Sailing jackets are a necessity if you want to be comfortable on the water, whether aboard a sailboat or on some other type of vessel. If the weather’s cold, they can make sure you and your crewmates stay warm. In rough seas they will form a barrier against spray, keeping your skin dry (along with any inner layers of clothing).
For sailing, general boating, or water activities such as windsurfing, not just any kind of jacket will do. Today’s sailing jackets are constructed to stand up to the elements as no mere landlubber’s windbreaker or raincoat can do. They are meant to be impermeable as well as completely salt-, sun- and water-resistant.
Many of the complete sailing outfits that are for sale today will include a jacket as part of the total boating ensemble, along with pants or shorts, and perhaps a hood or matching cap of some sort. Or, you can buy a jacket separately.
The first and most important consideration when choosing sailing jackets is to try to match the types of weather and water conditions you are likely to encounter, whether you are planning an extended cruise, a day’s outing on the bay, or a regatta. Some jackets are very heavy; others are quite light. Choose the former if your primary need is to stay warm and dry, and the latter if flexibility and freedom of movement are more crucial (as during a sailboat race).
Next comes style. People who sail generally like to look good aboard their boats. As you might guess, you can find boating clothes, including jackets, in virtually any color. White, perhaps with some kind of nautical trim, makes for a classic look. Navy blue or aqua — both colors that evoke the sea and sailing, by the way — are also good choices, while “hot colors” such as red and yellow lend a certain dramatic flair to a sailing jacket.
Most people like to choose their own look and style when it comes to sailing outfits. But if you’re the captain of the vessel, you might insist that every member of your crew (even if that crew consists simply of your spouse and any kids) be kitted out in matching clothes. Some sailors go so far as to “brand” all of their jackets across the back with the name of their boat, for an extra dose of esprit. Sailboat regatta crews are particularly prone to want to do this.
Whether you are sailing alone, or trying to outfit an entire boat, you should not try to cut corners when it comes to selecting the proper attire for working on deck. Sailboating is fun, but strenuous. Not only can it push your muscles to the point of exhaustion, it can subject you and your mates to pounding waves, drenching spray, and relentless sun. The right outfits — including, especially, the right sailing jackets — will keep the fun in your sail adventures, wherever they might take you.