Skip to main content

Sailing Ideas to Keep You From Getting Frost Bitten this Winter

The last time I went frostbiting it was February in Chicago, and it was freezing. Not far offshore, ice floes loomed and just inshore, a layer of frost covered the hardened beaches of Lake Michigan, which bordered the black ice on Lake Shore Drive.

The last time I went frostbiting it was February in Chicago, and it was freezing. Not far offshore, ice floes loomed and just inshore, a layer of frost covered the hardened beaches of Lake Michigan, which bordered the black ice on Lake Shore Drive. My drysuit was attempting to keep me warm, but succeeding only at cutting off circulation to my brain. My full-fingered gloves were stiff, and it hardly mattered—the sheets were too icy to jam into the cleats anyway. I felt a desperate, panicked, desire to keep my mast upright. Surely, this lake would turn me to ice in an instant.

It was then that I decided frostbiting was no longer for me. 

Still, winter drags on, and we all need something to keep the blood pumping, so I teamed up with SAIL’s all-star intern to bring you our best frostbiting alternatives. Here and now, I’m giving you permission to hang up your drysuit. After all, life’s too short to be handling frozen sheets. Come with us and…

Embrace the great indoors with a visit to your local maritime museum 

The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, Michigan, is devoted to the history of The Great Lakes. The museum’s five separate buildings house history exhibits, a boatbuilding and maritime skill-teaching center and an extensive research library. If you’re willing to bundle up, a stroll along the HarborWalk will take you past the museum’s vast sandy beach, through historic South Haven, where commercial and recreational boating once boomed.

The vessel collection at the Maritime Museum of San Diego features steam-powered boats, submarines, a historic San Diego pilot boat and several sailboats, including the world’s oldest active sailing ship, the Star of India. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, visitors can peruse exhibits on San Diego’s navy, as well as the history of commercial fishing, maritime navigation and 19th-century explorers. Because the museum is located right on the harbor, museum-goers can also take advantage of special trips, like a four-hour sail on the schooner California, a historic bay cruise aboard Pilot or a kayak trip out on Catalina Island.

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine, celebrates Maine’s maritime culture and history on its beautiful Downeast campus. Visitors can learn about Maine’s lobstering heritage in the L.L. Bean building, tour the schooner Sherman Zwicker or the clipper ship Snow Squall, and visit a full-size representation of Wyoming, the largest wooden sailing vessel ever built. Reserve plenty of time for a visit, as there are over 21,000 artifacts and 140 small craft to be viewed.

Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, is an American maritime museum and 19th century village complete with authentic New England buildings and living history actors. The whaleship Charles W. Morgan is a big draw here, and shipbuilders have been working tirelessly to rehad the 172-year old vessel since 2008. Exhibits include a scale model of Mystic in 1870, an impressive collection of figureheads, a preservation shipyard and even a planetarium. Note: Mystic Seaport will be closed from January 2 to February 15.

The U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, D.C., offers maritime delights in close proximity to popular sites like the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Naval artifacts, fine art and historic maritime documents illustrate the Navy’s history from its infancy during the American Revolution to current times.

Embark on a warm-water charter that’s off the beaten path

Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, is the perfect jumping-off point for a week full of delights. Begin your trip in Saint-Francois to experience some mainland culture, then travel to nearby Terre-de-Bas for some glorious snorkeling. The nearby islet of Marie Galante is packed full of history from its sugar mill production days, while Les Saintes provide a couple days worth of exploring, both on the water among the many picturesque lagoons and on land, where the maritime museum is a must-see. Follow your exploration up with a dive at the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve near Boulillante, and you’ll leave wanting more.

Though charterers flock to St. Martin and St. Barts by the plane load, far fewer visit the nearby British island of Anguilla—which is too bad. The 16-mile-long island boasts 33 pristine beaches, including one in particular—Sandy Bay—that appears in superlative beach lists. Inland, this little island has everything from a rich Arawak history to a high-end gastronomical tradition, and a fun and funky beach-party scene at Sandy Ground. When you go, schedule your trip around a “boat race,” the national pastime in which locals race brightly colored traditional sloops around the island, celebrating a time in when a speedy trip to the Dominican Republic often served as the basis of a successful maritime career. 

You’ve done the British Virgins; you’ve done the U.S. Virgins—but have you experienced the Spanish Virgins? Sail Caribe’s fleet of monohulls and multihulls is located conveniently in Marina Puerto del Rey, Puerto Rico, which makes for a quick and affordable trip from the United States. Once in Puerto Rico, spend some time in the charming historical areas of Old San Juan, and then sail away toward the Virgins. Culebra and Vieques are located less than 20 miles apart, making for some spirited but manageable sailing, followed by a wonderful destination upon arrival. Here, you’ll find the looks and natural allure of the BVI, without the crowded anchorages and raucous beaches. 

Shop, dream and Learn at a boat show near you 

Toronto International Boat Show: January 11-19

In 2014, the Toronto boat show, held at the Direct Energy Center convention space, will feature the world’s largest indoor lake and a presentation by Canadian singlehanded offshore racer Derek Hatfield.

