Every boat should have a shot glass on board, but not necessarily for the purpose that first comes to mind. A shot glass holds one ounce, and that is how much sunscreen the experts say someone should apply to protect exposed skin.

Boating naturally exposes its enthusiasts to lots of sunshine. With Maine’s short boating season, people here tend to savor the summer and welcome the warmth of the sun’s rays. But it’s easy to overdo it, and results from overexposure can range from a mild burn that makes it hard to sleep for a night or two, to more serious consequences like skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Even if skin cancer has not directly affected you or someone you know, there is little dispute about the need to be careful about sun exposure.

Experts say one of the best ways to protect your skin from damage is to avoid the sun altogether, especially during midday hours. Of course, this makes no sense for the boating crowd. Fortunately, there are lots of products on the market that boaters can use to keep those nasty UVA and UVB rays at bay.

The Skin Cancer Foundation (www.skincancer.org) recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater. While many skin lotions have a sunscreen in them and are fine for everyday use, boaters and others who spend a lot of time outside should look for a stronger, water-resistant, beachwear-type sunscreen that holds together on your skin.

For a sunscreen to be effective, you need to apply about an ounce — the amount that fills that shot glass — 30 minutes before sun exposure. This will allow time for the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating a great deal.

Sunscreens are designed to remain stable and at original strength for up to three years. This means you can use leftover sunscreen from one summer to the next. But if you use sunscreen frequently and liberally, a bottle shouldn’t last you that long.

The right clothing can protect you as well — probably better — than sunscreen. Tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs is recommended, and there’s now a great variety of clothing and outdoor gear specially designed to provide sun protection.

On certain hot, sunny days, I’m actually more comfortable wearing lightweight clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 40. While clothing with a UPF rating carried a hefty price tag when it first came on the market, it is much more affordable now. Savvy shoppers can find it at discounted prices through the Internet and at Maine-based retailers like L.L. Bean factory stores and Reny’s stores.

Top it off with a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or golf visor. Tilley hats (www.tilley.com) are favorites among the sailing crowd, and now come in many different styles and fabrics.

Even those who cover up with clothing need to remember to protect the face, neck, hands and any other exposed parts with a good sunscreen.

Once you’re done protecting your skin, remember your eyes. Too much sun exposure over the years can contribute to problems like cataracts or macular degeneration. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk by wearing sunglasses along with that broad-brimmed hat.

The American College of Ophthalmology (www.aao.org/eyesmart/resources/sunglasses.cfm) recommends sunglasses that block 99 or 100 percent of UV light. Wraparound glasses are shaped to keep light from shining around the frames and into your eyes. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get this kind of protection, but the superior lens coatings and minimal distortion you get with certain high-end glasses may be worth the extra cash.

So enjoy the sun, but do so in moderation. Your skin and your eyes will be better for it years down the road. Besides, that tanned look is so passe. Like leisure suits, platform shoes and other misguided fashion trends of the 1970s, it needs to be put in its proper place.

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. She can be reached at:

[email protected]