shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Keeping Your Cool

July 6, 2015

Summer in the northern hemisphere starts hundreds of liveaboards questioning how to keep their boats cool. This is a problem that those who live in the tropics become experts at solving since the only relief from the heat comes in the form of Christmas winds and an occasional "cold" winter evening that requires a shirt with sleeves.

Back shade

We enjoy people-watching and have noticed some patterns. Those who have spent a significant amount of time where it is always summer, find shade whenever possible. Women carry umbrellas to provide their own shade. People will maneuver themselves in a position to be in the shade of a building, a pole, or even the person they are talking to. Shade is the key to keeping cool, whether on land or on a boat.

Our most frequently used piece of shade is the dodger. It shades the galley and companionway steps from the blazing sun, but is necessarily small because Eurisko's main purpose in life is to SAIL, not keep us in the shade. Our bimini is, therefore, equally small so as to not interfere with our home's sailing ability. It is also easy to fold back, tied with bights, and can be folded up in seconds should sailing conditions necessitate. But in port, our shade options increase.

Eurisko staying cool

We have an awning that covers the deck aft of the mast. You can put your hand on the overhead and locate the edge of the shade it provides by the temperature change. Since our awning is so large, it's most important feature is that it is tied with a bight in each hitch so that we can remove it quickly in a squall. We would not have any appendage on our boat that created that much windage that was not removable in a hurry.

White decks help not only keep our feet from burning, but keep the interior cooler, as well. Likewise, a light colored hull is imperative in the tropics. When we are on the hard, we can locate the transition from cream hull paint to black bottom paint by feeling the inside of the lockers. When we bought our little Bolger, part of her hull was a dark green. Because we could feel the difference in temperature inside the boat, we painted her a light grey. The change was impressive. Light colored clothing for your body and light colored paint for your boat offer the same benefits. Remarkably, some people don't realize the necessity of either.


Though it is not as predictably necessary outside the trade winds, when in the Caribbean my favorite piece of canvas is our back shade. Tied to the aft bimini frame, it hangs down and is tied to the aft rail. After 2:00 in the trades, it is the only way sitting on deck is possible. Since it too is tied with bights, it can be untied and rolled up in seconds should weather dictate. Though we do not often sail with it because it messes up the wind on its way to our windvane, Ziggy, in extreme heat, while bobbing with no wind, we have lowered it for a few hours to save the crew from heat exhaustion.

Bimini under the awning

After shade, airflow is the next most important factor in keeping cool. While in port, we hang a windscoop from each of our two hatches. There are snaps on the inside and outside of the hatches to attach to the bottom of the windscoop. The inside ones are the most convenient, but we also use those snaps to hold our screens and sunshades (when shade is more important than airflow) over the hatches, so when the inside ones are in use, we snap the windscoops to the outside snaps. A store-bought windscoop does not fit well under our boom, so when I found ripstop nylon on sale, I made custom-fit windscoops. Because they are held with snaps, they also work when anchored in current or on the rare occasion that we are at a dock and not always facing into the wind.

Custom windscoop

But when there is no wind, or we are forced to close the hatches because of rain or being offshore, our lifesavers are the fans. We have one in the aftcabin that can spin around to work in the galley or the salon, one at the dinette, one at the settee, one in the V, and (only recently, after years of requests!) one in the head. In addition to cooling you off, fans keep the air moving when you are offshore, which staves off seasickness. It also keeps things from mildewing as quickly. We use fans scavenged from garbage computer towers, or (when all else fails) purchased from Radio Shack or online. (The quietest ones are from computers.) We choose only fans that draw little electricity, since we are solar powered.

With shade and airflow, you and your crew can enjoy summer in the States or life in the tropics with only occasional unbearable days. On those occasions, find a beach or an anchorage with clean water and jump in. That's by far the best way to keep your cool.

Sometimes life smacks you in the face with more reality than you're ready for. MONDAY we'll share the story I wasn't quite ready to write a few weeks ago.

Recent Articles



People and Places

Yarns and Opinions




Bolger AS-29


Can't find your favorite post?

Did you find something of interest? Consider donating $1.
Thank you.