Summer Sailing: Eight Ways To Keep Your Boat and Body Cool

Eight ways to beat the heat during the dog days of summer sailing

Every Chesapeake Bay sailor knows how hot and sticky a long day of sailing on the water can be, but not only can it be unpleasant, it can also be dangerous. As the dog days of summer are upon us, these tips will help you keep your decks, cabin, and crew cool, making your sailing experience more enjoyable for everyone.

sailing bimini over cockpit
Keep sailing crew and boat cool with sun protection. The author's boat has a bimini which shades most of the cockpit.

  1. Invest in a Bimini or Canvas Tarp: Shade is crucial. Biminis are one of the best ways to keep your cockpit shielded from the sun, but if a bimini isn’t in your future, consider purchasing or fashioning a canvas tarp that can be suspended over the cockpit. If you’re feeling really thrifty, an old sail might even do the trick.
  2. Open Your Hatches Strategically: Cabins are notorious for turning into saunas. Opening any hatches will make a difference but creating a tunnel of airflow through the cabin is best. A combination of an open foredeck hatch with an open companionway will help a breeze flow through most efficiently.
  3. Try a Windscoop: If opening the hatches alone doesn’t invite enough air down below, consider investing in a windscoop or fashioning one yourself to help guide the breeze into your hatches.
  4. Cook on Deck: Every galley chef knows how quickly a stove can turn into a heater. If you have a removable stove, bring it on deck and enjoy practicing your culinary skills with a view of your anchorage. If your stove is firmly installed into your galley, consider grilling out over the transom or serving no-cook meals instead.
  5. Keep Wet Gear Outside: Heat isn’t the only thing keeping you hot—humidity is also a major factor, especially on the Bay. If you have wet gear, whether it’s foul weather gear you stripped off following an afternoon downpour or a collection of sopping swimsuits, leave them outside to dry as long as possible. Clothespins for the lifelines can help keep them from blowing overboard. If they dry in the cabin, a lot of that moisture will linger inside, amplifying the heat that is already there.
  6. Bring Plenty of Water: Staying hydrated is the most important aspect of staying cool. Make sure you carry enough water for your whole crew, and then some more.
  7. Bring Refreshing Snacks: Heat can make even the best of us a bit cranky but combating the exhaustion of spending a long day on the water can be aided by making sure you and your crew are fueled up. Fruits like grapes and watermelon not only provide that boost of energy you might need to stay on top of your game, but they’re also full of water to help keep you hydrated.
  8. Prevent Sunburn: Besides all of the other reasons sailors should prioritize preventing sunburn, they also make it harder for you to stay cool. Reapply your sunscreen more often than you think you need and try to wear lightweight sweat-wicking long-sleeved shirts and hats.

By Kelsey Bonham

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