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.
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.
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.
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!
Seven strategies for staying cool
- Shade awnings: Phoenix Square Sun Shade, from Amazon
- Window Covers/Cockpit Enclosure: Sunbrella Phiftertex/Phifertex-Plus mesh
- Wind Scoops: free-standing Breeze Boosters
- Good Fans: Fully adjustable Caframo 3-speed fans with timers
- Ice/Blender: Vitamix and Oxo silicone-covered stackable ice cube trays
- Generator and A/C
- Go to the library, find a place to swim
Summer Menu for a Cool Galley
- Grilled Cheeseburgers, with cole slaw and canned baked beans on the side
- Italian Pasta Salad, with tri-color rotini, broccoli, olives, and salami
- Shish Kebabs, with steak-mushrooms-veggies and chicken- pineapple-veggies
- Barbecued Chicken Salad Wraps
- Grilled Italian Sausages with green peppers and onions (in the grill basket)
- Tuna Pasta Salad
- Make-your-own Sub Sandwiches
- Black-and-Blue Steak Salad with blueberries, walnuts, blue cheese, & balsamic dressing
- Grilled Pizzas
- Make-your-own Chef Salad with ham, turkey, cheese, egg, cucumber and tomato
- Barbecued Chicken Legs with Caribbean Slaw
- Make-your-own Taco Salad
- Grilled Ribs with cold sides
- Fried Chicken, take-out with cold sides
- No-Press Cuban Sandwiches
- Chinese Chicken Salad with snow peas, red cabbage, carrots, and mandarin oranges
- Grilled Chicken and Portobellos with Marsala wine sauce and creamy parmesan orzo
- Fried Chicken Salad, with egg, tomato, and honey-mustard dressing
- Grilled Fish Tacos with chipotle sour cream and cabbage in wheat tortillas
- Sushi Night! Take-out Japanese or Local Ceviche