What to Bring & Wear
You are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime – a Pacific crossing! You’ve read the books, attended seminars but one question remains – what to wear? The following information should help you in your preparation for the West Marine Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii or any extended ocean passage from cooler waters to a warm climate.
The first two or three days out of San Francisco, boats are generally on a wet beam reach. The weather is often typical of the City: windy, foggy and cool. The main goal will be to stay warm and dry – layering is the key here. Clothing should consist of full waterproof foul weather gear with a good collar, boots, warm socks, warm long underwear, warm pullover top, a warm hat and waterproof gloves. Insulating layers should be very heavy weight polypro or capilene wicking fleece. Doublehanders may want to consider dry suits. Each crewmember should have a safety harness, tether, life jacket, personal strobe, personal flares, and a whistle, all of which should be worn 100% of the time while on deck. Off watch crewmembers should remove foul weather gear before climbing in their berths, as hypothermia is a real risk here. Keep foulies and safety gear together, neat and nearby so you can get into them and on deck at a moment’s notice.
After the first few days the cool weather and steeper swells should abate and you should be getting more warm sunny days, and the heavier gear will be less necessary. Fleece sweaters with a light jacket will usually be all you need for night watches. Now the main goal will be to stay comfortable and avoid sunburns and boat butt. There are few places to get out of the sun while on deck. Direct sunlight and reflections from the water, sails, and light-colored decks all contribute to possible sunburns. Waterproof sunscreen and lip balm with a high SPF rating for all exposed skin combined with a lightweight long sleeve shirt, lightweight supplex pants, a hat with a good brim and a pair of good sunglasses with croakies will become your best friends in this UV intensive environment. Avoid sitting on wet cushions: if your bottom does get wet, change into dry clothes right away. If you don’t want to get a flaming case of boat butt, (ouch) keep it dry! When choosing warm weather clothing remember – synthetics work best. Do not take down jackets or sleeping bags. Limit your cotton clothing to perhaps long sleeve sun shirts. Both down and cotton absorb moisture and hold it, increasing your risk of hypothermia. Your best choice would be some type of synthetic fleece for anything worn next to your skin as well as additional insulation layers. Supplex is a synthetic material which sheds water and is extremely lightweight. Shorts, long pants and hats made of this material are a favorite for warm weather. You will need a medium to light weight synthetic sleeping bag for the first few nights, then you will be plenty warm with a sheet and light blanket for the balance of the trip. Don’t forget a comfortable pillow.
How to Pack
Pack your clothing in separate waterproof bags. Ziplock Freezer bags work well to keep things organized and dry. Try to squeeze out all the air before sealing the bags to save space. Bring along extra bags for your dirty clothing; it will help keep your gear bag and the boat smelling better. You will usually not be doing any laundry on the passage so plan your clothing accordingly.
Other Personal Gear to Consider
A self-illuminating wristwatch with an easy to work alarm is a must. A rigging knife should have a lanyard to attach to your gear. A personal pen type flashlight with a red lens cover is essential for night watches. A headlight for working on the foredeck at night is very useful as well. If you wear corrective lens glasses, bring an extra pair. A second pair of sunglasses is a good idea as well. If you like music, a personal player with earphones and plenty of extra batteries is nice. If you like to read, bring along a couple of good paperbacks and a journal keep a record of your passage. Don’t forget your camera with plenty of rolls of film.
You should have a bag with basic over-the-counter medical items like Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Imodium, decongestants, antacids, Neosporin cream and anything else that you might need. If you take prescription medication, get new prescriptions filled and allow for a 30-day supply.
You can get travel size personal care items to help keep the space down. Things like shampoo, toothpaste, unscented deodorant, can all be fit nicely into a small ziplock freezer bag.
All of your gear should fit into one sailing gear bag and one clothing duffel bag. The only exception should be for your sleeping bag and pillow. Space will be at a premium and no one likes a cluttered boat. The goal here is not bring along extra things that you might not need. You can ship over a bag with your Hawaii gear and it will be waiting for you when you arrive.
I hope this helps you to get a good overview of what to wear and the items you will need to bring along. Stay warm, dry, comfortable and safe.
This article was updated for this Race Guide by: Richard Leevey. It was originally written by: Leanne Burr for the 1996 Race Guide.