May 30, 2024

What to Wear on a Sailing Trip

Happy Family sailing on a yacht in California

Did a friend or family member just invite you to go sailing for the first time? Not sure what to wear? When it comes to enjoying the open sea to the fullest, the proper sailing attire makes all the difference. Choosing the right outfit for your sailing trip is less about fashion and more about comfort, functionality, and being prepared for whatever the sea throws your way. Use this comprehensive guide to help you navigate what to wear on your next sailing trip.

Planning Your Sailing Outfit

The key to sailing comfortably is to ensure you can move freely, stay warm, or cool down as needed. Here’s how to plan your outfit accordingly.

Check the Forecast

The time of year and specific weather the day you set sail greatly influences your clothing choices. On a warm summer day, lightweight, breathable fabrics should define your wardrobe, protecting you from the sun while keeping you cool. Think shorts, t-shirts, and swimsuits, complemented by a sturdy sun hat. In Southern California, especially around the South Bay, the weather can be quite variable, so always check local forecasts before heading out.

Conversely, wintertime sailing demands thermal layers to insulate against the cold, with a focus on waterproof outerwear to shield you from rain and sea spray. Regardless of the season or daily forecast, always pack foul weather gear, as an unexpected downpour can catch even the most experienced sailors by surprise. This is particularly important when sailing near San Pedro Bay, where conditions can change rapidly.

Dress in Layers

Layering creates a versatile sailing outfit that allows you to adapt your outfit to changing weather conditions. Start with a base layer comprised of natural fibers like cotton or wool, which regulate body temperature, wick away sweat, and feel comfortable against your skin. For those sailing out of King Harbor Marinas and L.A. Harbor, layering is crucial due to the coastal breezes that can make temperatures fluctuate.

Then, your outer layers should be synthetic, offering wind and waterproof protection without sacrificing breathability. You can always add extra clothes or strip off a layer as needed. This combination keeps you dry, comfortable, and ready to tackle any task aboard your vessel. This is especially useful when sailing in the diverse microclimates of the South Bay.

Bring Spares

The ocean is unpredictable, and so is cruising on a sailboat. A sudden wave can leave you soaked and uncomfortable. The undulating sea may even cause you to spill your lunch in your lap. And a stiff breeze could knock your hat or sunglasses into the water. When sailing from Marinas in Southern California, having spare clothes is essential due to the potential for unexpected weather changes.

Packing spare clothes to change into if needed can make the difference between an enjoyable adventure and a miserable day. Bring an extra set of base layers, socks, sunglasses, and headwear to ensure you’re always prepared. This is particularly important for longer trips where you might not have immediate access to dry clothes.

Dress for Function Over Fashion

When it’s all hands on deck, the last thing you care about is how your outfit looks. Sailing demands practicality, so choose clothes that offer freedom of movement and protection from the elements. In Southern California, practical attire is key to enjoying your sailing experience without discomfort.

Durable, quick-drying fabrics are your best friends aboard a sailboat, allowing you to transition seamlessly from manning the helm to adjusting the rigging. Little details like zippered pockets may prove useful for keeping essential items like lip balm, sunglasses, and small tools at the ready. This is especially true when sailing in the busy waters around the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

What You Should Never Wear Sailing

When preparing for a day on the water, knowing what not to bring is just as important as packing the essentials. Certain clothing items and accessories may look great in staged photoshoots, but reality often looks quite different. Don’t let your clothes become hazards or discomforts at sea—here’s what to reserve for your time on land.

Sundresses or Long Skirts

While they might seem ideal for a breezy day on the deck, dresses and skirts often prove more of a nuisance than an asset. They can easily get caught in the boat’s equipment or snag on something while moving around, posing a safety risk. Plus, they offer little protection against the wind and spray, leaving you cold, wet, and miserable. This is particularly true in the windy conditions often found near Marina Del Rey Marinas and King Harbor.

Skinny Jeans

Denim, particularly skinny jeans, are not suited for sailing because they restrict movement. When wet, jeans are even more uncomfortable and difficult to move in, hindering your ability to perform tasks on board. Opt for more flexible and quick-drying materials, especially when sailing in the South Bay area.

White Clothing

White is a classically nautical color, but it’s not practical for sailing attire. First of all, white becomes see-through when wet, which could lead to embarrassment. White fabrics also stain when splashed with salt water, smeared with sunscreen, or brushed against the boat’s equipment. Instead of risking these fashion blunders, choose darker, more forgiving colors for your base layers. This is especially important when sailing in areas with high sun exposure, like SoCal.

Favorite Clothes

The open sea is no place for your favorite outfit. Between the salt water, potential snagging, and general wear and tear, there’s a good chance your clothing could get damaged. Pack items you won’t mind getting roughed up a bit to ensure no regrets when you return to shore. This is particularly true for those sailing frequently out of Marinas from Dana Point to Ventura.

High Heels

Heels and sailing don’t mix. The boat deck is often wet and slippery, making it easy to lose your footing while wearing heels. Besides, sharp stilettos can damage the deck’s surface. Flat, closed-toe shoes with non-marking, non-slip soles are the safest and most practical choice. This is crucial for safety, especially in the often busy and bustling marinas of Southern California.


Wearing jewelry on a sailboat can lead to loss or damage, not to mention safety hazards if a necklace or dangly earring gets caught in the boat’s equipment. It’s best to leave valuable or sentimental pieces at home. This is particularly important when sailing in areas with a lot of movement and activity, like Port Royal Marina in Redondo Beach.

