We live aboard fulltime and typically hang around in the 'south' for the winter... Of course, south is relative. For us the southerly latitudes are 56-57įN in SE Alaska
. [Referred to as 'the tropics' by those living further north...]
We have fewer opportunities to transit between locations in winter because of weather
. We try to avoid gales as well as freezing spray conditions whenever possible. [There is nothing like a few inches of ice shedding from the upper portion of the rigging- especially in strong winds...]
There is rarely any sea ice here- except what sheds from tidewater glaciers. [Small ice bergs compared to those nearer the poles...] After extreme tides and/or storms, there is often more debris [e.g., ice and logs] in the water
to dodge as they are floated over the normally shallow glacial moraines, or washed off the beaches during extreme high tides or storm surge. This- along with many other factors- limits our transit periods to daylight hours...
Cruising in July...
What follows is likely more than you asked for; an overview of our year-around lifestyle, preparations, precautions, and approaches to sailing/boating [actually living aboard] full time in cooler climates.
Wind is better here in winter, but big wind requires going offshore
[to have room to maneuver] but then the seas are also big, so that doesn't happen very often- in winter. Winter temperatures are somewhat moderate here [rarely below zero F; Climate overview
.] The water temps [being adjascent to the Pacific Ocean] fluxuate between 40s and low 50s F depending upon season and proximity to glaciers- where it can quickly drop into the 30s F...
charging] sources on the boat are wise, borderline necessary. Likewise with clothing
and critical gear
room houses the diesel
heater, so the engine
are rarely cold.
Lines are pre-treated each fall with waterproofing, but if any freeze, they are doused with saltwater.
We wear our Kokotat drysuits [with one piece 300 wt polar fleece underlayer...] when spending lots of time outdoors whether kayaking or sailing. [We have a pilothouse with a 2nd helm
station, so motoring can be accomplished out of the weather
Excellent gripping [and comfortable and warm] footwear is required- especially in case of ice on deck. We find the Dubarry Ultima Sailing Boot
the best for these conditions. For non-boots, I like the lowcut Keen Brixon
slip-ons. They provides excellent traction on ice and snow, and are warm and comfortable. [Both have non-marking soles, and neither sole has a tendency to hold rocks and gravel if worn on shore...] We have other footware for specific uses
We always wear our PFDs [on deck and in the dinghy
.] Each PFD
includes an MOB
beacon [AIS], PLB, VHF DSC radio
, diver's flashlight, aerial flairs, laser signal, SCUBA
We are teathered to the boat full time when on deck in winter. Likewise anytime we are sailing.
We have 3, progressively larger ditch bags: 1 typical offshore liferaft
ditch bag; 2 more for nearshore survival on land situations. [Our most likely need in our current
The 1st is the usual offshore liferaft
ditchbag; spare EPIRB
, signaling devices, sat phone
case, liferaft repair kit, VHF radio
, etc., etc.
The 2nd and 3rd are for near shore abandon ship scenarios [e.g., Perhaps we can use the dinghy
vs. liferaft and need to survive on a nearby island for a period of time.]
The 2nd ditch bag contains a 2-person, 4-season tent, a 2-person Hennessey Hammock
[hanging tent that can be pitched off the ground between trees or rocks (we carry a small selection of rock wedges...) in case there are no level areas to pitch
a tent], 4 season sleeping bags, rations [MREs], cook stove
, water filtration system, coffee, bearspray, etc. Everything we would need to camp [comfortably] on land for a 2+ week period.
The 3rd contains a routine and a large 1st aid kit [e.g., an augmented Marine
3000], spare winter clothing, more rations, a 3 person, 4-season spare tent [Mountain Hdwre Trango 3
] , spare firearm, additional bear proof food storage sacks
, and other winter survival equipment
In case anyone is interested, here is a blog post further detailing our 1st Aid and ditch bag strategies
and supplies are available year around as the harbors cater to the commercial fishing
fleet. Therefore, all docks have bull rails and are often either coated with ice, or that special non-grip coating left by the flocks of immature gulls that frequent the lesser used portions of the docks, or a combination of both...
In my experience wintering full time between 55į and 62į north off-and-on the last 30+ years I can say- assuming an adequate, well outfitted vessel, and the right equipment- we are only limited by ourselves...
In hopes some of this may be useful.
Be safe, warm, and well everyone!
PS: Winter docking
can be tricky...