Strictly Sail Chicago

January 23-26 

Located on Navy Pier, this is the largest all-sail boat show in the Midwest. The 2014 show will include a recap of the 34th America’s Cup by Gary Jobson. 

San Diego Sunroad Boat Show

January 23-26

The San Diego Boat Show takes place at the Sunroad Resort Marina. This year’s free seminars include Cruising Mexico 101, Electric Propulsion for Sailboats, and Efficient Downwind Sailing.

Seattle Boat Show

January 24-February 2

The Seattle Boat Show takes place both indoors at CenturyLink Field and afloat on South Lake Union. It’s the largest boat show on the West Coast.

Atlantic City Boat Show

February 5-9

This show is held every year at the Atlantic City Convention Center. This year’s roster features a wacky Swampmaster Gator Show, where you can see an expert handler catch an alligator with his bare hands.

Strictly Sail Miami

February 13-17

The Miami Boat Show at Miamarina at Bayside will have on-the-water training clinics for docking under power, coastal cruising, an introduction to sailing, sailing made easy, advanced sailing skills and an introduction to cruising catamarans. Advanced registration for these sessions will get you into the boat show for free.

Embrace the cold, but stay on top of it. Try ice-boating 

When temperatures are cold enough for lakes to freeze, snowfall is low enough to keep the ice clean, and wind is just right for high-speed competition, conditions are perfect for ice boaters.

Iceboats are built similarly to sailboats, but instead of a hull that cuts through water, they’re outfitted with skis or runners that slide across ice. Wind propels the boats the same way as in traditional sailing, but because there is little friction between the blades and ice, these boats can sail five times the true wind speed thanks to the power of apparent wind.

Although ice boating clubs around the world sail a variety of different models, the most popular is the 12-foot DN, a one-design that is both affordable and easily handled by a single sailor. Another popular design, the Skeeter, is both fast and includes a number of sub-classes based on capacity and mast height.

The best latitudes for ice boating are between 45 to 50 degrees north—places where snow doesn’t stick around all winter, but lakes can still freeze several inches deep. Popular locales include New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka and lakes Pewaukee, Winnebago and Geneva in Wisconsin.

One of the more amazing thing about ice boating culture is the extent to which aficionados will travel to “chase the ice.” Some years, they’ll sail every weekend; others, they’ll pull multiple overnight drives, only to be foiled by too-soft ice or too-deep snowfall. The Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Madison, Wisconsin, for example, estimates four to six successful sailing weekends per winter for their members, but 10 to 12 successful weekends if sailors take on a “have ice, will travel” mentality. Learn more at 

More Winter Boat Shows

New York Boat Show:

January 1-5

(New York, NY)

Portland Boat Show

January 8-12

(Portland, OR)

Denver Boat Show

January 10-12

(Denver, CO)

Stuart Boat Show

January 11-13

(Stuart, FL)

Cleveland (Mid-America) Boat Show

January 16-20

(Cleveland, OH)

Austin Boat Show

January 16-19

(Austin, TX)

Cincinnati Boat Show

January 17-26

(Cincinnati, OH)

Vancouver International Boat Show:

January 22-26 

(Vancouver, BC)

Baltimore Boat Show

January 23-26

(Baltimore, MD)

Central New York (CNY) Boat Show:

February 12-16

(Syracuse, NY)

More winter sailing ideas

1) Forget cold-water racing altogether; enter a bareboat regatta. Try the Bucket Regatta on St. Barts, the Rolex on St. Thomas, the Heineken on St. Maarten or the BVI Spring Regatta on Tortola. 

2)Cozy up with a sailing novel—something classic (A Horatio Hornblower tale by C. S. Forester) or something modern (The Nick of Time, The Nick Scandone Story by Mary Kate Scandone).

3) Practice new galley-friendly recipes from to impress your crew next summer. 

4) Stay in shape with inspiration from exercise-crazed sailors or

5) Use a heavy-duty sewing machine to turn an old sail into something new: grocery totes, wallets, or even a briefcase. Visit for ideas.

6) Rent, view or download one of many sailing films to hit the big screen this year, including All is Lost (with Robert Redford), Kon-Tiki, Captain Phillips (with Tom Hanks) or Raw Faith: A Family Saga.

7) Sit down with a stack of cruising guides and chart books and plan next summer’s sailing adventures.



VIDEO: Small but Mighty

This summer has been a great one for sailors everywhere, but in particular for the 87 sailors participating in the Tiwal Cup on France's Gulf of Morbihan. In addition to some great sailing, the event saw a new record on the books--fastest ever assembly of the inflatable dinghy. more


11th Hour Racing Team's Green Mission

“I’ll admit, it’s still hard to watch the boat leave the dock sometimes,” says former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Mark Towill. Since meeting during a Transpac campaign over 15 years ago, he and his teammate Charlie Enright have sailed thousands of miles together aboard two Volvo more


Boat Review: Dufour 61

Dufour, long one of France’s most well-respected builders, has been producing sailboats in La Rochelle since the dawn of fiberglass boatbuilding. Having recently merged with another La Rochelle-based builder, Fountaine Pajot, Dufour has now joined other European mass-production more


The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean more


Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the more


Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, more


A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the more


Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s more