For years West Marine has been offering its own line of branded foul-weather gear, and its Trysail jacket and bibs serve as an excellent example of what to look for in bluewater cruising gear.
When thinking about bluewater gear, it’s important to remember that there’s no running for shelter, so it has to be tough enough to stand up to all kinds of weather. It’s equally important to remember that it is going to be put through much greater use than most gear is designed for. A single stormy passage, for example, will subject a set of bluewater jacket and bibs to more use than their coastal counterparts will experience in a year.
In the case of West Marine’s Trysail jacket and bibs, these twin challenges are addressed through a combination of materials, overall design and careful attention to detailing.
Materials: Both the jacket and bibs are made of a high-quality three-layer fabric, in which a breathable, microporous waterproof middle layer is sandwiched between a coated nylon outer layer and a soft inner layer, which both protects the waterproofing layer and makes for a comfortable layer against your skin.
Three-layer fabrics, though expensive, offer a number of advantages over their two-layer counterparts, in which a loose inner layer serves to protect the waterproofing layer, as opposed to a laminated inner lining.
First and foremost, they are lighter and more breathable, since a separate inner layer adds weight and makes it harder for perspiration to escape through the microporous membrane. Three-layer garments are also easier to put on and take off, and dry faster in the event they become damp: all-in-all a much better fabric for making foul weather gear.
Overall cut: The Trysail jacket features a long three-quarter-length hip cut—as opposed to the shorter waist-length cuts used on some performance tops—in the interest of keeping the water out. The bibs cut nice and high over the chest and back, and under the arms for the same reason. High-cut bibs also help protect your torso when you shed your jacket as the weather moderates but remains dirty.
A nice, high fleece-lined collar with a face flap protects the face and neck, and there are no less than four pockets on the front of the jacket. These include a pair of lower cargo pockets for stowing bits of gear, and a pair of lined upper pockets that do double-duty as hand warmers. The bibs include a thigh pocket and a pair of upper pockets that double as hand warmers as well.
Details: At first glance, the detailing on the Trysail jacket and bibs may appear similar to that found on coastal gear. However, it is better built, better designed and more robust, which can make all the difference in the world when you’re in rough weather off soundings.
The jacket cuffs, for example, have an excellent double seal, with an Velcro-adjustable elastic inner cuff to keep the water out. The zipper is also well protected by a “double storm flap,” and there is not only a drawstring in the waist for a snug fit, but a drawstring in the bottom hem as well.
All seams are carefully taped, with the tape is carefully overlapped to ensure there is no leakage at the joints—an important consideration.
The bibs include a substantial gusset backing up their front zipper and a pair of suspenders that are robustly built and adjusted using a buckle/Velcro combination that is far superior to the suspenders on most coastal bibs. Slippery suspenders that fall off the shoulders onto the arms have been the bane of many a sailor over the years, but they won’t be a problem with the Trysail.
The bibs are protected on the seat and knees with extensive 500 denier Cordura ® wear patches. There are also wear patches on the cuffs and Velcro closures, two areas that are subject to a good deal of wear offshore.
Finally, there is the Trysail jacket’s Optivision hood, a true work of art that will keep you dry and cozy in just about anything. Like the rest of the jacket, the hood is made of three-layer fabric with full taped seams, and a very nice fleece layer added where it contacts the forehead and side of the face to reduce abrasion.
Best of all, the hood includes multiple adjustments that allow it to fit snugly around your head, as opposed to having it continually flop down over your eyes every time you want to look over your shoulder or up at the rig. It’s the kind of thing that will almost have you hoping for a good blow just so you can enjoy how well it works.