How to stay warm when sailing in the cold

I still remember our first sail trip up to Port Townsend. It was during the kids’ spring break in 2015. We set out in our first boat, the Aequus Aer, at about 5 a.m. in the morning to ride the tide 35 nautical miles north. 

I was at the helm with a warm hat and gloves on, a blanket wrapped around me and both my kids snuggled up nearby. By the time we got to PT, I was shivering and couldn’t fully warm up until I got into the marina showers that night.

I am one of those people who runs cold all the time. Plus, I have Raynaud’s syndrome. You might think I’d be inclined to take a break from cruising the Pacific Northwest between the months of October and April, but instead I’ve become all the more determined to make sailing a year-round activity for my family and me. 

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Why we got the boat we did

Our Nauticat 39. Finding a pilothouse sailboat became a priority for us because we wanted to be able to sail year-round in the Pacific Northwest even though I have Raynaud’s.

C and I decided three years ago to make our dream of sailing the world a real-world goal. At the time, we had the Aequus Aer, a 28-foot Pearson sloop that we used for family trips to other marinas in Puget Sound.

But to sail beyond the Sound, we needed a bluewater-ready boat. And the Aequus Aer just wasn’t set up to do that. So we started our search focusing primarily on boats over 35 feet to fit our family of growing kids, built to endure rough seas and with enough storage, water-carrying capacity and battery bank to allow us to spend at least a week or more away from shore power.

It was during this time that my lifelong struggle with cold feet and hands started to get tremendously worse. I developed Raynaud’s Phenomenon, a condition where the blood vessels constrict in my fingers and toes in response to cold.

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