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Sailing and Sunglasses

Extended exposure to sunrays can have harmful effects on your skin, and increase hazards on the water. Not only are you likely to be out in the sun for a long time, but the glare off the water, not to mention the deck, sails and other vessels, makes your exposure much more intense, just as it is for skiing, for example.

Taking off your shades, or leaving them at home, is like heading out on the water without sunscreen. A multitude of eye conditions have been associated with prolonged exposure to sunlight, UV rays and intense glare. This includes cataracts, macular degeneration, keratitis (snow blindness) and pterygium, as well as damage to sensitive skin around the eyes.

Below is a basic list of things you should look for when considering sunglasses for sailing or maritime activity.

So a pair of marine sunglasses is a valuable asset to a voyage. Of course, most non-specialist High Street pairs will filter the worst of UV rays, but great sailing sunglasses are much more advanced than you might assume. Here are a few more pointers to help steer you in the right direction.

Lens material:

Acrylic lenses are the cheapest, but they also have the most distortion and least longevity. Glass lenses are extremely scratch-resistant and have excellent optics, but they are also relatively heavy, and dangerous for boating. Between these two, lenses are available in a variety of patented materials, the best of which are polycarbonate and trivex. Polycarbonates are lightweight, inexpensive and durable; and trivex adds clarity and even more increased durability to those assets at additional cost.


The sharper contrast and dramatic reduction of glare provided by a polarized lens will help you pick up the details in the water (like concealed buoys, wind changes and orcas (!)) as well as reduce the reflected light from the water surface or fiberglass dash. These will also provide much greater clarity as refracted light is absorbed by wind-whipped dust, falling rain, airborne spray, or fog. Polarization will even allow you to see below the surface of the water, which can aid in looking out for weeds and shallows.

Lens color:

While green lenses, which provide the least amount of color distortion are still common, gray lenses have become popular with boaters because they are useful in a wider range of conditions. In particular, the lighter tint allows better performance in overcast conditions and prevents any loss of color when clouds are chasing sunlight across the bay. The colors may not be perfect, but the brown lenses allow you to spot variations in the water that you would miss with green or gray lenses. This added clarity might be helpful to you.

Whichever you choose, I have a nice selection of Maui Jim, Revo, and other wrap around styles which you're sure to fall in love with.

David Greening David Greening, ABOC, BS(HONS) Ophth. Dispensing David is a licensed optician, and has been in optics since 2002. He attained his Bachelor of Science degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing in Kent, England (2014). He has extensive experience, having managed his own practice for many years prior to arriving at Astorino & Associates Eye Center. He is a licensed American optician (ABOC) and is well-recognized for his quality of service, attention to detail, and patient care. He left our practice January 2024.

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