Monthly Archives: August 2019

Keeping Cool in the Keys: Summer Heat Survival Guide

It’s summer in Florida, and that means heat and humidity. Most (normal) people survive by turning on their air conditioners and hiding from the great outdoors. I don’t blame them…it is HOT! But here on a boat in a mooring field in the Florida Keys, we are intentionally living a little more simply, a little less expensively, and a little more closely to Nature.

Bobby the Viking
Summer 2010 in Boot Key Harbor, Bobby the Viking

In the summer of 2010, we spent our first season in Marathon, and didn’t have the boat set up to handle the heat. Boot Key Harbor is notoriously murkey, warm, and full of moving dinghies and fishing boats, making it unswimmable. Afternoon thunderstorms meant that we couldn’t always have the boat open, so it would get downright steamy inside. That summer was particularly bad for mosquitoes as well. We quickly developed some coping strategies.

We had a large blue canvas rectangle, which we tied tent-style over the trampolines, ice, and a blender. I would make frozen lemonade every afternoon, take a good read-aloud selection, corral the kids, and we would have a siesta out under the tent until the heat abated. Every night, we’d give the kids a cool-down shower in the cockpit and send them to bed wet, with a fan over each bed. We would seek cool places, like local restaurants with pools, the beach for a swim, or the air-conditioned library. Jay made some Velcro-on bug screens, and we bought wind-scoops and better fans. By the next season we spent in the Keys, we had shade awnings for the decks and cockpit.

Family
Boot Key Harbor 2013, shade awnings and cockpit shades
Tent Nap
Breeze Booster and Window Shades (background)
Shade Awnings
Bird’s Eye View of Shade Awnings and Breeze Boosters

The summer of 2015, before leaving for the Caribbean, we got really smart: we stayed at Marathon Marina and plugged in and turned on the new air conditioners Jay had installed. We were there between May and November, the hottest part of the year, but that was expensive, and we felt a little trapped, both inside the boat, and tied to a dock.

Take Two Marathon Marina 2015
Tied Down, Buttoned Up

This summer, in addition to all those stay-cool strategies, I made a list of menu items that don’t involve heating up the galley of Take Two. We’re also testing a single-burner induction plate that works with our cast-iron skillets, Oxo teakettle, and Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker. It takes electric power, but doesn’t create as much heat as cooking over gas. And because it’s portable, we can cook in the breezy cockpit.

Even with these coping mechanisms, we sweat. If there’s a breeze, it’s more comfortable. But when the wind dies, the perceived temperature goes up and we find it hard to concentrate on school and work. Sleep is disrupted and tempers flare. Unless we decide to head to a marina, our only option is to start up the generator and run the air conditioner. This is a real luxury, as many boats have neither. On hot, still evenings, we can close up, run the air full-bore, then turn everything off just before bed. If we wake up hot, we open the hatches above the beds and usually it’s cooled down outside. The exception, of course, is when it’s raining. Not much we can do about that, but I guess that’s what it means to live closer to Nature!

Marathon Sunrise
Boot Key Harbor, 2010

Seven strategies for staying cool

  1. Shade awnings: Phoenix Square Sun Shade, from Amazon
  2. Window Covers/Cockpit Enclosure: Sunbrella Phiftertex/Phifertex-Plus mesh
  3. Wind Scoops: free-standing Breeze Boosters
  4. Good Fans: Fully adjustable Caframo 3-speed fans with timers
  5. Ice/Blender: Vitamix and Oxo silicone-covered stackable ice cube trays
  6. Generator and A/C
  7. Go to the library, find a place to swim

Summer Menu for a Cool Galley

  1. Grilled Cheeseburgers, with cole slaw and canned baked beans on the side
  2. Italian Pasta Salad, with tri-color rotini, broccoli, olives, and salami
  3. Shish Kebabs, with steak-mushrooms-veggies and chicken- pineapple-veggies
  4. Barbecued Chicken Salad Wraps
  5. Grilled Italian Sausages with green peppers and onions (in the grill basket)
  6. Tuna Pasta Salad
  7. Make-your-own Sub Sandwiches
  8. Black-and-Blue Steak Salad with blueberries, walnuts, blue cheese, & balsamic dressing
  9. Grilled Pizzas
  10. Make-your-own Chef Salad with ham, turkey, cheese, egg, cucumber and tomato
  11. Barbecued Chicken Legs with Caribbean Slaw
  12. Make-your-own Taco Salad
  13. Grilled Ribs with cold sides
  14. Fried Chicken, take-out with cold sides
  15. No-Press Cuban Sandwiches
  16. Chinese Chicken Salad with snow peas, red cabbage, carrots, and mandarin oranges
  17. Grilled Chicken and Portobellos with Marsala wine sauce and creamy parmesan orzo
  18. Fried Chicken Salad, with egg, tomato, and honey-mustard dressing
  19. Grilled Fish Tacos with chipotle sour cream and cabbage in wheat tortillas
  20. Sushi Night! Take-out Japanese or Local Ceviche
Caribbean Slaw
Caribbean Slaw

Head Out on the Highway, Looking for Adventure

Q: What’s scarier than teaching your teenager to drive a car?

A: Teaching three teenagers to drive at the same time!

Eli Driving 1
Eli Practicing at Lego Land
Eli Driving 2019
Eli practicing in a local neighborhood
Aaron Driving 1
Aaron Hot-Dogging It at Lego Land
Aaron Driving 2019
Aaron Playing It Cool in a Parking Lot
Sarah Driving 1
Sarah at a Lego Land Intersection
Sarah Driving 2019
Sarah Parking at IHOP

We’ve merged into the fast lane. Having arrived in the U.S. one month ago, we’ve made a lot of progress toward re-integration. Eli turned 18 and registered to vote. The three teenagers got phones and learner’s permits. At the end of the month, assuming they’ve jumped through all the right hoops, they’ll start their first dual enrollment classes at the local community college. Eli and Aaron are dipping their toes into the wide world of work this week as they join a construction crew with our friend Andrew (remember the captain of s/v Abby Singer?). Sarah sailed in her first regatta as crew on a Hobie 16. Sam is taking his Florida boater’s safety course to operate the dinghy solo. And Rachel checked out her first library books!

I’ve joined a Wednesday-morning Bible study, a yoga class, and committed to teaching high-school home-schoolers a U.S. Government class this fall. Jay has been fixing broken things on our boat now that we have access to parts and shipping, and working like crazy using unlimited high-speed internet. We’ve been having weekly date-nights to organize all these new adventures and support each other so that we’re ready for whatever comes our way.