Everyone knows that too much exposure to UV rays from the sun can be harmful. A little sun exposure is a good thing, helping produce Vitamin D and providing a beneficial lift to one’s outlook. However, too much sun can be harmful to the skin, not only in immediate burns and blistering, but in creating long-term risk for skin cancers.

Boaters need to be especially aware of sun exposure, since water reflects the sun’s rays and increases the risks and dangers of over-exposure.

Using common sense helps. These days, we all slather on sunblock creams, drink plenty of water, and head for the shade in midday. But as we enter the heat of summer, when we often go boating in shorts or swimwear, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of some simple common steps to take to minimize the damage from the hot rays of the sun.

  1. Sunblock. Easily the best thing you can do for skin protection. You should wear sunscreen lotion every time you go outside, even when it’s cloudy, and especially if you’re going boating. Most experts recommend a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. If you’ve had skin cancer problems in the past, you should wear at least 45 SPF lotion. And always look for the “broad spectrum” lotion in the stores: this will help protect you against UVA rays as well as UVB.

Sunblock lotion should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outside, and additional lotion should be applied every 2 hours when you are outside.

  1. Cover Up.  If you are susceptible to burning easily, or if you plan to be on the water for an extended period, wear looser clothing that covers more skin. Long sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats are all recommended. There are clothing makers (Solumbra and Coolibar to mention just two) that make lightweight garments designed to block UV rays.  
  2. Eye Care.  Don’t forget your eyes when thinking about protection from the sun. Especially on the water, a good pair of UV-blocking sunglasses is important.
  3. Get Out of the Sun.  Remember that old saying “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun?” It’s true (no offense to either mad dogs or Englishmen!) The sun rays are at their harshest and most damaging when the sun is overhead, roughly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the summer. Find some shade at midday! And during those midday hours, limit the time you’re exposed to the sun (like swimming off the stern or fishing at the rails) to thirty minutes at a time.
  4. Stay hydrated.  Drinking plenty of water on hot sunny days will help keep your skin hydrated and resistant to harmful UV rays. Plus, it will help prevent heat exhaustion. Drink often and drink plenty out on the boat.