My cold weather gear which I would not be without consists of ;
1. A fleecy rash vest under a Spartan steamer.
2. Atan 4mm boots. These have a titanium fleecy lining and are latex for that bare foot feel. (Friends have the 8mm Atans, but complain that they are too thick and squidgy - I have NEVER had cold feet with the 4mm ones and they are so comfortable that I wear them year round.)
3. Neoprene balaclava (keeping your head warm makes a HUGE difference in winter. If you wear a beanie and go out in waves, the voice of experience says tie it on!)
4. I have some ProLimit shaped gloves with a neoprene back and leather front. They are the ONLY gloves that I have ever had which do not make my forearms burn within 30s of getting on the water. (I have spent a fortune on gloves that don't work.) I have heard that a pair of Marigolds help to keep off the wind chill, but have not tried this myself.
5. I usually make sure that something (either the water temperature or the air temperature) is in double figures before I venture out. I have had it only once, but 'the hot aches' is not funny! As it is a much larger body of water, the sea remains warmer for much longer than lakes. It is probably at its warmest now, just at the end of summer. I usually sail through to the end of January on the sea with no problem.
My cold-weather strategy is as follows;
1. Stay warm; once you get cold it is very hard to warm up. To this end, I drive to the beach in my wetsuit. (It helps living only 15mins away.) It beats squeezing into a clammy steamer in a wind-whipped car park in December!
2. Although entering tartan blanket territory, believe me when I say that you will be glad of a flask of hot water and some Cup a Soups when you come in from a winter session! Chocolate or energy bars will help to warm the soul.
3. I could not live without my Ion neoprene rigging jacket, which I don to keep me warm as soon as I come in. A warm beanie is also helpful to keep you toasty once you come off the water.
4. I drive home in my wettie as well (using said Ion neoprene rigging jacket to sit on to keep the van seats dry!) I then change in the womb-like warmth of my own bathroom while running a nice hot bath!
5. If you live too far from the coast to drive there in your wettie, consider moving. Trust me, you won't regret it!
I hope that this helps to extend your season!