June 5, 2014

Dressing for ocean dinghy cruising

FRANK DYE was one of those people who would gladly suffer cold weather and wet misery if the sailing was good enough. The legendary British dinghy sailor was never happier than when he was hundreds of miles from the nearest land in his open 16-foot Wayfarer dinghy, up near the Arctic circle.

I often wondered what kind of clothing he wore in the summer of 1964, when he and a companion made that famous voyage from Scotland to Norway under sail and oars alone. Recently, while I was re-reading his book, Ocean Crossing Wayfarer (Adlard Coles Nautical, London) I came across a list of the clothes he wore at sea. I imagine he must have looked quite a lot like the Michelin man, and I’ll never understand how he managed to move around at all. And yet, despite this mountain of clothes, he was never really properly warm in those frigid waters.

“We were both cold and shivering,” he recalls, “and it was an effort to remove our clothes, which were sodden with condensation. Wearing oilskins all the time meant that top layers of clothing became clammy with condensation, while the bottom ones next to the skin soaked up body perspiration. Not a comfortable mixture.”

Here is what he was wearing, from the outside in:

One-piece, hooded oilskins, long rubber boots, a neck towel, three long sweaters, one short sweater, two pairs of trousers, quilted underclothes, long woolen pants and a woolen undershirt, a string undershirt, short pants and T-shirt, two pairs of socks, and woolen pajamas. (Yes, woolen pajamas!)

You can imagine how difficult it was for him to change into a complete set of dry clothing in the restricted space of a dinghy bouncing so much that he couldn’t even stand up. In those days, oilskins were made of waxed canvas that stuck when folded. Zippers were unknown, and everything was buttoned. Velcro was a long way in the future.

“We both felt better now that we were warm again,” he said, “and optimistically thought the wind might set fair into the west and give us a fast passage to Norway, for we had already had more than our share of bad weather.”

Little did they know that within hours their lives would be at stake in a raging Force 9 gale, during which the boat capsized four times, throwing them into the 40-degree waters of the Norwegian Sea and snapping their wooden mast in two. Needless to say, there wasn’t a stitch of dry clothing on board for the rest of that ill-fated trip.

Incidentally, Frank was 30 years old when he took up sailing. He died in 2010 aged 82.

PS: Another thought. With all those clothes on, how did he go potty?

Today’s Thought
Bravery is believing in yourself, and that thing nobody can teach you.
— El Cordobés (Manuel Benitez Pérez) Spanish matador

Fascinating fact from the Central Office of Statistics:
Four out of every five woman-haters are women.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


andre said...

2505A video of Frank Dye's trip


rgds ,andre

Jack said...

Thanks for posting that andre.
When men were men, .......