Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sun Protection

The sun is a real bugger in the summer. I realize I was spoiled by the big hard top on the PDQ, now that I'm baking in the sun once again.

The water is wonderful, but the air is steamy.

Earlier this week, after enjoying a nice sail, I decided to anchor for a bit in the falling breeze, to eat lunch and eventually do some paddling along the coast. The first thing I did was rig an awning, which was a life saver.

I need to fine-tune the pitch, but this nylon tarp keeps the sun off. Notice some chipping of the paint.

I made it up 10 months ago out of a blue nylon tarp I had. Itis attached to the mast and topping lift, with straps around the shrouds and posts fitted to the stern pulpit. I didn't set the back corners  correctly for this image (I forgot where they went), but you get the idea. The white paint is nothing more than a single coat of Behr from Home Depot, casually slapped on; I learned from another boat that white really drops the temperature.

Which brings us to sails. Every self-respecting furling genoa has a sacrificial UV strip, usually Pacific Blue Sunbrella (which the sailmakers call "everybody blue"). It lasts until the stitching fails, generally about 5-8 years. You can either restitch it for another 5 years, or have it replaced for $400-$800. It's heavy but durable. Some folks use sail cloth or self-adhesive Insignia Cloth from Bainbridge; a waste if you ask me, since they only last 3-4 years.

And then there are light air sails, like this furling laminate reacher, that have no UV cover. We don't leave it up, partially for this reason, and partially because we don't use it most days. But it would be nice to leave it up, if only it had some protection....

You won't see me sewing a UV strip on it. Stitching a Mylar sail is like adding a tear-here perforation.

This jib suffered a 5-foot tear right along the stitch line. The cover was post-factory and the sailmaker that added the cover was an idiot (you need to insert a special scrim or layer of polyester before stitching Mylar). 

 We also know that paint can stick to sails. This is for advertising, not UV (mostly--it must help), but it does last a year.

Can paint provide a serviceable, light, and economical alternative to Sunbrella UV covers? Maybe it won't last as long, but on an older sail, does that really matter? Perhaps the $600 you save is more wisely earmarked for a new sail in 4-5 years.

I'm lining up some test paints. I think you will see a paint UV cover on my reacher in a few months. We don't leave it up much, so I'm sure it will be enough. I doubt the UV cover will ever fail on our Mylar genoa--the sail will explode first. Would I use paint in place of Sunbella on a new polyester genoa? Probably not, but perhaps for an old dog. On a Mylar jib? Yes, I'm thinking it might be the better value, if I can find the right paint. I already know that stitching a cover onto Mylar is questionable at best.


  1. Hey Drew, wondering whether you have made progress with the paint UV cover project? Worth consideration, in my view.

  2. In fact, the test panels are on the roof, soaking up sun. A few late arrivals should be arriving soon, to include products used by North and Doyle.

    Spray paints have been disqualified, including some claiming good plastic adhesion. They are too stiff and crack.

    It is also becoming clear that ANY material that is white will have inferior anti-UV properties, even Sunbrella and UV sailcloth. The best strips will always be dark.

    I've got a laminate reacher I'm planning to paint in the spring, and I may be getting a new laminate jib in the summer or fall, which will probably get a paint UV strip.

    I think it's exciting. Interestingly, even the sail companies have not investigated the UV aspect very much; they are focused on racing sails, which never see much sun.