Winter is always a bad time for sailing. Ok, not bad as in “wasn’t the new Indy film bad?”, but bad as in “I’m cold, the wind has died, we’re being washed out to see and I didn’t give any money to the RNLI this year so I’m pretty sure they’re ignoring us” bad. We’ve had a few training sessions were we’ve had ice literally form on the boat whilst we’re sailing, or we’ve decided to wrap up the session at around 3pm, started sailing in from mid-Solent only for the wind to drop. 2 hours later, the sun is down and I’m lying on the foredeck front-crawl paddling to get us home.
Unlike most people sailing on the Solent in mid-winter, I don’t usually have a problem keeping warm, so I have sailed many times wearing a short sleeved summer 3mm wetsuit with a rashy over the top. This is great for windy days when I’m working so hard that I can keep warm without a wetsuit at all, however, it’s when we capsize or have a breakage that I really suffer. Thankfully, after 3 months in the 800 we are still yet to capsize, even though we’ve sailed in up to 25 knots, so that’s not been an issue. It does become an in issue when the wind dies though, and we’ve had a few horrendous trips home sitting in wet sailing kit paddling home. It’s not fun.
Anyway, the point to this post is that, although sailing is tough in winter, and not always that much fun, it’s a hell of a lot more fun than sitting at home watching TV. Just because your wetsuit has frozen solid and the ropes in your boat won’t bend around the blocks, you can still sail. Ok, it sucks rigging up in the cold, it’s painful to walk into the water for the first time, yes your hands hurt, your ears are numb and you can’t figure out why no one else is on the water. But isn’t it the best feeling in the world when you pop the kite and have the entire solent/lake/river (does anyone actually sail on rivers these days?) to your self? We’ve sailed on New Years day many times before. With horrendous hangovers, a distinct lack of balance or finesse, and wearing about ten hats, we had the entire Solent to ourselves and blasted down-wind for hours without seeing another pleasure boat (or, thank god, a sodding Jet Ski). Yes, I threw up about 3 times and nearly got hypothermia, but it still goes down as one of the best sails of my life. Totally worth it.
I don’t know about you, but winter sailing IS worthwhile, you just need to focus on the positives. And give generously to the RNLI..