Lesson 1: Clothing
It seems really obvious, probably the first thing you think of when you think of going to Norway, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada…………..bring really warms cloths!!! We did, we brought several warm hats each, tons of different types of gloves, lots of long underwear, winter clothing and several types of sailing gear but still we were all at one point or another humbled by the weather we were in.
One of the greatest challenges is that often on the boat you assume a position for hours at a time with occasional bursts of action to put a reef in, or shake one out, scan the horizon but regardless of those bouts of effort you are largely static. It is during these periods of time when the wind and damp cold began to penetrate the layers of your clothing.
We started off with four hour watches but after Iceland it became to cold to maintain body temperature for that long so we switched to three hour watches but had to wake the next person on watch half an hour before because it would take them that long to dress into the necessary gear. Often during a watch you would have to make several tips into the boat to top up on warmth grab another pair of gloves or a hat. There were marked differences in temperature when you were a mile from ice or 100 meters away. Often we could feel the ice before we ever saw it.
Bring multiple pairs of everything dampness and or sweat affects everything!
Gloves: Gloves may only last a few hours before you need to change them, bring packs of cheap glove liners that you can insert into the shell whenever they get moist, bring oversize water proof gloves as well as neoprene gloves for working in water
Boots: Normal sailing boots with heavy socks is not a long term viable solution. We found that at least two pairs of insulated water proof boots are needed to keep you nice and toasty warm during watches. A problem with insulated boots it that they take for ever to dry out one the insulation is wet and for next year we are installing air hoses for the Webasto heater to be able to dry out our boots.
Hats: Bring it all 70% of body heat escapes through the head, we had lots of warm hats on board but next time I am also brining earmuffs for under my hat or even a balaclava.
Foul weather gear: We all had two pairs of foul weather gear our normal offshore gear and our amazing hardcore Salus suits that kept us warm in the coldest of nights. However we found that we need a third option in between our foulies and Salus suit possibly a lighter weight flotation suit.
Underwear: we had both wool and synthetic longjohns but after trying the boat we left the synthetic ones in the bag. Sometimes we would go for weeks in the same warm underwear and it felt really nice to have organic material next to the body that didn’t start to smell after 24 hours.
Apart from that we did well with plenty of long underwear and wool sweaters, hoodies and mounds of warm socks.