How to Protect Your Eyes on the Water

08 July 2024

How to Protect Your Eyes on the Water

Sailing presents numerous challenges for your eyes due to the intense light reflecting off the water's surface, polished hulls, white sails, and the multitude of stainless-steel fittings on deck. Without proper protection, your eyes can be easily damaged, with the bright sunlight potentially scorching your retinas and corneas, increasing the likelihood of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.

Essential Eye Protection

Protecting your eyesight with a high-quality pair of sunglasses is essential, especially when sailing across oceans where your eyes are exposed to the sun for prolonged periods. Even on dull days, the amount of light at sea can strain your eyes.


Key Features of Sunglasses for Sailing

  1. UV Protection: Ensure your sunglasses offer 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays (look out for the CE mark in Europe to show they meet the required standards). This helps prevent long-term damage to your eyes, reduces eye fatigue from glare and squinting, and avoids headaches caused by straining your eyes all day. UV400 lenses, which block UV rays at the top end of the spectrum, offer the highest level of protection.
  2. Polarized Lenses: Polarized lenses significantly reduce glare from the water's surface, enhancing visual comfort and clarity. They’re also great for seeing coral and fish!

  3. Wrap-Around Design: Sunglasses with a wrap-around design provide better coverage for your eyes and the delicate skin around them, reducing peripheral glare and offering enhanced protection.
  4. Lens Coatings:
    • Hydrophobic Coating: Repels water and salt, helping to keep your lenses clear after being splashed by a wave.
    • Oleophobic Coating: Repels oils, preventing smudges from sunscreen and fingerprints.
    • Anti-fog treatment: Helps prevent lenses from fogging

Optimal Timing for Eye Protection

It's not just at midday when the sun poses the highest risk to your eyes. The danger is often greater before and after midday, when the sun is lower in the sky, causing more intense reflections off the water. Therefore, having sunglasses that provide full coverage and reduce reflective glare is crucial throughout the day.

By choosing the right pair of sunglasses with the necessary features, you can protect your eyes from the harsh conditions on the water, ensuring a safer and more comfortable sailing experience. Check out Yachting World's recent article Best sailing sunglasses: 8 practical options for eye protection on the water


Additional Considerations

  • Secure Fit: Ensure your glasses fit securely. Nothing is worse than investing in a good pair only to see them fall off and sink (floating frames are also worth considering!).
  • Spare Sunglasses: Consider including spare sunglasses in liferaft grab bags, as well as spare glasses if you require prescription lenses.
  • Contact Lenses: Many sailors prefer contact lenses over glasses to avoid the necessity of switching glasses above and below decks and the inconvenience of rain and spray obstructing vision. Multifocal lenses can correct both short and long sight, so the horizon, plotter, and compass can all be viewed without additional glasses. Ensure you have spare lenses onboard and in your grab bag.
  • First Aid Kit: Include sterile saline eyewash, rigid eye shields, and sterile eye dressings in your first aid kit. Also, have both antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops onboard.

Community and Charitable Initiatives

One of the World Cruising Club’s traditions is to help sailors on its rallies get involved in community and charitable initiatives along the route. While in Vava'u, Tonga, the World ARC 2024-25 rally fleet delivered two eye screening kits plus 240 pairs of in-field prescription distance and reading glasses for adults and children on behalf of Global Vision 2020. Circumnavigating with the fleet on her boat Bahati (GBR) is specialist optometrist Sian Joesbury, who was delighted to help with the project.

Through initiatives like these, our sailors are contributing to improving eye care for communities around the world.