The Intrepid Adventures of Wanderlustsailor: How to Keep Warm While Sailing

How to keep warm while sailing

A sailing holiday is a wonderful alternative to staying in a hotel. It allows you to see a lot more of your chosen destination but also to relax and explore in a way that wouldn’t be possible on land. However, there are practical elements about sailing that new sailors especially sometimes forget about. One of these is staying warm on the boat. Read this post by regular guest blogger and full-time sailor Steph, offering practical tips and advice on how to keep warm while sailing. Follow Steph’s adventures on Instagram here. Read her post on how to keep warm while sailing below.

I am an extremely cold person.

I don’t mean cold in a mean, heartless, nasty, psychopathic, cruel sort of way (at least, I try quite hard not to be), I am cold in the annoying, shivering, pathetic, perpetually whining about the temperature sort of way.

How to keep warm while sailing

I go through life constantly repelling people with icy handshakes; carting small, portable heaters around with me; spending 94% of the year wearing industrially-thick stockings and woolen coats; and requiring a hot water bottle almost daily at the office sort of way. I have entertained the possibility that I am related to the lizard genus on more than one occasion. I like nothing better than spending the morning hours soaking up sunshine up on deck while my reptile blood slowly warms up enough for me to function.

How to keep warm while sailing

I tell you this so you may understand my full meaning, when I say my least favourite part of sailing is getting cold. Frozen, icy, failing to conquer Everest, Jack’s final scene in Titanic sort of cold.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment”

That old adage… Only it’s not quite true is it? Any sailor (amateurs like myself especially) is perfectly aware that no matter how good or expensive your gear is, Mother Nature can and will always be relied upon to throw a total wobbly.

What IS true is that your levels of “I’m having such a lovely time” enjoyment while being smashed for hours by behemoth dumper waves in a sleety storm tend to be inextricably linked with how well dressed and prepared for it you happen to be.

When I sail I am SO prepared for bad weather. You will not find explorers cruising Antarctica wearing more layers than I do just for a casual harbour excursion. Heed my advice and you shall never again suffer from knights-of-the-night’s-watch-Winter-is-coming kind of cold while sailing.

How to keep calm while sailing

Advice for cold sailors: Get the right materials on you – yesterday:

We’ll deal with the cold in a minute, but first you have to focus your efforts on keeping the water out. Avoid lovely warm, natural fibres for your outer layer and go for synthetic, man-made, waterproof materials instead. I used to be a big fan of making like a sheep with multiple woolly layers until I realised woolen clothes take on very different and unwelcome qualities when they have been saturated in seaspray for three days straight. (They smell like dog. Bad, rank, dog.)

How to keep warm while sailing

Pretty pleased with my brand new foulies. Looking good – feeling WARM!

How to keep warm while sailing

That grin is because I’m warm AND have an amusing butt-flap in my coastal trousers – does it get any better than this?

I love my GUL Women’s Vigo Coastal Jacket and GUL Women’s Vigo Coastal Trousers (with a drop seat butt-flap because I am 8 years old and find it hilarious as well as actually rather useful). You can buy them online with loads of helpful measurements. I find this a welcome change from the one-size-fits-all or none-at-all stance most chandleries seem to have on women’s sailing gear. Go for a larger size if you are anything like me and intend on bulking out with a metric tonne of layers underneath.


Even the fanciest and most expensive foulies are only designed to break the wind and keep you dry. If you rely on these alone you will almost certainly freeze to death. With a totally air/water-tight outer layer firmly secured, underneath is where the all the good warm stuff happens. I like to pile on about 18 layers of polyprop, thermals, multiple pairs of socks, titanium wetsuit vest (from my surfing days), a selection of Mr Fiance’s favourite sweatshirts and whatever else I can find (napkins, tea-towels, etc.). Once satisfied with the number of layers on I like to squeeze a Rooster Pro Aqua Fleece over them to pack everything down, before donning my coastal gear over the whole lot.

How to keep calm while sailing

So sexy. Aqua-fleece is the best. You might think all this would keep me warm. You would be wrong.

But I’ve been on deck for 14 hours straight now because I get sea-sick if I go inside whilst taking multiple waves over and now it’s midnight and everything is ice and I’m miserable:

For moments like these (I experience them often) don’t be ashamed about investing in a super cute mini hot water bottle. I won’t judge. If you are really susceptible to the cold this is a total happiness-saver. I tuck one somewhere amongst the many layers under my sailing jacket to help keep my chest and core warm. The only downside is it can be dangerous boiling and pouring boiling water in rough conditions. It’s not a bad idea to prep a thermos of hot water while it’s still calm. This can then be used for comfort favourite lovelies such as hot water bottle top-ups and emergency cups of coffee.

How to keep warm while sailing

I own and adore this water bottle because it’s super cute, snuggly-soft, AND has a penguin on it. Less cute ones will work almost as well though.

Another good idea is to stockpile a bunch of reusable sodium-acetate heat pads. Aside from coming in a variety of awesome animal shapes (I have a panda currently but am on the lookout for a dinosaur-shaped pad) and being completely awesome science-fun to use, they’re completely excellent at warming up cold hands / fingers. You can also place them on your wrists or throat (anywhere with large veins) and they will warm up the blood circulating through the body. You’ll be roasty toasty in no time at all.

Keep warm and happy sailing!

If you’ve enjoyed this post on how to keep warm while sailing, make sure to take a look at Steph’s previous post on fixing your boat on a budget. If you’re keen to go sailing this year, take a look at our best discounted boat rentals over the next three months.