Why Air Conditioning?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2015 • all rights reserved

Why we (temporarily) put air conditioning on the boat

Last week, I posted a photo of our new portable air conditioner on Instagram and Facebook.

Two friends that we had cruised with during summers in the Sea of Cortez almost immediately asked if we were getting soft in our old age and then asked in a more serious vein why we’d done it now when we hadn’t in the Sea of Cortez.

Good question. Temperatures there were almost always in the mid-90’s in the summer, occasionally over 100. And we cruised the full summer there.

It’s not that we weren’t hot in those places — we were. But we could cope with fans, wind scoops, and cold drinks. And swimming.

Now, we’re in a boat yard along the Okeechobee Waterway in southern Florida, right on the northern edge of the Everglades.

Glades Boat Storage

While the official temperatures have been around 95º F. every day, we are consistently seeing over 100 on the thermometer in our cockpit (in the shade). Humidity is over 80% most of the time; occasionally over 90%.

So, what are the differences that led us to buy a portable air conditioner and install it temporarily?

  • The boat is out of the water. In the Sea of Cortez, the boat was in the water, which kept it cooler. Here, that hot air surrounds every bit of the boat; our exposed black bottom paint just soaks up the heat and passes it right into the boat.
  • There’s nowhere to swim. We’d swim multiple times a day in the Sea of Cortez, which definitely helped us stay cool. Unfortunately, there are gators in the Okeechobee, so swimming is out of the question!
  • Rain was infrequent in the Sea of Cortez, which meant that we could leave the boat wide open all day. Here, rain or the threat of rain is an everyday occurence. The boat would have to be closed up part of every day, and anytime we left the boat. I can’t imagine being in a closed boat without AC in this climate!
  • It’s a lot more humid here (Baja is a desert), making the heat index much higher. The humidity also means that mold and mildew are a much bigger problem, and the air conditioner also helps with this.
  • Bugs were an infrequent problem in the Sea of Cortez, meaning that we could take the screens out most of the time, improving air flow, and could leave the boat open at night. Here, the no-see-ums are relentless. No-see-um screens allow little air to pass through and the little devils always manage to find some tiny holes. The boat just has to be closed after dark!
  • We plan to be in the boatyard for several months. We have several projects that we want to do before re-launching the boat and she’s in a good location in the event of a hurricane. By contrast, we never had a long haulout during summer in the Sea of Cortez (in fact, only once did we haul during the summer and it was for only a few days).

Neither Dave nor I had ever spent a summer in southern Florida. We’re both quite heat tolerant but it is just brutally hot here, particularly with the boat out of the water. If we were doing a quick haul and then returning to a place where we could swim frequently, it’d be one thing — we could survive a week or so without air conditioning. But considering how long we’re planning to be here, we can’t imagine being without AC. And so we got a portable unit — more coming on this and how we have it set up.

Yeah, I feel a bit of a wimp. I’ve written lots of articles before on coping with hot weather and never felt the need for AC when we were in the Sea of Cortez. What can I say? It’s just different here.

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Comments

  1. Welcome to Florida. I have lived in Florida since 1978 (from PA). I always tell people that move here give yourself 2 years to adjust. You will either love it or hate it. The heat is unbearable at times but it is better than shoveling snow any day of the week!!!!

  2. We have a Gemini too. Our A/C is factory installed in the seat below where yours is sitting. We are in Marathon. I couldn’t live without it! It was a deal breaker for me.

  3. I worked in Florida one summer. As a Canadian boy, it was so hot, I couldn’t even understand it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IUDNMlKW1U

  4. We’re also on the Okeechobee Waterway in Indiantown and I can’t imagine living on my boat without AC either.

  5. I know exactly where you are coming from. We dock our boat in Gulfport, Fl. We keep our air on when on the boat at the dock, but don’t turn it on when we take it out. Usually, the sea air is enough to make it tolerable. Summer is just miserable either way. I don’t think that makes you weak at all. I know when we have been out for a long vacation, we adjust to the heat. Land and bugs just don’t make adjustment possible. Welcome to Florida!

  6. You can live without ac in florida with fans and tarps but not where you are. Too many bugs

  7. You are preaching to the choir here. I’m on the hard in Virginia and a boat surrounded by trees…and mosquitoes and noseeums…and temperatures in the 100’s with humidity not far behind is not pleasant. It’s a solar steam bath.

    That’s why I’m writing this next to a portable AC unit sitting on the settee table. 🙂
    -Mike
    ThisRatSailed

  8. Thanks so much for the clarification. Being from the south, thereby dealing with hot humid weather always, I have wondered how cruisers could do without a/c. Now I know!

  9. Heat can be a killer. No shame in using technology! What Marina? Is it a good place to work on the boat on the hard? Is the waterway staying open all year? I will possibly want to cross some time in December. Thanks

    • It’s Glades Boat Yard, one of two DIY yards on the Okeechobee. Very basic but also the least expensive. Must have a car, though — nearest stores are 15 miles away. Waterway is open as of now.

  10. Being a indoor pet owner Not having a/c would border on animal abuse !

  11. FL is HOT and humid, AC is a necessity!

  12. In southern Texas where we are, AC is non negotiable, even in the water. When it is still almost 100 at night in the summer, there is just no sleeping. My poor long haired dogs need it as well. We had a lot of problems with that roll around unit you guys got. I hope it works better for you guys.

  13. Being in a marina on the gulf coast, I feel like AC is a must. I saw temperatures hit 110 inside the boat before we got it installed. However, after our charter in the SVIs, we would probably remove the AC for storage space before heading out to the Caribbean. But for now, we’ll enjoy the dockside AC.

  14. Kitty Raymond says:

    We live in Canada, and sail in British Columbia. It’s lovely in the spring and fall but in the middle of the summer – with the climate changing for the worse – we have many hot days. Our latest boat came with air conditioning and we though how silly at first – now we use it happily, if not very frequently.

  15. Dan Thomas says:

    What are you doing to your boat? Expect it to take and cost double what you expected it to.

  16. Can you please re-post link to portable AC here? We keep Elsa in the Bahamas. Portable generators are way too loud. Summer is impossibly hot, too many bugs to sleep on deck. Way too hot for my long haired dachshunds. 🙁

    • Unless you have shore power, you’d have to run a generator to have air conditioning of any sort, I think. This one is rated at 15 amps/120 volts, and runs almost constantl. We got a 12,000 BTU Idylis at Lowe’s. Our choices for a quick purchase were that or LG at Home Depot. Almost exactly same price. Idylis had a little better reviews. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for a lot of research. So far, it’s working reasonably well. Boat is just very poorly insulated (all windows are covered with Reflectix on the outside, a tarp shades the cockpit . . .) and at 3 PM it’s still 90+ inside. But far better than the 105 in the cockpit and humidity is a lot lower. Inside, it’s nice by the time we go to bed so sleeping is good.

  17. SeaAngel2/ SV Windcharmer says:

    Thanks Carolyn for your description of the Sea fo Cortez in the summer. We will be there next summer and have heard stories from people who LOVED it and people who HATED it. We like hot weather and your description seems to be the one most in alignment with how we will be with a summer in the SOC!! Whopee 🙂

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