Thursday, 18 October 2007

Dealing with the heat!

It has been extremely hot and humid for the past week or so. We had just begun to acclimatize to the weather here when along came a lovely cool spell, which has of course been followed by a hot spell. So we feel as though we are back to square one !

In the marina a large number of the boats rely on Air conditioning units to maintain a cool temperature below. All well and good but it uses a lot of power and in consequence is mightily expensive. I have heard a number of the boats tell of $3-400 a month power bills!
We did buy a small domestic unit when spending a long time at the dock in Panama. It was certainly lovely to keep cool but we suffered from a large number of eye infections and quite a hole in our wallets!

So we are very interested in ways to lower the temperature on the boat and , equally important, ways to combat the very high humidity levels. For instance as I am writing this, at 6.30am local time, the temperature below decks is 84 degrees and 64% humidity- and thats cool!

I guess we are really lucky that our boat has an excellent air-flow design, with three good sized deck hatches that encourage the air to weave in and out the boat. We try and keep these open at all times(with mosquito nets in place). We could increase the airflow by removing the nets but in the Tropics the insect life is a bit overwhelming!

We have four low power electric fans placed at strategic points in the boat. One at the bow (at the foot of the bed), one over the galley. One over the nav station and one in the aft cabin. By running these on the lower of the two settings a good draft constantly circles the boat. And of course is vital when the hatches have to be shut due to rain. That happens a lot!
We finally settled on Carframo 12v fans, the bow tie type. With a maximum power draw of 0.6amps an hour we can afford to be profligate with their use.

When we bought this boat she came with a large canvas bag which was described to us as the 'marquee'. An accurate description! This large canvas sun shade covers the boat from the mast back to the pushpit and to the extreme outside of the side decks. Its heavy, complex ......and absolutely brilliant!

I remember the first time we tried to put it up, in Portugal, a divorce was on the cards and I tried to give it away. Boy am I glad we persevered. It lowers the below deck temperature by up to 10 degrees, keeps the rain off and provides a wonderful shady area in the cockpit. We have only used it three times in all the years we have been carrying it but those three times have involved long periods at the dock in hot climates.It has to come down when we sail or even if really high winds are forecast, its a pain in the proverbial to erect but boy does it make a difference to our comfort. I suspect we will continue to carry the huge unwieldy thing for
some time yet.

Dealing with the humidity is a little more challenging. We have lined all the lockers,under the berths, deck sides etc with closed cell foam that we bought in the form of camping mats. This is really good insulation and helps to even out the disparity between the external and internal air temperatures, thus lowering condensation.
Clothes lockers are regularly aired to minimize mould growth and in the 'wardrobe' (home to our 'smart' clothes) I hang large sachets of 'damprid'.These moisture eating envelopes last around 3 months, they are a bit expensive but really keep the air dry in that space.I have managed to buy replacements all over the Caribbean.

All our bedding is pure cotton, the sheets may be a bit creased after laundering but they have a nice cool feel to lie on. Pillows are washable.

One of the best tips I was given when we started was to have a good supply of those plant misting bottles that you can buy in most flower outlets! Fill with iced water and set at the finest spray available. Liberally spray yourself whenever the temperature becomes too overwhelming.

At night a light spray and then lying under the breeze of the fan is pure heavenly bliss............Strange the things that become so wonderful once you go cruising isn't it?!

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