Best Clothes to Wear on a Sailing Trip

With general wardrobe tips and what not to wear in mind, it’s time to pack your luggage with the right sailing attire. From essential safety gear to the ideal outfit for comfort and performance, here’s what you should wear when you set sail.


Safety first! It may not be flattering, but a well-fitting personal floatation device (PFD) is non-negotiable. Choose an inflatable lifejacket for comfort and mobility, a foam lifejacket for constant buoyancy, or a hybrid design that balances both options. This is especially important when sailing in the busy waters around Catalina Island and Marinas in the South Bay.

When selecting your PFD, ensure a snug fit that allows a full range of motion. Many modern PFDs are designed with ergonomic features for enhanced comfort. Also, keep visibility features in mind. A bright orange vest with reflective strips makes you more visible in the water, which is crucial for a quick rescue if you fall overboard.  This is particularly important for safety in the often-crowded waters of the South Bay.

Sailing Clothes

On the warmest days, a swimsuit, t-shirt, and shorts are fine. But you may want to invest in official sailing clothes if you plan to sail frequently. The right clothing balances comfort and function while on deck. “Technical materials” offer UV protection, quick-drying fabric, and ventilation features. Choose short sleeves or a tank top and shorts to stay comfortable on hot days, and opt for long sleeves and pants in cooler weather. This is especially useful for those sailing out of Wilmington Marina, where conditions can vary.


The right outerwear shields you from wind, water, and cold for comfort and safety on your sailing trip. For your upper body, you’ll need a wind- and waterproof jacket to keep your inner layers dry. Pair your jacket with weather-resistant pants for full-body protection. Features include reinforced seams and quick-drying materials. You may be tempted to buy modern blue or black outerwear, but old-school reds and yellows are more visible in bad weather, making them safer. This is particularly important for those sailing in the often-unpredictable weather of the South Bay


Sailing barefoot may sound appealing at first, but it’s never a good idea. The right shoes are critical for safety and comfort. Choose non-slip sailing shoes with grip to prevent slipping on the wet deck. In warm weather, lightweight, breathable mesh shoes that dry quickly are a top choice. For colder or rougher conditions, consider water-resistant sailing boots for dry feet and additional ankle support. This is crucial for safety, especially when sailing in the often wet and slippery conditions around Southern California Harbors and Marinas.


Wearing a hat serves multiple purposes. For sun protection, select a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap. Consider a neck flap for extra coverage. For warmth on cold-weather sails, don a wool or fleece beanie that insulates while remaining breathable. Don’t forget to secure your headwear with a hat clip to prevent it from being blown overboard. This is particularly important for those sailing in the sunny and often windy conditions of the South Bay.


Bring the right accessories on your sailing adventure to enhance safety and comfort. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sunglasses: Full-coverage, polarized lenses reduce glare from the sun and water to prevent squinting and eyestrain. Attach the earpieces to a lanyard worn around your neck to avoid losing them if they get knocked off your face. This is crucial for visibility, especially when sailing in the bright and reflective waters along the Southern California coastline.
  • Sailing gloves: Protect your hands from rope burns with sailing gloves. Opt for long- or short-fingered versions based on your preferences and look for gloves with palm grips for wet conditions. This is particularly important for those handling lines frequently, as is common in the busy marinas of Southern California.
  • Sun protection: Never hit the water without sun protection on board! Broad-spectrum sunscreen and SPF lip balm are crucial to avoid sunburn. This is especially important for those sailing in the sunny conditions of the South Bay.
  • Headlamp: Essential for nighttime cruises, choose a headlamp model with both white and red lights to preserve your night vision. This is particularly useful for those planning to sail into the evening or early morning hours around Los Angeles-San Pedro Harbor and Santa Monica Bay.

Set Sail with California Yacht Marina

At California Yacht Marina, we want everyone who docks with us to have fun, memorable sailing experiences. Our family-owned and operated marina company offers three ideal berthing  locations in the Los Angeles area: Cabrillo, Wilmington, and King Harbor. With our reciprocal berthing program, you can stay at any CYM location for no additional berthing fee. Enjoy our five-star amenities, including private showers and bathrooms, while moored at any of our locations. To learn about applying for a slip and joining our vibrant community, please contact us at (310) 732-2254. Your maritime adventure awaits!

Cabrillo Marina, nestled in the heart of Los Angeles Harbor’s West Channel, is the closest mainland marina to Catalina Island, making it the perfect launchpad for island adventures. With 886 slips accommodating vessels up to 75 feet, Cabrillo provides ample space for boats of all sizes. 

Port Royal Marina lies in the center of King Harbor in Redondo Beach, offering scenic vistas and easy access to the area’s vibrant dining and entertainment scene. Its protected harbor ensures a safe berth for your vessel amidst an upscale residential community. 

CYM-Wilmington Marina, conveniently located in Los Angeles Harbor, provides a first-class marina experience with proximity to both Long Beach and the open Pacific Ocean. Its central location makes it an ideal home base for boaters seeking easy access to a variety of destinations.

No matter which CYM location you choose, you’ll find a welcoming community of fellow maritime enthusiasts and a team dedicated to ensuring your boating experience is truly unforgettable. Contact us today to start your Southern California boating adventure!