Audrey, aka Skipper, has always wanted foulweather gear, but the most common foul weather we had along the Florida Gulf Coast was withering heat and humidity. That all changed when we moved from the Panhandle to the mid-Atlantic coast. Now, wind and cold spray have become part of our maritime weather, and this year she got her first set of foulweather gear, the Third Reef jacket and bibs from West Marine. They worked so well that I got a set, too.
The jacket’s outer shell has two layers of nylon and a laminate of polyurethane. The combination is windproof, waterproof, and breathable. The nylon fabric has a soft feel and is very flexible. The jacket lining is polyester tricot mesh, which dries quickly and wicks moisture to aid in breathability. Inside the jacket, all the seams are taped to make them waterproof.
The zippers are YKK Vislon marine-grade, with Delrin teeth for low friction, and resistance to wear, UV, and corrosion. Pull tabs provide easier operation with gloves or cold hands. The front opening and pocket zippers are waterproof. The two-way front zipper optimizes ventilation, and opening the bottom end a bit prevents restriction when sitting or bending at the waist. There are five conveniently placed front pockets; four are large enough to reach into with a gloved hand and one on the chest is sized for a small smart phone. The waterproof pocket zippers also have large storm flaps with Velcro fastenings that make the flaps easy to open. There are pieces of retroreflective tape on the hood, shoulders, and wrists, although the women’s jacket does not have the tape on the shoulders. The large tail of the jacket is made from ballistic nylon and provides excellent coverage when seated.
The high collar is lined with microfleece and houses a hood. The two-layer, high-visibility-yellow hood is large enough to wear with a watch cap underneath. It has an elastic cordwith slider for one-handed adjustment of the face opening, and a Velcro tab on the top to adjust brim placement. This adjustment keeps the hood in place when the wind is blowing. The hood turns with the wearer and doesn’t get in the way of over-the-shoulder glances. When not needed, the brim can be folded back out of sight. Inside the jacket there is an elastic cord -and-slider adjustment for the bottom hem, and similar adjustments for the waist cinch in both lower pockets. The outer cuff and inner liner sleeve have Velcro closures.
The jacket has an excellent tapered fit yet is sized to allow for wearing insulating layers underneath. Skipper is an experienced tailor with four decades of sewing experience, and she notes that the sleeves are cut like those of a good suit jacket, with a one-part upper sleeve and two-part under sleeve, which allows better mobility for tending to spars, hauling sails, and adjusting lines on our sailboats. The flat pockets and smooth outer shell prevent catching on cleats, oar handles, tillers, belaying pins, standing rigging, and the like. We found that the outer layer sheds water well. The jacket also has a nice weight and feel, is machine washable, and can be tumble-dried on low. There is a ring placed below the chest pocket to attach a lanyard for a whistle or an outboard motor’s kill switch.
The Third Reef bibs are also made of waterproof, windproof, breathable nylon with taped internal seams. The wide elastic shoulder straps are adjustable and can be released from the bib front. There is ballistic-nylon reinforcement in the seat, knees, and cuff backs, as well as Velcro on the cuff closures, which open wide enough to fit over rubber boots. The YKK waterproof zippers used on the thigh pockets get extra protection from storm flaps. The women’s bibs have two side-entry zippers; the men’s bib entry zipper is placed on the front of the bib and is backed by a gusset. The generous cut of the material at the hips and knees aids range of motion, which comes in handy when shifting weight and balance while on board as well as while getting in and out of boats at the dock and on the shoreline. Retroreflective trim above the knees helps in low-light visibility. Unlike the jacket, the bibs are unlined, which promotes quick drying and reduces weight.
To simulate a downpour and windblown rain, I’ve had Skipper spray me with the garden hose while I wore the jacket and bibs and performed a variety of boating tasks—I even went into the cold shower with the gear on—and have found no leaks.
The Third Reef line of foulweather gear has many well-thought-out features and does not feel restrictive or heavy, which makes it comfortable to wear for extended periods and affords plenty of mobility for all types of boating. While our Third Reef gear is new to us this year, Steve, our retired U.S. Coast Guard friend, has had his Third Reef foulies for about four years, and he reports that there have been no leaks and that the materials are holding up well.
Audrey and Kent Lewis mess about along the mid-Atlantic coast in a variety of motor, sail, oar, and paddle boats from 8′ to 19′. They are planning future expeditions for the James, Chesapeake, Delaware, and Mobjack bays, and the Outer Banks. They blog their adventures at Small Boat Restoration.
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