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Article: What to wear while boating

What to wear while boating

What to wear while boating

My husband is a ship captain by profession, and a sailor at heart. We met years ago while we were both working in Asia. When we first started dating, I flew to Canada to spend a week with him at his gulf island home. He told me he had a secret trip planned for me, which I naturally found to be charming and sweet. But I was also secretly frustrated. How could I possibly plan any of my outfits for a trip I had no details to? Did I need a cocktail dress and heels? A ski suit? Camping gear? I demanded some guidelines. 

What to wear boating

These were his clues: Rain jacket, Jeans, Something Warm, Slippers, A Swimsuit and Runners (preferably white soled)

For anyone with boating experience, that last piece of advice should have given it away. But I was a sailing virgin at the time, and until the moment of embarkation, I had no idea what I was getting into. He drove us to Sidney Marina where we embarked a 34ft sailboat with two of our friends. We sailed for four days through the southern gulf islands, eating fish tacos and drinking wine by the water. We enjoyed deserted sandy beaches and the sight of orcas a mere six feet from us.

On the one hand, it was magical and breathtaking. On the other hand, I can only assume that he was testing my limits. I don’t blame him. It’s important to know what you’re getting into when you’re entering a new relationship! Sharing an aft berth for a few days (without enough headroom to sit up straight or change your clothes upright) is a great indicator for future success. 

Indeed, we are married now. And the outfit guidelines he gave me that weekend have evolved to become the outfit guidelines for my current life. 

It did take a fair bit of trial and error. Some days, I looked like a potato. Other days, I looked incredibly cute whilst ridiculously cold. I spent a good amount of time during our first two years researching what to wear on a sailboat and in rainy west coast weather, in general. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much for me to go by. I wondered whether I was the first woman to ask these questions. I couldn't be! The more women I opened up to, the more kindred spirits I found. There was a whole group of us, outside of our comfort zone, eagerly seeking a way to fit in. 

So this is a letter to my past self and to any other women intimidated by the idea of trying something daring and new. You are not alone. You deserve to feel comfortable in any exciting new environment - especially this one. Because once you’re out there, you’ll experience a perspective like no other. 

It’s a magical world on the ocean, one certainly worth leaving land for. 

What to Wear While Boating 

Rule # 1: Layers, layers, layers. 

It’ll be hot and dry and cold and wet and windy and warm and wild. Sometimes all at once. So be versatile. 

As tempting as it might be to bring one cute tank top with one fancy sweater, that might not be the smartest idea. If you’re sailing for an extended period of time, I highly suggest that you bring five pieces of clothing that you can potentially wear all at once, or one at a time, depending on the conditions. Try a tank top underneath a t-shirt underneath a waffle shirt underneath a cardigan underneath a waterproof windbreaker. Mix and match, or peel them off as you see fit. The goal is to be prepared for all kinds of weather. 

You will not regret bringing everything. 

Rule # 2: Wear flat non-marking shoes

If you want the boat owner to be nice to you, consider wearing non-marking shoes with light-coloured soles. Stiff dark soled shoes can mark the boat, and make for a grumpy boater. No one wants that. And if you don’t want to trip and fall overboard, make sure they have flat soles. 

Tip: If the sole on your shoe is stiff and dark, it will most likely mark the boat. If your shoes have soft rubber soles, chances are, they will work for this situation (even if they are dark soled). You can double check, by pressing your fingernail into the sole of your shoe. If it creates a dent that quickly recovers, it is non-marking. You can also grab a sheet of white paper and attempt to draw a line on it with the heel of your shoe. If it leaves a mark on the paper, do not wear it. 

Rule # 3: Bring a weatherproof windbreaker. 

Ideally, it’ll be windy, so never forget your best windbreaker. 

Rule # 4: Bring a jacket or a bag with zip-up pockets 

If you want to take cute pictures AND keep your phone, I recommend having something on you with zip-up pockets. I revel in the return of the fanny pack. What a Godsend! If you don’t have one, just leave your phone safely tucked away in your bag underneath. Whatever you do, do not slip your valuables into your denim jean pocket. There’s a good chance it won’t be there by the end of the day. 

Rule # 5: Wear sunscreen. 

Wide-brimmed hats are great for keeping the sun off of your neck, but on calm days, the sun's rays can still reflect off of the water and back onto your skin. So if you love your skin, and yourself, wear sunscreen. 

If you plan on entering the ocean, I highly encourage lathering on mineral sunscreen that’s safe for the environment. Many of the chemicals present in commercial sunscreens are harmful for our marine friends. We want to enjoy their home, not destroy it. 

Rule # 6: Ditch the scarf, bring a scrunchie 

Have you ever watched your precious scarf fly off your neck and into the ocean? Great, you’re not me then. Don’t bring it. But do bring that scrunchie. 

Rule #7: Leave the hard case suitcase at home. Pack all of the above in a soft bag. 

Unless you’re sailing aboard a luxury yacht, there won’t be much room for your hard case suitcase. On longer trips, the first order of business is to unpack all of your belongings into your vessel’s many cubby holes. Once your bag is empty, you’ll need to stash it underneath a bed or bench or couch. Therefore, your bag must be flexible. If you insist on bringing your hard case suitcase, you must be prepared to sleep on it. 

Salty Clothing Suggestions 


mariner stripe t shirt

  • If you’re not sure whether it’ll be cool or warm: wear your shore pants with leggings or long underwear underneath. You can always ditch the leggings if it gets too warm. 
  • Wear the Cari tank top underneath everything. It’s the perfect (and comfiest) layering piece! 
salt crew toque

  • Salt + Stone Sunscreen (a must during all seasons): Mineral sunscreens are better for your skin and much better for the environment. I sincerely love this one. 

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