The summer heat is in full-force here in Baja Mexico. Highs are regularly in the high 90’s F (about 37° C), with the humidity and dew point making the “feels like” temps reach between 105-110°+ F (40-43+° C). Those temps, combined with the very, very still air, make for some pretty brutal conditions.
So how do we stay cool on a sailboat, with no air conditioning? Well, we don’t really, but here’s how we are managing the heat…
The most effective cooling source: THE OCEAN!
Well… sort of. The sea temps are warm too, at almost 90° F (32° C), but since the water is still below body temperature, it still feels quite refreshing to jump in, rinse off the sweat and lower your temperature.
If we are feeling really hot at anchor, we know it’s time for either a quick jump in, or maybe a longer snorkel and free dive to get down a bit deeper (and cooler) and take our mind off the heat. If we’re under way, a bucket full of water dumped over our head does the trick.
We also use the water as a cooling resource for the boat! In the sun, even our white decks get hot enough to burn our feet, and the sun beating down on them really heats up the cabin below. We’ve found that periodically bucketing down the deck with sea water helps not only to keep us from burning our feet, but also drops the temperature inside the cabin.
Next up, is AIRFLOW!
Fans, windscoop, windows and hatches open. All day long. Period. Even when there’s very little wind, having ventilation and airflow makes a difference. We have two different kinds of 12V fans on board Varuna and they run almost 24/7. We have three older fans that do an okay job circulating air, and one new fan that makes a lot of wind, but is also super loud!
When there is a breeze, our windscoop is our absolute favorite thing on the boat, and we could stand underneath it all day long.
You can buy a premade windscoop (like this one ) for an easy plug and play solution, or it is also super easy to make your own! We inherited a homemade one with Varuna, and it would be super easy to DIY. Ours is a large piece of Sunbrella in a sort of smushed hexagon shape, wider at the bottom, measuring about 60” wide x 90” high. Each corner has a cord sewn into it to attach to various points on the boat and catch as much air as possible. We also sometimes attach the spinnaker halyard to get a little more height.
The other bonus about the windscoop (especially ours, since it covers a large area)… it creates a lot of shade! Having the hatches open is great, but having the sun beat down on you isn’t, so it’s actually dual-purpose – perfect for a boat!
This Leads Us to SHADE
This one is pretty self explanatory. Shade is better than sun. And the more shade we create over the boat, the cooler the inside stays.
Our large solar panels act as a bimini shade covering for the cockpit, and we have some shade panels that we can put up, hanging down on the sides and back of the solar panels, attaching to the outside of the cockpit. But you don’t need anything this fancy. A sheet or towel hanging up with cloths pins does an even better job blocking the sun than the shade material, as long as it’s not too windy.
We are still in the process of coming up with a full deck covering to go over the boom and foredeck. We’ve been trying to come up with a design that is simple to put up and take down, with the biggest challenge being working around our lazy jacks on our mainsail. We have some ideas in mind, but really need to sit down and put them in action. We need something that can be taken town in a minute or two, in case of be caught unexpectedly in strong winds.
Reducing Heat INSIDE the Boat
With all that effort to keep the boat cool, we don’t want to do anything unnecessary to add heat to the inside of the boat.
We’ve been using our barbecue more and more lately, to avoid heating up with boat with the oven or stovetop, and have even had success baking brownies and cakes on the barbecue! But sometimes we need to boil water, cook on the cast iron to make some homemade tortillas, or want to roast some peppers or sauté or pan fry something for a quick meal. If we do use the stovetop or oven, as soon as we are done cooking, we put the hot pan and food outside, on top of a cooling rack. No need for all that heat to dissipate inside the boat!
We’ve also found that a big heat source is our electronics. When we are using or charging our laptops, the laptop itself and the transformer on the charging cable make a A LOT of heat. If we can sit in a position where we can put the transformer outside, we do it. Every little bit helps.
Our refrigerator has also been struggling lately. A big part of this is the fact that the compressor is located in a tiny space, right underneath the fridge and next to the thermostat, generating lots of heat and heating both of these things up. We have begun to keep the access panel to this area open to create some airflow and help the heat dissipate. We also have a fan in the galley right over the fridge, which we keep aimed down at the door hatches to keep the air flowing and try to prevent hot air from sitting there. Anything helps.
Very important. Over the past few months our water intake has increased greatly! We haven’t had the chance to properly measure this yet, but in the past our usage was about 50 gallons of fresh water on board per month, and we know we are using much more than that now, mostly as drinking water.
While any liquids help, a cold drink just feels so much better! We have a 4-liter jug that we keep topped-up and in the freezer (which doesn’t quite freeze) at all times. We also have a couple of really good insulated bottles on board. When we make the decision to open the freezer (which we try to minimize), we pull out the jug and fill our cups and insulated bottle, then top up the jug and put in back in the freezer. We can then top up our cups from the insulated bottle and reduce the amount we open the freezer and get the jug out. We also have a couple of hydration packs, which we have found are great to hang up in the cockpit. While we are underway and the boat is heeled or rocking and rolling, it makes it super easy and convenient to keep sipping water and helps us to drink more.
For a bit of variety, we have a few options…
The easiest is drink mixes. While we were still in the US, gatorade mix was easy to find in the store. Here in Mexico, there are a few brands, including Tang and Zuko that make a huge variety of juice mix flavors. Even though they are sugary and not all-natural, having a bit of sugar on a hot day tastes pretty good. Plus, we make them at half the recommended strength, mixing one packet into 4 liters of water, instead of the 2 according to the directions.
I also like to make iced teas. I do this by making sun tea, and then refrigerating it. Just fill a bottle with regular room-temp water, add a few tea bags, and let sit in the sun for a few hours, then chill. Sometimes a little honey and lime.
Ty has also perfected his ginger ale recipe! We have been so happy to be able to find fresh ginger in a few of the larger cities here in Baja, and are happy that it seems to keep for quite a while! Click here to get the recipe! (This is one of our very first, previously unreleased videos, that originally we made just for our Patrons. We promise our sound, videography and editing has gotten much better!)
Last, but not Least… Adjusting Our Behavior
Seems simple, but when there’s several boat projects to work on, cleaning that’s drawing our attention, and computer work that needs to be done, it can be hard. We have had to tell ourselves to slow down. If we are in town and have errands to do, such as provisioning, we go early in the morning or after the sun has set.
Hope this helps, and stay cool out there!