How to Keep Warm Sailing in Spring

Booked an early season Voyage? How many jumpers should you pack?

My granny used to say

near cast a clout till May is out”

(rough translation, don’t cast off any clothing until June)….And she never went closer to the ocean than a walk on the seafront in her fur lined boot and Nora Batty tights.

Well down here in Cornwall we have been swimming in the sea in a bikini already….but we are rock hard and crazy. Lulled by Classic Sailing propaganda and the T shirts brigade in March, a few sailing guests were in for a brutal introduction to British Spring time with Arctic Easterly wind chill and gales last week…..

Here are Debbie’s top tips on ‘How to Keep Warm Sailing in Spring’

Agnes pilot cutter crew in Spring
Agnes pilot cutter crew in Spring

How to Keep Warm Sailing in Spring

1.    Sail a boat with blocks and tackles to pull

You signed up for an activity holiday, so lets move it baby. Go for plenty of moving around being useful and sailor like on big flat decks to keep you generating heat. You can only keep the heat in with clothing if you are warm to start with.

2.    Wear a woolen hat and bring two spares.

Gone are the days when this always meant itchy head. Try merino wool or chunky knits with fleece lining. Make sure they will stay on your head in a strong wind. Baseball hats are for baseball. Save your haircut till you come home or grow a beard.


3.    Protect your kidneys.

On a sailing holiday we go looking for the wind. It can whistle around your midriff or lower back if you are wearing low slung jeans. It might be ok for builders to wear jeans, but we can assure you there is no such thing as “fisherman’s bum.” They keep their kidneys covered at sea.

4.    Don’t forget the suntan lotion and sunglasses either.

It is very bright at sea, and Northerlies bring crystal clear air and high UV. A bikini moment is not impossible but unlikely. A wind tanned face and brown hands like Captain Poldark beats beetroot bank holiday look.

Spring weather can be like this at anchor
Spring weather can be like this at anchor

5.    Cut the windchill with strategic waterproofing.

This is a bit like the ‘cream or jam’ first argument for West Country Scones. Trousers or jacket first? You don’t have to do the full ‘Musto’ look as soon as the mate says prepare for sea. The ships salopettes (armpit high waterproof trousers) keep your core warm and still allow you to let off steam. Leave the jacket part till you have sweated all the sails up or it is actually raining. 


Spring weather can be like this too - we have had snow at Easter
UK Spring weather can be like this too – we have had snow at Easter

6.    Take lots of socks and a buff

Boots and thick socks with fleecy leggings are my favourite combination. You will never have time to dry wet socks unless make friends with the engine room or your vessel has a stove or radiators (Hildur, Tecla, Europa have radiators and Eda has a hot towel rail). A buff is a tubular bit of fabric which acts as a scarf without the bulk of long training knitwear. Check out our favourite ships Artist Claudia Myatt’s traditional fleet buff at

Buy a Claudia Myatt Buff from her website shop
Buy a Claudia Myatt Buff from her website shop


7.    How many jumpers then?

Blimey. I don’t know. I can never fit those Norwegian fisherman’s jumpers in my rucksack. Think I’d rather pinch one off a Norwegian fisherman. For voyages 3-30 days I take 3 long sleeved thermals, 2 thin merino wool jumpers and one physiologically chunky item that might make me look like Shackleton or Bjork, depending on my mood, or the location.

8.    Hands are waterproof.

If you handle wet ropes with gloves on they get wet and if you take them off to get into the chocolate biscuit packet then you can’t get them back on. Glowing red hands from pulling ropes is a bit of an aquired taste, so if you are happier wearing gloves then try cheap ski gloves this time of year as leather sailing gloves are freezing. If you have hands hard enough to pull ropes then I personally think you are better off without them. Shove your hands up your sleevies to keep warm between jobs, or stuff them in those lovely fluffy pockets that many sailing jackets have. Keep your dry gloves for holding onto the ships wheel or tiller. 

snow ball fights are rare
snow ball fights are rare

9.    Nightime Hottie

Filling 12 hot water bottles from the kettle on a Brixham Trawler is an all night job that is unlikely to be popular, so if you really feel the cold you might need to offer to help with the supper washing up and sneak your hottie into the galley. In bed baby doll pyjamas might not be your best option. If you see the skipper up in the night they may look fully dressed in an outfit that you remember from yesterday…..Best not to ask if they sleep in their clothes. They may just have check pyjamas.

10. Don’t wear your boots in bed

Its bad manners and it hints that you are seasick and past caring

Also don’t leave them on deck to dry. My friend Ester treated herself to a posh pair of leather sailing boots when she was promoted to mate. She left them on deck in a bucket to air on a cloud free night, only to find a sleep walking school kid had gone on deck and accidently pee-ed in them. 

Below decks is your home – so the idea is to keep it civilised, warm and dry. This takes effort from everyone not to sit down in wet oilskins, or leave them dripping on a hook by your bed.

Grayhound saloon - Treat the interior as a home - keep it dry
Grayhound saloon – keep it dry

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