Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Staying warm at 32F

We went windsurfing today at Skaket Beach, despite temperatures that barely made it above the freezing point. But after not going yesterday and missing a perfect day, staying home again would have been too hard. I ended up sailing for 90 minutes, and being perfectly warm the entire time. Air temperatures were between 31 and 33F, water probably around 40-42F, wind 20 mph with gusts to 27 - and it was sunny.

This is the first time in more than 25 years that I went windsurfing when it was this cold. I did, however, remember from the last time that I was nice and warm, despite the cold temperatures. Still, being twice as old as back then, I was just a bit skeptical...

The only parts of my body that got cold at all were my face and my fingers - but not any colder than on an average day of skying. I took a few short breaks to shake my arms to get the blood back down into my fingers, which are clearly the weakest link. I first sailed in O'Neill 3 mm gloves, but my lower arms got tired too quickly, so I switched to what seems to work best: neoprene gloves with the inside of the fingers cut out, and nylon mitt shells (based on a post by Ron C. on iWindsurf). The combination worked perfectly fine, although I may play around with waterproofing the shells a bit for longer swims.

The cold today did wonders for my jibe success rate. At least at first, most of my jibes were dry. Being on my most-used board-sail combination (Skate 110, Matrix 7.0) helped, but I sure tried harder not to fall. Of course, I did fall a few times, including once where I had to swim back to my board for a couple of minutes. I barely felt the water temperature, though, through my dry suit and several layers of polyester underneath. I may even have been a tad overdressed - most of the time, I was sweating a bit. Not bad for a freezing day!

I'm looking forward to (hopefully) many more days of windsurfing this winter - the wind certainly is great this time of the year, with averages in the 20s or higher about every other day. For all those who might think about joining us on the water, here is a list of what I was wearing today:
  • O'Neill Boost dry suit. Baggy, breathable, affordable (~$420).
  • 7 mm O'Neill boots. Very warm. I also wound a couple of layers of electrical tape around near the top to reduce water entry, which worked very well. About $60.
  • O'Neill 3mm Coldwater Hood, $46. Creates an (almost) watertight seal with the neoprene neck of the dry suit. My head is usually hot, even after falling into the water.
  • Neoprene Gloves (Aleutian) with fingers cut out ($20)
  • Nylon Mitt Shells (made from EMS Mitts by cutting the stuffing out)
  • 2-4 layers underneath. Long sleeve "performance" underwear (Old Navy, Target, $10-$20). T-shirt ($8, Old Navy). Fleece pants ($20, Target, Old Navy, Ocean State Job Lot). 2 Fleece sweaters (LL Bean, Old Navy, $15-25). Everything is 90-100% polyester, which wicks away sweat and stays warm even when wet.
Most of the stuff was from Sailworld Cape Cod, although I had to order some things that Jim did not have at amazon.com. Everything together costs less than a new sail at suggested retail prices, and definitely less than a new board. It will allow you to sail on great days like today, when you have the water pretty much to yourself - no crowds like on late summer days. Hope to see you out there soon!

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