Nine Ways to Beat the Summer Heat on Your Boat

As a liveaboard who spent a decade’s worth of summers at anchor, I earned a PhD in dealing with heat on a boat. And we’re not talking your run-of- the-mill 90-degree weather, either;  we’re talking about the three H’s: hazy, hot, and humid. If you’ve ever visited the Chesapeake Bay area in July or August, you know the area can dish up downright horrible conditions for boating. Truth be told, much of the United States can be quite miserable for boaters in the depths of summer.

Check out the cool curtain of atomized water coming down from this center-console’s soft-top. The mist evaporates quickly, cooling down the air around it. Photo courtesy of Boat Misters.

Check out the cool curtain of atomized water coming down from this center-console’s soft-top. The mist evaporates quickly, cooling down the air around it. Photo courtesy of Boat Misters.

So, how do you prevent Mother Nature from busting up your summertime boating and fishing plans? Turns out there are a handful of things you can do—most of them quite inexpensive—to keep that heat at bay. Here are some solid steps you can take to improve your boating mojo during the sweltering summer heat.

Mister Cool

If you’ve ever run a road race during the summer months you’ve likely encountered “misting tents,” which are structures plumbed with hundreds of misting nozzles that emit a fine spray of atomized water into the air under high pressure. The idea is that the water vapor sets up a lot of evaporative cooling, sucking the heat out of the surrounding air. Turns out there are systems just like this available on a much smaller scale for boats. The systems commonly consist of a pump, supply lines, and misting nozzles. The misting nozzles and supply lines are typically installed on a structure such as a bimini or hardtop so that a curtain of atomized water constantly rains down on the boat’s occupants. To get a better idea about what’s involved in specifying and installing one of these systems, visit our sister site, boats.com, and read Lenny Rudow’s Chill Baby! feature on misters.

Wind directors, such as this Windscoop from Davis Instruments, funnel breeze down below through a hatch, helping to keep things cooler. Photo courtesy of Davis Instruments.

Wind directors, such as this Windscoop from Davis Instruments, funnel breeze down below through a hatch, helping to keep things cooler. Photo courtesy of Davis Instruments.

Put a Sock In It

The belowdecks spaces on a boat can get quite swampy when it’s hot, and if you’ve ever tried sleeping like this, you know it can be downright wretched. Thankfully a very simple contraption can help breathe new life—and fresh air—into the sleeping and living spaces on your boat when it’s steamy outside. Say hello to the wind director or wind funnel, commonly known by the trade-name, Windscoop. These gadgets work by catching any available breeze and then directing the air down an open hatch in your boat. They work especially well for a boat at anchor. As the boat swivels around with the wind, the windsock is always facing into the breeze and collecting air. They can also be used for a boat tied up in a slip, but have to be mounted in such a way that the scoop is facing the direction of the wind. If Murphy’s Law is present, the wind will change direction several times over the night and defeat this wind-gathering gizmo.

An electric fan or two  below can mean the difference between a sleepless night and a good night’s rest. Photo courtesy of Hella.

An electric fan or two below can mean the difference between a sleepless night and a good night’s rest. Photo courtesy of Hella.

Fan Your Enthusiasm

Another way to get air moving around inside your boat is to install a handful of small 12- or 24-volt fans in you boat’s living and sleeping areas. While it may not seem as if these small devices can provide much comfort, they often can mean the difference between tossing and turning in your own sweat all night and dozing in a bit of comfort.

Luckily these devices draw very little electricity, which means running three or four of them typically won’t exhaust your batteries by the time you wake up in the morning. Our personal favorites are fans made by Hella. They have a larger model and a smaller model; choose the larger one if you have room. It swivels in an infinite number of directions, is ultra quiet, and moves quite a bit of air.

Condition It

Obviously the best way to keep things cool down below is by installing some sort of air-conditioning system on board, either portable or built-in. Still, there’s a catch. The power-hungry nature of these systems, as well as the amount of physical space they take up, typically make them unfeasible for smaller boats. You’ll also need a generator to run one if you want to run one while you’re anchored out.

Portable air conditioning units, such as this through-hatch model by Pompanette, can turn your boat’s interior into a cool, dry paradise. Photo courtesy of Pompanette.

Portable air conditioning units, such as this through-hatch model by Pompanette, can turn your boat’s interior into a cool, dry paradise. Photo courtesy of Pompanette.

