See the Invisible - Shady Rays Sunglasses Review

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."
-Jonathan Swift

I’ve only tried one pair of Shady Rays, but I can confidently say that these are affordable, quality sunglasses that look good and get the job done.  And if you’re the type of person that wants to feel good about the companies you do business with, Shady Rays gets some points there too.  They are an independent sunglasses company that provides 11 meals for every order to help fight hunger in the U.S. through FeedingAmerica.  To date, they've provided over 2.6 million meals to fight hunger.

"Making the best shades for 24/7 action." & "Live Hard. We Got You." Those are the bars that Shady Rays has set for their brand of sunglasses.  They're aiming for an audience of active outdoor sailors.  To see if they can live up to the slogans, let's look at how they are constructed and what Shady Rays does to stand behind their product.  Each pair features shatter-resistant, high-visibility Polarized lenses construction with a lifetime craftsmanship warranty and free replacements if lost or broken.  While the craftsmanship warranty shouldn't be a surprise, free replacements for lost and broken sunglasses is a nice perk.  They also include free shipping, returns, and exchanges with new orders.  Note that you'll have to pay a shipping/handling fee if you make a lost/broken warranty claim.

The specific pair of sunglasses I tried for this post are the Signature Series Emerald Ice Polarized.  I chose these because of the classic shape combined with the slightly edgy clear gloss frame and blue-green mirror lenses.  It's sort of an old-meets-new look.  The plastic frame does feel durable and the metal hinges have kept their original tight feel through my many cycles of opening and closing the bows.  The lenses provide a crisp view with a light gray tint looking out.  To get technical, the visible light transmission (VLT) is 13% which makes these good for bright sunlight conditions.  If you want something darker for even brighter conditions, the Blackout lenses have a VLT of 8% but you loose that cool mirror finish.  Need something for lower light conditions such as dusk, dawn, and cloudy days?  Try the Glacier lenses and their VLT of 18%.  For me, the Emerald lenses hit the sweet spot.
So far, I've only been to use this in bright snowy conditions, but based on the protection and clarity they provide, I'm confident they'll get the job done on the water too. 

So those are the Shady Rays Signature Series sunglasses - a good looking frame shape with multiple lens choices and crisp vision.  They don't come with a fancy case (a microfiber pouch is included) or a snobby reputation, but you'll get functionality and style for about $45.

Ready to shop for your pair of Shady Rays? You can find the Signature Series sunglasses here in a variety of frame colors and lenses.

>> Don't forget to visit SFLF's Gear Review page for more sailing gear reviews/tests. <<

Aloha for your Feet: OluKai Footwear for Sailing

OluKai believes that everybody, no matter where they are, can live Aloha. Live "hello"? No, not exactly. The word "Aloha" goes far beyond just a greeting. The true deeper meaning is love, peace and compassion. A life of Aloha is one when the heart is so full it is overflowing with the ability to influence others around you with your spirit.

Now you're educated about Hawaii's most popular word, but what about popular Hawaiian shoes for sailing?

Shoes might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about sailing gear, but good grip and comfortable feet can make life on deck or the dock better. Here's two pair of OluKai's I've been trying out lately that I recommend for boat use:

Holona ("Sailing, Traveling")
  • Non-marking molded rubber outsole with "traction pods"
  • Built for the water: quick drying and water-resistant
  • 100% synthetic, 0% animal products
SFLF remarks: I love the low profile design but was initially concerned that this would mean they lacked the comfy, squishy footbed of other high-end sandals. Not so! These are still very comfortable under foot while feeling light. Wet traction is good, particularly for a flip-flop style sandal. While the materials are 100% synthetic, the look could fool you into thinking they're leather. Be aware that these run about 1/2 size small based on my experience.

