I may have mentioned a time or two in the past that it’s hot in the Keys. Very hot. And very humid. Not that dry heat y’all got out west. Nope, we get the damp, soggy, nothing ever really ever dries type of heat. You either learn to live with it and adapt, or move back up north where they have weird things like “change of seasons”. Very bizarre.
Well, all that heat and humidity is amplified on a boat. The little cabin I live in here on the Fritter gets mighty tepid in the middle of the day. I have no shade here so the sun bakes right down on the cabin. The little ac unit I have barely keeps up with the it and a couple times it has given up altogether. Later in the day and in the evening it’s fine, but during the day, not so much.
Keeping the cabin livable on a small sailboat like the Fritter is not a big deal. Most everyone in port has the same set up I have, a simple wall unit ac stuck in one of the hatches. Since it’s such a small space it doesn’t take much to cool things down. Larger vessels may have built in central heat and air. Special marine type ac units are available for these yachts. Like this…
Expensive and designed to run on the power that the vessel generates at sea, they are impractical for us low life live aboards.
So what does one do for air conditioning when not hooked up to shore power? Well, grin and bear it for one. Actually there are some simple ways to get air flowing through the cabin. While it may not be cold air, it will at least provide an air flow. Most sailboats like the Fritter have two hatches. One at the rear of the cabin which is the main entry way, and another forward. Some large vessels may have a couple small hatches forward. All you need to do is open both hatches to create an air flow. You can enhance the air flow by rigging a simple piece of cloth as an air scoop over top of the forward hatch or add some solar powered vents like these…
They keep the air flowing with small built in fans that run off a solar powered battery. Using no energy. 12 volt fans can be used also to enhance airflow. Most of these are pretty small and use very little power. But there is more benefit to an ac unit then cool air.
Being up close and personal with the ocean, and factoring in all the humidity, mold, mildew, and rot are a constant menace. If you don’t make an effort to keep the dampness at bay, it will destroy everything it touches. Anything metal will corrode quickly. Bags with zippers are notorious for seizing up after a short time in storage. Clothing will get moldy and mildew if not kept dry. You can use those products they have for keeping mildew down but you need to constantly be changing them out. Dehumidifiers help but there is another thing that takes up room and uses energy.
It’s a hot, soggy, salty environment to live in when you live aboard. Be prepared to lose a lot of things to mold and mildew no matter how hard you try.
What I Have: The Fritter has one little wall ac unit under the rear hatch. As I noted it does an adequate job but struggles in the middle of the day. The cabin is not sealed very well with open areas around the hatches. All those spots are up high so the cool air sinks down around the cabin sole (floor), which would explain why the cats like to sleep down there during the day.
What I Want: I will most likely replace the ac unit next spring. For now I hope it will last until the weather cools off a bit. The solar vents are a future purchase. One of the best things I can do right now is get a shade cover which will drape over the boom and cover the cabin. This will take a load off the ac unit and keep the cabin cooler. In the winter I can add screens to the hatches and open them up.
Reality: Not much different from what I want. The cabin is livable. The cabin shade is a high priority and by the time this is posted I may have something already set up. The solar vents and other stuff can wait. Replacing the ac unit is about $100 and doesn’t take long to install.
Climate control in the cabin is more than just keeping cool. The mildew/mold/rot issue is a very real issue with living aboard. It doesn’t take long for things to corrode so keep that in mind when you buy anything for the vessel. Expensive stuff will last no more than cheap stuff.
Did I mention it’s hot here?