Many people who haven’t sailed on the Bay envision cocktails on the poop deck when invited out to sail, and dress accordingly. The reality is more akin to a white water sporting event (with beer). However, if one dresses wisely, sailing on the Bay can be some of the best fun you will ever have – assuming you’re at least a little athletically inclined.
The weather out on the Bay is always a crap shoot, and it can change a LOT during the course of the day, going from cold and foggy to sunny and warm in a few hours. The wind and waves action can change up very quickly too, going from light and breezy in the morning to small-craft advisory winds and waves in the afternoon, particularly in the summer months when the infamous Bay wind machine cranks up.
What to wear depends not only the weather, but where you will be sailing on the Bay (the sunny south bay? the wind driven slot in the central bay?) and what kind of boat you’ll be on: a 40′ cruising yacht? a 25′ racing sloop? a small dinghy?
The key is to be prepared for cold, windy conditions and to ready to be splashed. And if that cocktail weather appears, you can always peel off a layer or two.
We sail a 25′ keel boat that leans to a racing design (an Olson 25), and we mostly sail in the Central Bay. Here’s what I recommend to our friends who sail with us:
• tennis shoes (non-marking soles)
• thick wool socks (your feet may well get wet)
• light, comfortable quick-drying pants, preferable with an “action” cut (i.e. no cotton, no jeans)
• light rain pants (sailors wear bib-style “splash” gear – but rain pants will do just fine)
• t-shirt (poly or merino wool, no cotton)
• sweater, preferably wool (NOT cotton)
• light rain jacket or a water-proof windbreaker
• snug hat (baseball hats and such tend to fly away, unless you have them leashed)
• bicycle or gardening gloves, preferably fingerless – key to avoiding rope burn when handling the lines on a boat
What else might you bring?
– sunscreen and chapstick (even when its overcast, you will get burned)
– something to drink and share (cans are better, glass doesn’t work well on boats)
– something to eat and share (one-handed)
– an extra pair of shoes and socks in case your feet get wet (which means you really had fun!