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Sailing Equipment

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Equipment for the crew

1. Personal flotation device (PFD) - Absolute necessity!

A USCG approved PFD is mandatory requirement by both state and federal law. PFDs are available in five types (I, II, III, IV, V) based on the amount of buoyancy provided and design. Types I-IV are compared as follows:

Type I Off shore use in rough or remote waters where rescue times may be long. These vests are generally designed to keep an  unconscious person face up in the water. PFD Information Brochure
Type II Near shore use in calm, inland waters, when rescue times are short. Many of these types of vests will turn unconscious persons face up
Type III Inland lake use in calm waters when rescue times are short. These are considered personal floatation aids and will generally not turn an unconscious  wearer face up.
Type IV A throwable (non-wearable) buoyancy aid. This aid can only be used for  conscious users (of no help if user becomes unconscious) and is not  recommended for non-swimmers.
Important PFD usage rules in the state of Michigan
  • Children less than 6 years of age must wear a Type I or Type II PFD when riding in the open deck area of a boat.
  • Vessels less than 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or IV PFD for each person on board.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard requires all vessels less than 16 feet, used on the Great Lakes or connecting waterways, to carry one approved Type I, II, or III device for each person on board.
  • Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, or III for each person on board must carry one type IV. (Canoes and kayaks over 16 feet are exempt from the Type IV requirement.)

2. Sun Protection

Sailors endure a very high level of sun (and therefore UV) exposure. Most sailing is likely to be done on sunny days between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun’s exposure is the most intense. In addition, the water, the boat hull, and the sails, all act as reflecting surfaces to create a very efficient “sailor cooker”. Premature skin aging, cataracts, and skin cancer are the results of such intense exposure. Every sailor can protect him/herself with some simple things to allow for maximal protection for maximal enjoyment of the water. Starting from the top down:

  • A Sunblocking Hat (not a ball cap) – Such hats (with wide brims and neck protection) can provide SPF protection of 50 or greater. Such hats can be secured with chin straps or clips to be wind resistant
  • Sunglasses (with UV A and B protection) – These are essential to minimize the glare off of the water & sails, while providing protection against UV damage.
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) – This should be applied often (at least every 2 hours) to any other sun exposed surfaces (face/arms/legs). Many formulations exist in both creams and sprays.


3. Sailing Gloves

Although not absolutely “essential equipment”, a good pair of sailing gloves goes along way toward protecting your hands and providing a good grip in windy conditions. Control lines on a dinghy can range from 1/8” to 5/16”. Such lines, under tension, can be fatiguing to the hands or even result in rope burns. Reinforced palm, sailing gloves can provide both dexterity and protection. Below are images of a full sailing glove, a full-fingered glove (with the tips of the first finger and thumb removed), and a 3/4 sailing glove (all fingertips removed).


4. Dinghy boots / Water shoes

Dinghies can be generally classified as “wet boats” or “dry boats” depending on the propensity for the sailor to end up with wet feet. The smaller the freeboard (sides) of the boat, the more likely it will be “wet”. In addition, boats without actual bench seating for the sailor (e.g. JY 15, Laser, Sunfish, Zuma) are likely to become wet. In such instances. Good footwear can be very helpful for both comfort and safety. Such footwear should be constructed of wetable materials, fast draining and drying and with good traction.

Equipment for the boat

A throwable floatation device (Type IV from the list above) - This is required for boats 16’ and longer and should be available for quick deployment (i.e. not stored in plastic).


A hand bailer with handle (can be homemade from a bleach or laundry detergent bottle). Although some boats are equipped with cockpit (suction-type) bailers, these bailers will not function under low wind/speed conditions. Manual bailing will still be needed in these cases.  

A simple tool kit : containing pliers, a regular and Phillips head screwdriver, a knife, extra cotter rings, an extra shackle, an extra drain plug, a roll of rigging/duct or electrical tape and a couple of extra clevis pins. These items should be stored in a waterproof (and preferably bouyant) box.  

A paddle (some retractable ones can be collapsed to a foot and a half).
Paddles can be stored in cuddy cabins (under the deck) or even attached under or along bench seating.  Paddles come in handy for moving the boat short distances in calm conditions or for fending off an approaching dock when returning from a sail.  

An anchor - the size and type will depend on the size of your boat and the nature of the bottom of the lake. For small boats, a 5 lb anchor (mushroom, folding or dansforth type) will serve most needs. The anchor should have a chain rode (approx. 3 feet) and a length of line.

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