The simplest type of air-conditioner for boats is a portable type. These systems are generally self-contained, and have a large outflow vent that drops down through a hatch to pump cool, dry air into the interior of your boat. They often work great, though they can be cumbersome and heavy, making them difficult to set up. They also will not work at anchor unless you have a generator.

Built-in air conditioners are relatively common on boats these days. They typically work by exchanging heat with the seawater around the boat. A large blower unit takes hot air from the inside of the boat, cools it down, and then distributes the air throughout the boat through a series of hoses and vents. Though they can be expensive to buy and have installed and require a generator to run at anchor, these systems can turn a miserable, sultry weekend on your boat into a cool, enjoyable one.

Lighten Up

One of the easiest things you can do to keep cool is procure yourself some good technical clothing that’s designed to do battle with the sun and heat. Many companies that specialize in fishing gear offer a selection of shorts and shirts that are made of lightweight fabrics engineered to wick away sweat while providing protection from the sun’s UV rays.

This lightweight shirt from Patagonia is designed to wick sweat away from your body, helping to keep you cool. Photo courtesy of Patagonia.

This lightweight shirt from Patagonia is designed to wick sweat away from your body, helping to keep you cool. Photo courtesy of Patagonia.

If you want to avoid buying a whole new set of gear, consider wearing the lightest, most breathable fabrics in your wardrobe. Stay away from the tighter-fitting gear in your closet—you’ll want to wear clothes with lots of room to breathe. Also consider ditching shoes and socks—known heat-trappers—for a pair of sandals or open-toed shoes designed for boating.

Put a Lid on It

Even if it’s just a simple baseball cap, wearing a hat is an excellent way to beat the heat. We recommend a hat with as wide a brim as you can tolerate, as this will help keep sun off not only your face, but also your neck, ears, and shoulders. A pleasant side benefit of wearing a hat is that it acts as a sweatband, keeping stinging perspiration out of your face and eyes.

While not all folks are fans of the way these hats look, Tilley makes some great boating hats that have very wide brims and are also made of excellent breathable fabrics. And go ahead and laugh, while sombreros might look a bit silly, they’re great for lounging about, providing a ton of cool shade for your melon.

Drink Up

Though the effects of consuming lots of fresh, cold water aren’t always immediately apparent, keeping hydrated allows your body to effectively deal with the heat. A cold bottle or glass of water not only sucks heat out of your core when you consume it, it also keeps your body operating at peak efficiency, replacing the moisture your body loses while perspiring.

Simply putting on a hat can make you feel as if it’s several degrees cooler outside. Shown here is a wide-brimmed hat by Tilley. Photo courtesy of Tilley.

Simply putting on a hat can make you feel as if it’s several degrees cooler outside. Shown here is a wide-brimmed hat by Tilley. Photo courtesy of Tilley.

While we like a nice gin and tonic or a cold brew as much as the next guy—with a sober skipper onboard, of course—unfortunately beer, wine, liquor, and sugary sodas are a no-no in the extreme heat. Unlike water they’ve got all sorts of different ingredients that affect your system’s ability to beat the heat.

Dive In

What’s stopping you? Take frequent dips throughout the hot day, and especially just before bedtime for a good sleep. Try keeping a few blow-up tubes on board. They’ll allow you and your guests to bob like corks in the water during the hottest of days—comfortably out of the heat and humidity.

Also use a bucket and a length of line to scoop up water and pour it on the deck of your boat. You’ll be surprised how much of a cooling effect this can have on your belowdecks spaces.

The hard top over this Zodiac’s center console keeps the sun from  burning a hole through its occupants’ skulls. Photo by Gary Reich.

The hard top over this Zodiac’s center console keeps the sun from
burning a hole through its occupants’ skulls. Photo by Gary Reich.

Cover it Up

The best way to keep cool when the sun is beating down is to get out from underneath it altogether. If your boat doesn’t have any canvas to shelter under—like a bimini or canvas soft top—consider investing in something to hide under on the hottest of days. While very expensive to add aftermarket, a hardtop over a center-console station is hard to beat when the sun is beating down on you.

 

Comments

  1. I totally agree that getting a hardtop is something worth investing in. Our boat is so much more enjoyable in the dead of summer with a hardtop over the center-console. It provides some much needed relief from the sun when you’re not cooling off in the water!

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