Sailing gear is helpful, often necessary, and often specialized gear can get expensive. Below is a selection of gear that we recommend sailors consider, and notably we're only recommending gear that we've tried or keep in our sailing bag.... And, a few less expensive options (yes, we're on a sailing budget too)!
Note: the products we recommend are available on Amazon (the "GO»"): reasonable prices and widely available. If you want, for example, a $300 Saladini Rosolino utility knife, we can point you in the right direction (incl. a free one at the bottom of the Puget Sound). Otherwise, we look at Amazon for more generic and affordable options.
Life Jackets (PFD's)
"The best life jacket is the one you wear..."
Required, and we supply PFD's on our boats. But, it's nice to have your own... A personal PFD is [frankly] cleaner than a used one, and it's sized/equipped for your preferences and size.read more
What's important is that you wear a PFD! We can debate details with the best of them, but [really] just find something comfortable that you'll WEAR - that's most important.
We consider a decent knife and multi-tool as essential. Between the boat hardware and engine, there are gazillion parts and lines - each potentially problematic.read more
On knives, it's preferred that your utility knife is (a) sheep's foot blade (pointed blades can be dangerous on a moving deck), (b) straight edge (cuts line more cleanly than serrated), and (c) inexpensive. We've owned some extraordinary (and expensive) rigging knives, and most now sit on the bottom of the sea (dropping stuff happens...). However, a quality multi-tool is worth investing a bit more, and we support leatherman products because they're (a) excellent quality, (b) local (Portland), and (c) their warranty is fantastic.
Lights: another essential as you never know when you may be late sailing and after dark. And, even during the day it can be a challenge to rummage around a sailboat's interior compartments. A decent flashlight is critical in a COB situation, and if without running lights (or the battery dies) a prudent backup (it's legal to shine a flashlight on a sale). Simply, for about $20 - it's worth every penny when needed.
Misc: A few ideas, things sailors typically carry in their sail bag....
A classic and excellent rigging knife! Stainless, screw driver, marlin spike & shackle key. The blade isn't the best, but it's a tough knife. At about $20, it's well worth it.
By"tough", sailor's pry impossibly bound knots, twist corroded/locked shackles, and occasionally just bang stuff (often out of frustration). GO»
Sailing apparel, esp. foul weather gear, can get technical. With some exceptions, most outdoor gear works well enough, and so often a big investment isn't needed. If sunny...read more
Temperature & Water: it's usually about +10 degrees cooler on the water, and you're likely to get wet. Simply, landlubber rules don't apply on the water.
Footwear: non-marking and "swiped" soles are critical. Few things anger a skipper faster than black marks from shoes, and swiping (small slits that improve traction on a deck) makes a BIG difference when wandering around a boat!
Clothing: Cotton ain't king on the water (i.e., absorbs water). You want poly, or mixes, that won't retain moisture. Layering helps, and always bring extra layer (plenty of space on a boat).
Foulies: foul weather gear is where sailing becomes technical. Again, if you have decent outdoor gear, it should be OK. If investing in sailing foulies: (a) you go from intense activity to being prone for long periods of time, i.e., highly breathable "lightweight" gear isn't as important, (b) "gusseted" sleeves help - simply, neoprene cuffs that prevent water from rolling down your sleeve (not fun), (c) hoods, believe it or not, are fairly technical. A "deep" hood is often better, and there's a "owl" type hood wherein you can cinch the hood so only your eyes are visible. Collars are also much bigger, again protecting your face from spray and cold. and (d) pockets: sailing jackets are designed to integrate with PFD's.... And, so on - a gazillion details when you're standing watch for hours on end.
Fabrics: modern, high-tech fabrics are GREAT! Breathable and lightweight. But, don't underestimate that wool sweater in closet - often, wool is one of the best fabrics on the water. Virgin wool, especially, is fantastic in cool weather: repeals water, retains warmth when wet, and is 100% natural.
The Gill Coast Jacket is a good all-around sailing jacket for about $175-$200. Features such as fluorescent hood, inner cuff seals, pockets that drain, reflective patches and fleece hand pockets really help when in foul weather. The hood's not as deep as we'd like, but a minor detail. GO»