Sun Protection While Sailing
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Last Updated on December 1, 2021 by Amy
Now that we’re back in Texas and living on land, we’ve been visiting friends (with social distance) and seeing our doctors. I’ve actually had two comments:
Friend: Ya’ll don’t LOOK like you’ve spent six years out in the sun.
My PCP: Your skin looks great. What sunscreen do you use?
Tons of sunshine out on the water is great for a vacation, but it can really be a drag when you live in it 24/7. David and I are both very fair-skinned, and there’s a history of melanoma in my family, so avoiding the sun becomes a high priority task while sailing. Here’s how we stay out of the sun and prevent sunburn!
I am not a big fan of hats, mostly because I hate how they get in the way of sunglasses, which are absolutely essential. But, I have several tech visors onboard for when I do want to wear one.
David has several baseball hats that he wears on excursions. He makes sure to wear synthetic (NOT cotton) hats to keep his head cool while still covered from the sun.
We also have absolutely dorky full-brimmed hats. David wears his a lot more than I wear mine, especially while he is working on boat projects.
The most important aspect of sunglasses is polarization. Having polarized lenses (in your glasses or cameras) cut down on reflections in the water and allows you to see into the water better.
We each have multiple pairs of sunglasses onboard. Sunglasses get lost, rust, or suffer from delamination very easily. Guests also tend to frequently lose sunglasses while visiting, so it helps to have a few extra pairs on hand.
Sunglasses should also have UV protection, and after a few years, we’ve found that it’s not worth it to buy fancy ones like we used to. Cheap sunglasses aren’t a big deal when broken or lost overboard.
David and I both opt for dry-fit athletic shirts to wear around the boat. These shirts are light-weight and loose-fitting. We both have a mix of long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts.
I wear athletic leggings most of the time, while David wears athletic shorts. They wick away sweat, breathe, and keep the tops of our legs covered. I do have a tan line about halfway up my calves (whoops!).
In the Water
When diving, we usually wear our 2/3 wetsuits because it gets cold being in the water for an hour, no matter where you are. Snorkeling is a whole different story, though. The sun is intense, and I quickly discovered that I can easily outlast my sunscreen while snorkeling, especially when you are taking the dinghy out to a location outside of the anchorage.
Long dinghy rides typically mean more sun exposure on your shoulders while sitting in the dinghy. I combat this by wearing long-sleeve rash guards. They are tight enough across the front that I don’t wear a bikini top underneath, and the UV-protectant fabric allows for unlimited sun exposure. Because they are tight, I can layer them under my full wetsuit so that I get sun protection while boating between dive sites too.
- O’NEILL Premium Women’s Long Sleeve Crew Rashguard
- O’Neill Women’s Basic Skins Upf 50+ Long Sleeve Rash Guard
- Men’s Basic Skins O’Neill UPF 50+ Long Sleeve Rash Guard
I also have a few one-piece long sleeve suits. I like these because they guarantee protection of my lower back, whereas wearing separates rides up and exposes my skin between the bottoms and tops.
- Century Star Women’s One Piece Long Sleeve Rash Guard
- Daci Women Rash Guard Long Sleeve One Piece Swimsuit
Thanks to a few sunburns on my butt, I started wearing old running shorts when I went snorkeling. But, there are better options out there.
There are one-piece swimsuits available with shorts. These are ideal for protecting your butt when snorkeling, a spot I often either don’t cover well enough with sunscreen or outlast my sunscreen. Your butt gets the most sun exposure when snorkeling for extended periods of time. Plus, the cool water washing over you can mask the early signs of a sunburn.
- Swimsuit for Women Design One Piece Long-Sleeve Surfing Suit
- Micosuza Women’s One Piece Short Sleeve Boy-Leg Surfing Suit
Finally, you can get full-on leggings or pants that were designed for swimming. My very first time swimming in the Great Barrier Reef when I was 21, I did not apply enough sunscreen to the back of my legs. I think I was wearing shorts, so I was spared from burning my butt. However, the back of my calves got so sunburned the skin was tight and my feet swelled. Don’t make the same mistakes 21-year-old me made…
Two more great benefits of having leggings like these are that you can layer them under a wetsuit for colder dives and they also make slipping on wetsuits easier, especially when everything is wet in between dives.
We use a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 50 or more. Because we can’t always find the same brands from country to country, we don’t have a particular one we use regularly. We buy what is available.
My face can be very sensitive, and I’ve settled on a favorite matte finish, tinted, mineral sunscreen by Tizo.
I have a couple of Buff headbands that I like to use to protect my head. In times of Covid, they can also double as a face-covering.
We never, ever, use aerosols on our boat. The spray gets everywhere and can stain the fiberglass. Lotions all the way!
We stay out of the sun! When I’m on watch at the helm, I move to sit wherever the shade is. Sometimes that’s on the lounge deck, at the helm seat, or even, when conditions are good for it, I sit on the bow under the shade of the headsail. I have a portable reclining chair like this one that makes sitting anywhere on the boat much more comfortable. Thanks to the fantastic views in our main salon we can comfortably sit inside and keep a good watch too.
Do you have any tips for how to stay out of the sun and keep your skin healthy?
This is why I started watching you! My husband was treated for skin cancer while we were living in Texas and sailing Lake Travis near Austin and I saw that you were a redhead and circumnavigating, which we hope to do. I felt encouraged that maybe you would show how to protect ourselves while living in the sun. We are only up to your Thailand videos so I’m trying not to get ahead of myself by reviewing your blog but I couldn’t wait. I’m so ready to start planning our trip I decided to start reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us!!! Fair winds!
Aw thank you! Yes, we spend a lot of time under the shade! Thankfully we have been pretty good.
Thanks for the post, you can’t undo sun damage! I love my coolibar swim pants for SUPing. Nice coverage and sun protection.