What is a Shade Sail?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Boating in the backyard or anyplace off the bay may sound like a flight of fancy. However with the growing popularity of the shade sail, an aspect of sailing is integrated into the backyard need for cool shade. Like sails for boats, the shade sail uses a piece of cloth, affixed tightly to at least three points. Instead of providing the wind on which one can travel in a boat, it provides delightful shade in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Using rigidly tied fabric to provide shade is certainly not new. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans left records behind that they did so. With the sailing propensity of the Greeks, the tying of fabric at three points to secure it makes complete logical sense. Some suggest that the Romans even took this further by shading parts of the coliseum with shade sails.

Today, a shade sail is usually used for the more modest purpose of creating shaded areas in homes, or near office buildings where they can be affixed. With shade sail fabric, which is typically the most inexpensive, the knit fabric has a slight curve inside which keeps it tight and secure. Wind does make it whip about, and it usually won’t sag. People can also buy canvas or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sails, and provided these are well secured, they’ll usually not moved much with wind.

The typical shade sail style may be a triangular shape, but there are also ones that come in squares and rectangles. If people can’t find a large enough square, one solution is to use two triangular sails. The modern sail designs are also quite mindful that people need protection not only from the heat but also the sun’s harmful rays. There are ways to treat shade sail fabric so that it blocks out UV rays, which also confers benefits because it helps the fabric withstand fairly constant sun exposure.

Many online shops exist where people can window shop or shop for the latest in shade sail designs and features. One thing to bear in mind before purchase is that the success of shading will depend on having three points to which the sail can be affixed. In a completely open area with no nearby structures, this could be difficult.

For those who love the idea of these sails but don’t have a good way to fix them, there is good news. There are sails made for umbrella tables too. A nice table in a sunny spot with comfortable sails providing shade may be a perfect solution.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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