Being on the water is a wonderful experience, but conditions can be brutal on your body. You might think of heavy wind or drenching rain as the most dangerous conditions, but in reality it is the sun that is likely to cause you the most trouble.
There is no shade on the water, except for what might be provided by a sail or bimini. Not only does the sunlight come from above, but it is also reflected off of the water and off of white sails and hulls. This can be hazardous for both your eyes and your skin; for more information on how to care for your eyes, take a look at our article on sunglasses.
Taking care of your skin is essential, as sunburns and sun damage are known to cause pain, age skin faster, and cause cancer. This might sound frightening, but we have prepared a guide that will help you take the best possible care of your skin so you can relax and enjoy your days on board.
The most basic (and most important) method for skin care, sunscreen is an absolutely essential item to have on board of your boat.
Some helpful information about sunscreen:
- Do not use anything under 15 SPF — this is the minimum to provide actual sun protection.
- Some sunscreens are marked as waterproof or sweatproof, which provide more protection for boaters.
- Sunscreens marked at more than 50 SPF may seem like the most powerful, but are not actually more effective.
- For some people, sunscreen will make their skin oily or clog their pores. If your skin is sensitive in this way, look for sunscreen that is marked as non-comedogenic: this is just the dermatology term for a substance that will not clog pores.
- If your lips are especially sensitive, you can buy lip balm that has a low level of SPF in it.
- Make sure to use sunscreen that affords both UVA and UVB protection, to ward off both burns and illness.
- When you are not using sunscreen, make sure to store it out of the light of the sun — if it is exposed to too much sunlight it will become ineffective.
- Wait until sunscreen dries before going out in the sun or on the water; this should take approximately 15 minutes.
Remember, sunscreen has to be reapplied every two hours. If you just put it on at the beginning of the day, you may end up with a sunburn by the time you are back on the mooring.
Boating with Hats
Sunscreen will take care of most of your body, but chances are you will not want to rub it into your scalp. Your hair will protect you to some extent, if you are not out on the water for too long, but you can still get painful burns on your scalp. A hat is the only item that will fully protect the skin on your head with the added bonus of giving your eye some additional protection. Any cap will protect your face, but hats with all all-around wider brim will shield the back of your head and neck as well.
When getting a hat that will be used specifically for going out on the water, make sure to find one that has eyelets on the sides or comes with a built-in strap. As all boaters well know, the wind can be very strong out on the water, and hats go over the side quite easily if they are not firmly attached to your head.
Clothes for Boating
As sunscreen wears off, the smart boater knows to pack clothing that will not only keep them from getting too warm but will also shield them from the sun. Pure cotton will not provide much protection; look for synthetic threads treated with UV blocking material. These will also be more water resistant, as cotton tends to soak up water and not let it go. Keep in mind the parts of your body that will be most exposed, such as your neck, shoulders, and upper arms.
Sunburns are painful, distracting, and annoying — and possibly cancerous. It may seem like a chore to remember to put sunscreen on and bring your protective gear, but it is well worth avoiding the consequences of sunburn or sun poisoning.