Akahai ("Modest")
  • Full-grain leather (Canvas is also available but mine are leather)
  • Non-marking rubber outsole w/ heavy gauge sidewall stitching
  • Dual-density footbed
SFLF remarks: At first glance, these don't look like a boat shoe but the non-marking outsole, solid grip and slip-on style fit the bill. I particularly like that the heal leather can be worn up for a more secure fit or down for quick no hassle step-in performance. The stitching adds visual appeal, but is heavy-duty and feels like it will do its intended job for the long run. Arch support is very good and the upper fits snugly, perhaps a bit too snug if you don't like feeling a shoe wrapping your foot. I've worn mine with and without socks and they seem fine either way. As with the Holonas above, the Akahais run small compared to my normal shoe sizing.

I've always liked the OluKai brand. I guess the OluKai Makau fishhook logo cast from their marketing team snagged me before I even tried on one of their shoes. And their Hawaiian product names stir my desires to sail the trade winds and explore salt-soaked islands, but I can honestly say that their footwear is very high quality with styles that are outside of the norm.

Aloha for your feet!

>> Don't forget to visit SFLF's Gear Review page for more sailing gear reviews/tests. <<

The Speed of Sail - Does it Matter How Fast You Go?

"Sail the main course, sail it in a simple sturdy craft. Keep her well stocked with short stories and long laughs. Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.
Moderation seems to be the key."
Lyrics from Barometer Soup by Jimmy Buffett

Does speed matter when you're sailing? I suppose that question depends on why you're sailing in the first place. Racing? Yes, speed matters. Day sailing to enjoy time on the water? Speed probably doesn't matter. Cruising? Sometimes speed matters. 

When acting as weekend warriors or taking a 2 week summer cruiser, we've taken passages of between 6 to 90 nautical miles at time. Speed doesn't really matter to us on the short port hops of say less than 20 nautical miles, but when we're approaching hour 12 of a 90 nm passage, I admit that I start tweaking the sails to coax another 1/4 knot of boat speed from the wind gods. Doing a bit of math, if I would have found that 1/4 knot when I first raised the sails during hour one, I might have saved 45 minutes total on the passage. In that case, I suppose speed only matters if the flies are biting or the beer is gone. 

Let's look at the extremes of fast sailing. IF (that's a big and totally unrealistic "if") we were cruising on the world's fastest sailboat (Vestas Sailrocket), that same 90 nm passage could have taken a mere ~1 hour and 40 minutes at her top speed of about 65 knots (75 mph!). Or an America's Cup AC72 (top speed of ~40 knots) would be a quick passage maker too. Of course at those speeds we'd miss the deep conversations while sitting on deck with the autopilot on. And we'd miss the slow flyby photo opps of Sleeping Bear Dunes and napping while being gently rocked by the quartering seas. Clearly, those powerboat-like speeds aren't slow enough to "see".

This is our pace..

While the extra 1/4 knot I sometimes search for on our longer passages has debatable value for my own type of sailing, finding that extra 1/4 knot on the Pacific Puddle Jump (Mexico to the South Pacific) surely makes a difference. Again, let's do the math. The ~3000 nautical mile passage at an average of 5 knots would take 25 days. That's a long time at sea. Now consider that the same passage at 5.25 knots would take 23.8 days. Finding the 1/4 knot saves you more than an entire day. And suffice it to say, you've got time during a 3000 nm passage to search for knot fragments.

There are other advantages to speed too, other than just saving some time. A little extra speed can be the difference between outrunning an oncoming storm system or getting overtaken by it. As long as you're prepared, either can work out just fine. Again, the length of the passage adds to the practicality of outrunning weather. For example, it's less likely to outrun a thunderstorm on a 25nm afternoon sail than it is to see a storm that's days away while on an offshore passage through forecasting and subsequently be able to alter course or otherwise just keep sailing along and beat the storm into port.

Enjoyment also plays a role. I know sailors who want the rail buried and the sails trimmed tight to keep the ride wet and thrilling. Me? I'd much prefer to just run off on a leisurely broad reach with the occasional flap from the genoa as the boat wanders a bit too far downwind because I'm distracted by a daydream.

Or maybe moderation really is the key.