Ocean Voyaging Essentials

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the ARC 2009, Yachting's associate editor learned a thing or two about being properly equipped.


Technically Speaking

I found that a few Technical Trails long-sleeve shirts ($48) from Columbia Sportswear were great to have on the trip. Made with Columbia's Omni-Dri and Omni-Shade technology, these shirts kept me dry and kept the sun off my arms and torso better than any cotton shirt would have. During the few days when the wind died and we were jibing over and over to find a decent point of sail, winching sails and scrambling around deck, my forehead would be dripping sweat, but my torso would be pleasantly dry. Also, the shirt is warm enough that I could wear it with only a shell during the colder night watches. Columbia Sportswear, (800) 622-6953; www.columbia.com

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Foul Tip

I became a fan of the Gill OS1 Jacket (shown above, $489) and trousers ($359) within 12 hours of setting sail for St. Lucia. The first evening out from Las Palmas I came on deck for my midnight watch and the seas were high, spray was coming over the deck, winds were steady around 25 knots, and it was cold. Colder than I'd expected. But my Gill OS1 jacket and trousers were a one-two punch against the elements, like my own personal enclosed bridge, but with plenty of pockets for all that stuff I wanted to have with me, and an active cut for free movement topsides. Gill, (678) 730-5586; www.gillna.com

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Get The Boot

The Dubarry Ultimate Sea Boot ($345) is made from Dry-Fast-Dry-Soft leather and lined with a protective and breathable layer of gore-tex, wicking sweat so my feet didn't get soaked in warm conditions. They also kept my toes toasty and dry at night, even when I pulled them on in my berth to get on deck quickly-without socks. And they provided reliable traction in any squalls we encountered. Dubarry of Ireland, (866) 658-3569; www.dubarry.us

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Phone Home

I used an Iridium 9555 (approximately $1,500 with usage ranging from around $.70 to $1.10 per minute) to make calls to friends and family, touch base with other cruisers, and get Internet access and weather forecasts. For the frequent e-mail sender or blog updater, I would suggest a satellite-phone-specific server such as MailASail (www.mailasail.com). This and other compressed e-mail servers are made for the low-bandwith transmission of the satphone, and MailASail worked much better than my gmail account. One warning: Don't give out your satphone number to anyone you don't want to keep in close touch with-my office hounded me incessantly. But hey, this is my job. Iridium, (866) 947-4348; www.iridium.com

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Sit Tight

Except for showering and sleeping, I wore Camet International Aruba sailing shorts ($78) for most of the crossing. They're light and cool for long days on deck in tropical sun, yet tough enough to slide across a teak deck or shinny up the mast (both of which I did, plenty). Made of water-resistant Supplex nylon, they're quick to dry: One afternoon a wave with my name on it crashed over the port side and soaked me-I own cotton shorts that would still be damp. The reinforced seat has removable padding, but I left it in for those long days on the teak cockpit seats. Camet International, (619) 224-6737; www.camet.com

Crossing OverWith seemingly as many choices of gear as types of voyage, I can't say that the equipment I selected will be right for everyone. You need to consider the range of conditions you expect to see, and pack accordingly. I tried to pair comfort and function, and then pare down to the barest essentials-after all I was a guest aboard and had to bring my satphone, laptop, and cameras as well. I started with purpose-built, breathable foul-weather gear-the Gill OS1 jacket and pants kept out the rain, had the right pockets in the right places, and fit me well. If something is uncomfortable, I won't wear it. Other important choices: sweat-wicking base layers, such as the Columbia Mountain Tech or Technical Trails long-sleeved shirts, kept me warm and dry. I brought a few, as they can get funky, and I didn't have access to laundry facilities. I also brought a couple of knives: A multi-tool, such as the Leatherman Kick that I carried, is excellent for its versatility, and I wouldn't go cruising without one. But a fixed-blade knife or safety knife is easy to use in a pinch, say when a line wraps tight around your leg in "iffy" conditions. Also, a good set of polarized sunglasses from Oakley or Bollé will cut the glare off the surface and block the sun. - C.W.