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Oilskin can mean
- A fabric like canvas with a layer of oil applied to it as waterproofing, often linseed oil. Traditional types of oilskin included:
- Oilskins, a garment made of oilskin or of other heavy waterproof material (excluding gabardine and similar fabrics). Such garments include:
These days, oilskins or oilies means a foul-weather gear made of modern synthetic and often quite advanced fabrics and worn by sailors. (At sea, moisture can come from sea spray as well as rain.)
Oilskin trousers are very high-cut for a large overlap with the jacket to prevent water from entering through the join. However, in moderate weather often only the trousers are worn (as in the photo at right); their high cut keeps wind and water off the lower part of the torso. The trousers are held up by shoulder straps, and straps around the bottom of the trouser legs make it possible to tightened them around seaboots, providing a semi-watertight join. This does not allow them to be used like fishing waders, but a wave sweeping briefly across the deck will generally not penetrate. All but the cheapest oilskin trousers are reinforced across the seat and knees.
Oilskin jackets are similar in many ways to waterproofs used for walking. The most visible difference is that they usually have a much higher collar to keep out spray, and in many cases to warm the ears, or the whole head. A fold-away hood is provided, almost always in a high-visibility colour since the head will be the only part showing above the water if the sailor falls overboard. It often has retroreflective patches on the shoulders for the same reason. Its tails are very long to keep water off the legs.
The cuffs of better oilskin jackets include an inner seal, something like that on a scuba diver's drysuit, to stop water getting in if a wave is forced up the sleeve. This is less important in walking jackets since when walking on land the arms usually point down away from the rain; but this nuisance can happen in motorcycling whenever the arms holding the handlebars point forward into a wet headwind.
Pockets on trousers and jackets are often lined with a synthetic fleece material designed to be quick-drying and warm even when soaked. Since most sailing consists of bursts of hard work between periods of relative inactivity, being hunched up with hands in pockets is a common pose in bad weather during the inactive periods, and soft linings help keep the hands warm. A recent innovation is removable soft linings, which enables them to be washed.
Some oilskin jackets include built-in harnesses; these are typically just a strap around the chest to which a lifeline can be clipped during very bad weather. This avoids the need to wear a separate harness, but may be less safe than a modern separate harness which includes a lifejacket. More expensive oilskin jackets may also function as lifejackets. Some jackets come with equipment like lights, flares, and an emergency radio beacon.
Care must be taken with traditional oilskins because of the danger of the oil coming off onto other surfaces.
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