Foulies to Keep You Dry
There are lots of ways to prepare for what Mother Nature tosses into your path. The trick is to find the right balance of comfort and price.
The latest trend in foul-weather gear is straightforward: Sailors want the best that technology can offer in jackets and pants, which means lighter fabrics that are more breathable and guaranteed waterproof.
What’s not so straightforward is deciphering the array of products, the brand-specific terminology, and the engineering and marketing logic behind it all.
Still, whether you’re a die-hard advocate of watertight P.V.C. or the ultimate in breathability, knowing what’s innovative and most appropriate for the way you sail is invaluable.
“People will go into a West Marine store and ask ‘What’s the best you’ve got?’” says Chuck Hawley, the company’s vice president of product information. “People have to be realistic about what they’re doing. If they’re not crossing oceans, there’s no reason for them to have ocean gear. They may imagine circumnavigating, but barely a third of them do. They buy the gear and think it’s overly restrictive, when they’ve just bought the wrong level of gear. The point is, you can overbuy foul-weather gear and sometimes it’s overkill for normal conditions.”
Making the rounds at boat shows, visiting with retailers, and interviewing manufacturers helped me understand important basics like application, material, and fit. These are the useful details you’ll need as you peruse catalogs, head to stores, and stroll through the boat shows on your search for your kit.
How Gear Works
Jerry Richards, national sales manager for Gill North America, elaborated on the main role of good foul-weather gear at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, last fall.
“The jacket isn’t designed to keep you warm. It’s designed to keep you dry,” he told me when I caught up with him at the Gill booth. “Staying warm is a byproduct. Ask yourself this question: Do you sail at night? The body struggles at 2 a.m. Remember, it’s the base layer and the fleece midlayer that will keep you warm, not the jacket.”
Essentially, once you determine an application—how you’ll use the gear—you’re ready to move on to matters like fit and durability and ultimately, warmth and comfort. When making choices, you’ll probably want garments that leave enough room for a base layer and a midlayer (see “Tips on Fit and Care” on page 84) while allowing you to move in typical on-deck positions such as grinding winches and handling sails.