insulates even when wet!)
Change Room Protocols
While you may wish to carry some things back and forth from home, most of your new wardrobe can be safely left in the Clubhouse change rooms.
Change room Protocol #1:
Most sailing gear looks pretty much the same, so we recommend that you bring your own sturdy, labelled hanger to hang up your gear. Label everything with your initials or name.
Change room Protocol #2:
If you buy expensive flashy gear, or if you are not using the club regularly, you should take your gear home with you. Stuff left unattended for long periods of time does tend to suffer abuse or walk away.
Personal Flotation Device
A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is a lifejacket shaped like a vest, with a zipper up the front. The Club does have a few regulation lifejackets kicking around, but they are not all that comfortable, and are somewhat bulky. We strongly recommend that you purchase your own PFD - you'll be more comfortable, and less likely to get caught on boat parts during delicate maneuvers – not a situation you want to be in as your skipper calls for a tack.
PFDs can be found in all kinds of styles, and can cost from $20 up to $200 for specialized models. The main thing is to buy a Coast Guard-approved model which allows for mobility in the shoulders and arms. The basic $19.99 Buoy-O-Boy model is all you need, and it can be found at Canadian Tire. If you like flashy gear, you can visit the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), or do the tour of sailing and outdoor stores to find a flashier model. After a few years of sailing, some members upgrade to kayak-style PFDs, which are less bulky and have pockets and places to clip things.
There are several types of footwear to fit any budget. The cheapest is old running shoes but these will get wet and slippery in the boat. Non-slip boots will keep you upright and your feet dry. A further refinement is wetsuit boots or "hiking" boots (specialized for sailing with reinforced arch area - helping you "hike" or hang over the side of the boat to keep it flat). Shopping sources can be MEC, Fogh, a marine outfitter, or a windsurfing shop. Something to consider buying next year or mid-season if you see a good sale.
While most gloves do little to keep your hands warm (this is only a consideration in the early or late season), they do protect your hands from the sheets (sailing term for ropes) and help maintain your grip. Specialized sailing gloves are leather and fingertip-less with Velcro closures. Simple substitutes include cheap cycling gloves, rubber gloves, or cutoff gardening gloves. For those with chronically cold hands, neoprene gloves may be purchased from windsurfing shops, sailing shops, and some outdoor stores.
Many of us wear cheap cycling gloves or grippy palmed work gloves.
Sunglasses can save your life on a bright day. Reflection and glare can cause a nasty headache and make seeing obstacles difficult. Remember, sunglasses or prescription glasses can't swim, so wear a harness strap ("chums", "croakies") or you'll make a sacrifice to the eyewear-eating monster at the bottom of the lake.
Hats can keep your head warm or shelter you from the sun. But they can also blow away, so wear something appropriate.
Sunscreen and chapstick will protect your skin and lips from the elements, especially the sun and the wind.
Wetsuits and Other Fancy Stuff
Any large sailing shop has lots of expensive gear, none of which you really need to start out with. You will see other sailors with wetsuits and even dry suits. For most conditions, they are warm but not a necessity.
However, if you are considering the earliest Beginner's Classes starting in May, then we strongly recommend buying a wetsuit.
We do not recommend SCUBA-type all-over heavy wetsuits for sailing. A lighter "Farmer John" or "Farmer Jane" type of wetsuit provides greater mobility by leaving the arms free, while keeping the all-important body core warm. These types of wetsuits are often sold by outdoor stores such as the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), and cost $80-$100. Models sold at sailing and windsurfing shops may be more expensive. "Shorty" wetsuits (short sleeved, short-legged) are also sold at the MEC, as well as at sailing, windsurfing, or water-skiing shops, and usually cost much less.
Long or short? The important thing is to have a wetsuit which keeps your body core warm, and either type of wetsuit will do this. Shorty models will save you some money, while full-length wetsuits appeal to those who really feel the cold, sail intensively in early or late season, or race in all conditions. Smaller people, including many women, generally feel the cold more and probably benefit from a full-length wetsuit. On the other hand, full-length wetsuits are too bulky and hot during the summer, while a shorty can provide extra reassurance on unusually cool summer days.
Dry suits, which can be really important in extremely cold conditions, really aren't necessary for the kind of conditions we generally sail in at Westwood - and they get downright uncomfortable when the weather unexpectedly turns warm.
Foul Weather Gear
Yes, the weather can be foul. Plastic or rubberized rain suits (usually in banana-yellow) are much more effective than a nylon windbreaker, especially when a wave comes splashing into the boat. They will keep you dry and protect you from the wind. Consider coverall pants rather than a gathered waist as the former will stop cold water from getting down your pants (not a pleasant sensation). Wear loose shorts or cutoff sweatpants over rain pants or wetsuits to prevent rips and tears.
Keep in mind that sailing is an active sport. Do not spend your money on the bottom of the line cheap vinyl rainwear. It tears easily and will not last as long as your sailing course.
Many of us choose to wear "Wetskins" foul weather gear. They are a good compromise on price and durability, and last forever. They can usually be purchased for about $70 - $90 for a matching hooded jacket and coverall/bib pants. LeBaron Sports usually has a good selection. Sometimes you can find them at Canadian Tire. If Costco has them, they're usually cheapest.
A reasonable and cheaper second choice is MEC rainwear, but they don't seem to have a coverall pant.
Another good option is Binnacle.com, which offers a decent selection and ships fast to the GTA.
What not to Wear at Westwood
Blue blazers with white nautical caps
High heels (dangerous... walking across the boards of our deck can be injurious)
Jacket/Tie (it's okay to arrive that way, but change quickly... people point and laugh)
Remember, we're not a yacht club... :-)
Where to Buy
Marine Stores & Chandleries: