Hundred degree-days this summer peppered the sailing calendar a little too consistently over the months of July and August. The thought of sailing—once joyous with the breeze whisking through my hair and stiffening our sails into a solid curve that would propel us forward—became one of distress, suffering, and downright misery.

Feels like 100+

On a hot day, the bimini and dodger provide some shade relief. However, the body doesn’t feel true relief as it only cools off from “feels like 106” to “feels like 99.” Damian and I chose to embark on our summer expedition despite the heat.

Why? Our logic was: why spend our days on the dock if these free days are the only few we have left before school starts to go out and experience an adventure?

AC unit

The intense heat bore down on us with no apology. The thing that kept us going was the thought of our destination and plugging into our dock’s electric to get our AC unit to cool the interior of our boat. The daydream that kept us pushing forward continued to be: a good night’s rest in the V-berth with the AC blowing chilly air into our faces.

Night sailing = the only way?

Night sailing was another experiment that we tried to curb the heat. But it wasn’t that much cooler. Really. The difference between 102 and 92 is very little. And falling asleep at the wheel was a real threat—to both of us. Hint: the shipping lane is a monster reality that never lets up, especially when your sailboat cannot break 2.0 knots per hour.

Battery-operated fans

Fans aboard a sailboat are a must-have. I realized that a fan is an important resource—not just in a berth but also in the galley and salon. We have one fan aboard Gem&I in the V-berth. Investing in more is not a bad idea. Damian bought battery-operated fans on Amazon a few months ago. Even though I am grateful we have them, they do not generate enough windage to cool a person down.

The best discovery was living on fruit flavored freezer pops that kept up our spirits and cooled us off just enough to put in another 20 minutes of suffering as Gem&I chugged along at a snail’s pace.

In retrospect, perhaps we just should’ve stayed home and waited out the heat until we could truly enjoy a sail.

What we learned about summer sailing?

We learned the following:

  1. mounting fans that run on the house batteries in various places are resources that will not be taken for granted
  2. taking hour-to-hour shifts during night sails is the only way to properly relieve the person on the helm during an all-nighter
  3. anchoring at night after a hot day will only be comfortable if there is a constant, cool breeze blowing or you have installed a generator to keep the AC running aboard
  4. having a refrigerator to keep drinks cool and the freezer section of our fridge are a real blessing out on the water
  5. freezer pops are brilliant cool-downs when you think you are dying of heat exhaustion
  6. No matter how hydrated you may feel, keep drinking water
  7. A faster boat may be a needed investment to keep up crew morale when the heat is killing your psychological momentum on a hot day.

What advice do you have?

We would love to hear from you!  How did you manage the heat this summer – whether you were out on the water or not?  Share how you survived the heat, and what recommendations you have for keeping cool while at anchor and under sail.