Turning up the heat!
This entry details the techniques we are attempting to handle the mid-Summer heat in La Paz, Mexico. It would probably apply to any climate around a sailboat between the Tropic of Cancer the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.
The one caveat I will add for those coming to Baja is that remember it is a desert, so humidity is not always a problem. That being said, your boat sits in water, so humidity is sometimes a problem.
God, I hope the rest of this post is clearer
General principles that should require no big explanations (but that we sometimes forget as “Gringos” in a Mexican land).
The wind is your friend. Sounds funny to tell that to sailors. Breezes are cherished friends. Coromuels, the more or less predictable winds from shore to water in the early evenings and late afternoons are your best friends.
Shade is your friend.
Shade over the cockpit when sailing is not a luxury here, it is the difference between horrible sunburn and near heat stroke and moderate seagoing comfort.
Shade over the deck is very helpful in keeping the inside of the boat below 90 degrees for most of the day.
Small fans about the cabin are your friends.
Cold liquids are your friends.
Water is the best but remember you also need to replace salts you lose sweating. Remember I am a former paramedic so a hint. Water or other fluids are not doing you any good in the bottle …. they work best inside you! Stay hydrated. If you stop sweating, that is not a good thing in a tropical climate.
Anchoring out is cooler than being tied up at a dock.
The one exception here in La Paz is Marina Cortez which had a very different marina philosophy (read up on their docks) with a deck structure that is almost unique in the world.
Current weather conditions in La Paz, Mexico for this time of the year.
Daily temperatures break 100 degrees at about three in the afternoon. They drop back downward after dark at 8:00 pm. We can easily have temperature at midnight of 90 F. inside the boat. Commonly we have 5-8 knot breezes in the daytime. There are evening breezes. They are typically 15-18 knots. This will probably stop shortly as the Sea temperatures heat up.
What we have done with Spiritus and how it has worked.
We have adopted a philosophy of not using an intervention unless it is needed. Each step we have taken buys us a few degrees or an hour or two of cooler temperature on the boat.
When I arrived in La Paz, I had one small fan and a custom boom tent for the mizzen boom that came with the boat. It was brand new even though it was made in the mid 1980’s. When we deploy it Bedouins and their camels start appearing .
The last piece of canvas work we had done last year before the Baja-ha-ha was the addition of a bimini with wind/sun netting for actually sailing. This was intended to keep us from baking in the sun of days at sea but also turns out to be almost an enclosure of the cockpit. More about this one later.
We have added three more fans and two more boom-tents. Here is how it all works.
Day and night. All vents, dorades, hatches, and portholes open.
We don’t do anything else until about 10:00 am or 85 degrees which ever comes earlier. Then the fans start moving air. These are small and can be run even at anchor off the boats inverter.
The bimini is kept up but all screens are folded on top to allow maximum ventilation and unobstructed air flow. In the late afternoon, we drop the screens to filter some of the late day sun.
Boom tents. The difference that the boom tents make at dock is approximately 10 degrees of coolness in the shade under them. Where this matters most is the deck temperatures. Currently, my thermometer can register a deck temperature of 116 degrees F in the mid day (on the deck in the sun). Too hot to walk barefoot on. With the boom tents up, that drops to about 90, and you can work all day under the shade without shoes on the deck.
More importantly, the cabinets and storage bins of the boat (and their contents) do not heat up and neither does the cabin. The heat of the day now takes two more hours to get inside the boat. So with the tents, we don’t reach 85 degrees till about noon to 1:00 pm.
Most Mexicans and any Americans who have been here more than a few months try to be out of the sun by 2-3 pm and somewhere shady till 7 in the evening as the sun starts to set. So you have between 4-5 hours where heat management becomes something you think about ( A LOT).
Simple ways to manage it are, first and foremost, reduce activity. I cannot stress that this simple measure is one of the most helpful. Check email, write, read, nap, lay on the couch. Use the fans.
Wear light clothing. Loose fitting shirts and blouses. Shorts instead of long pants. Hats if you go outside because they are a form of portable shade. We even pay attention to which side of the street still has shade. And, when sailing, which side of the boat is shaded by the sails. A wet hat … a wet bandana on the back of your neck when sailing.
But back to the boat. These techniques by themselves worked up thru June or until temperatures began to be above 90-95 for most of the mid day.
Till then, shade the deck, stay inside, use the fans, drink lots of fluids worked fine.
OH, footnote, we also use a solar oven for cooking A LOT because it keeps us from heating up the cabin.
Late June, we went out and anchored out in the Mogote (see the entry) and found that it “felt” much cooler and more comfortable there because of the constant breezes.
We returned to the docks at beginning of July. Less wind and hotter. We have now done two more things that are serving us well as we near the mid August summer heat.
R2D2 (the boats cooling technician)
When we came back in from the anchor out a boat, another boat was leaving La Paz and one morning on the morning radio net indicated that they wanted to get rid of a small portable air conditioner. This is a 10,000 BTU unit as pictured.
We talked it over and decided based on their very reasonable trade offer to take it.
We only use it once the inside temperature reaches 90 plus degrees and all other techniques are faltering. The small unit is vented to a port hole.
We close up the entire boat. We also isolate the forward cabin so we are only cooling the main cabin. R2D2 can lower the inside temperatures by about 14-17 degrees. So, we can hold the inside temperature at about 78-80 degrees for the 4-5 hours a day that the heat becomes intolerable outside. We usually shut it down at 7:00 pm, open the entire boat back up and let the boat adjust to temps as the sun sets.
Tricks: Two. First, the exhaust hose also acts as a heat radiator as it goes to the window. Wrap it in foam. This cooled off the entire room (kitchen) where it was operating. Second, cover the irregularities of where it blows hot air out of the boat … we draped a small towel to keep blow-back from the air hitting the porthole screen. Probably bought us an additional 3-4 degrees of cooling.
Drawbacks. Only one. It has to have shore power to run or we would have to add a generator (not going to happen). So, you need to be at a dock for this to work.
The cock pit “romper room”.
The second thing we have done recently is take the enclosure formed by the cockpit bimini and add a floor across the cockpit.
We then drag the boats seating cushions out and sleep out on deck. This is amazingly more comfortable than the v-berth with fans for ventilation.
Even as we speak, the cockpit has been measured and cushions are being made for it. 5 inch foam with sunbrella covers. We are having this done so we won’t have to keep moving the inside cushions out and because after testing it for a week, it looks like we will be sleeping out on deck for the next several months. (Will add another pic when they are done next week).
I will share, frankly, we are now officially out of tricks. These modifications of the boat and our behaviors are what has let us remain more or less comfortable. It looks like we are in the peak of the summer temps so hopes are that they are sufficient. Will keep you posted. Remember, most boaters go somewhere else in La Paz’s summer. Right now, as I write this there are only a few boats in the Mogote, and even fewer residents on their boats. Marina is very quiet most of the time except for the locals, workers and fishermen, and families playing on their smaller powerboats.
Another footnote: Many boaters here just take a square window air-conditioner and mount it above or on an open hatch blowing down into the boat … seems to work fine. We just liked R2D2 better. The portables sell locally for about 450-600 US dollars new. The window units are about 100 dollars cheaper and usually are 12,000 BTU (so called one-ton) units.