22 Ways To Stay Cool On A Sailboat

One of the most common complaints I hear from a newbie sailors is, ‘I can’t adjust to the heat!’ Whether you plan on sailing in the Med during the summer, the Caribbean throughout the year or anywhere near the equator it’s going to get hot. Here are 22 ways to stay cool on a sailboat.

22 Ways To Stay Cool On A Sailboat

22 Ways To Stay Cool On A Sailboat

1. Shade coverage

Make sure there’s a permanent Bimini, or shade coverage over the cockpit. And when stationary, have a variety of options available to further shade the cockpit and/or other parts of the boat. For example, we have side panels that can be attached to the sides of our Bimini to further shield us from the sun. I’ve also seen people use sarongs or light sheets clipped to the Bimini. Consider an easy-to-attach tarp for other areas of the boat. Many catamaran owners have a cover they can put up over the front netting area when they’re at anchor (see below).

2. Boat tent

A more advanced form of shade coverage is a boat tent. These are often larger, cumbersome and take quite a while to put up (not to mention that they cost a fortune). Tent owners usually put them up only when at anchor or in a marina for an extended stay. Not only do boat tents provide shade, they cool down the top deck and the inside of the boat in addition to keeping the rain from coming in. When our Sumbrella boat tent is up we experience at least a 10 degree reduction in temperature inside the boat.

3. Air conditioner

If your boat doesn’t have an air conditioner the likelihood of getting one probably isn’t practical. They take up quite a bit of space, seem to break down often and need quite a large amount of electricity to run. They also create quite a bit of condensation, or pooling water, which can smell and create a breeding ground for mosquitos. We have three built in air condition units on our boat but we have to run the generator to run the aircon. The generator is loud and considering we service it every 300 hours, it’s not just the cost of Diesel that adds up. During services we change the oil, filters and often the impeller. The only way I feel that an air conditioner is practical is if you can run it from solar power (that’s our current project so make sure to subscribe to our newsletters to find out our results. Sign up here!)

4. Fans

On a boat it’s not just about having fans. Airflow is an important factor when choosing the right boat.   Not only do you want fans to be strategically placed by port windows but you also want a system to allow fresh air to naturally flow into the boat. One of the biggest complaints I hear from my catamaran friends is that they don’t get any airflow. In other words, when they’re at anchor the fresh breeze isn’t making it’s way into the boat and/or the back seating area. Ideally, you want hatches and windows to catch and funnel the air down into the boat and the fans to move it around (and even extract the hotter air, if possible).

5. Hatch windsocks

These are typically made out of a parachute type material where you hook the top to a halyard and the bottom to the back of a hatch. The wind blows, fills up the material and is then funneled down into the boat. Anything that forces fresh air into the boat not only cools the boat down but also prevents mold and mildew from forming.

6. Misting system

This might seem a bit over the top but there are inexpensive systems you can buy to hook up to your aft shower hose or a tap. Considering that boats are set up to get wet why not enjoy a bit of mist as you chill out in a hot anchorage?

7. Port window rain visors


In many hot climate sailing regions not only is it hot but the area also has a rainy season. This year in the Caribbean it seemed to be dry for months but as soon as the rainy season hit we experienced torrential downpours several times throughout the day. When you have to close the windows on a boat the heat can get unbearable. Consider affixing rain guards to some of your windows so to be able to keep them open at all times. Check out SeaWorthGoods.com to learn more about these rain visors.

8. Wet handkerchiefs or cooling bandanas

These work amazingly well. You simply pour some water over them and then wrap around your neck. With a very tiny breeze the bandanas generate a cooling effect which helps to cool the whole body. We’ve found these to be particularly useful for children and grandad’s that visit us on the boat.

9. Cooling Towels

Cooling Towel’s are made from a hyper-evaporative material that retains water while remaining dry to the touch. When wet, these cooling towels begin to evaporate and cool, providing cool, soft comfort to the user. When it stops cooling, all you have to do is simply re-wet it in hot or cold water and wring it out, within minutes, it’s cool again.

10. Ice packs or frozen rice

When I was a kid in school the nurse always had frozen packs. She would soak a couple paper towels in water, fold them up, place in a ziplock bag and then freeze. If you have any space left in your freezer they’re easy to make. What’s even better is to put rice in a sock and freeze the sock. Before you go to bed, put the icepack or sock near your feet. Keep reading for more of the 22 Ways To Stay Cool On A Sailboat…

11. Hot water bottle (frozen)

Similar to using ice packs or frozen rice it’s possible to freeze water in a hot water bottle! On a boat, freezer space is often an issue but if you can get the hotwater bottle in, give it a go.

12. Before bed dip in the sea

Or you can take a cold shower! It’s amazing how well this works to lower your body temperature. There was one week that we spent on the boat off the coast of Sicily that was particularly hot. It was around 105F during the day and didn’t cool down much at night. We all slept in the cockpit to catch any breeze that was flowing and every few hours we dipped our bodies into the sea. Our sleep was broken but it worked to keep us cooled down.

13. Sleep in the cockpit or outdoor hammock

As mentioned above, sometimes it’s best to just sleep outside in the cockpit or along the deck. We’ve even pulled our mattresses off the bed and laid them on the deck. Make sure, however, to rig a mosquito net over you if you’re in a buggy area.

14. Cooling mattress mat or pad

Used for centuries in China & throughout Asia during warm summer months, to cool and comfort you while you sleep these mats are a great alternative to needing air conditioning. Made from Bing Si, an ancient Chinese blend of polyester fiber with a silky hand and Rattan stands, a natural material similar to wicker.

15. Wear loose cotton

Many sailors think that it’s best to wear a bathing suit in the hot weather. I find them uncomfortable. Furthermore, they don’t protect you in the sun. Long sleeve loose cotton works really well to keep your body cool and protect you from the sun.

16. Keep your body moisturizer in the fridge

The cooling effect doesn’t last too long but it’s a very nice treat in the morning or just before bed.

17. Eat room temperature foods and light meals

Hot foods make you hotter. Meals with a lot of meat cause your body to work harder to digest warming you up. Furthermore combining carbs and proteins cause the body to work hard. Think about eating salads, loads of fresh fruit and vegetables.

18. Don’t use the stove or oven – BBQ outside or use the solar cooker instead

In the morning, when it’s cooler I often prepare my meals to be cooked in the solar cooker outside. I get dinner out of the way when I still have energy, there’s no noise or heat generation inside (having to run the generator to run the oven), the clean up is easy and fast (solar cooked meals never bake-on so the pans are a breeze to wash up) and the meals taste awesome.

19. Drink water

I know this is obvious but new sailors (and even old sailors) don’t realize what dehydration can do. I’ve suffered once not knowing what it was (read my Dehydration Article here) and this past sailing season my husband, Simon, passed out in an old British Fort on the island of St Kitts. We had to have an ambulance come. It was terrible. The reason – he didn’t have enough water in him. His body was trying to sweat but it couldn’t so he heated up and passed out. Drinking water helps the body to cool down. If you ever notice that you’re hot and you’re not sweating get water into you, and an electrolyte or rapid hydration pills/packet into your body immediately.

20. Yoga cooling breathing

This is a technique that Yogi’s use to cool down before sleeping. Hold your right nostril closed with your right thumb, breathing in and out with your left nostril. Pause at the inhale and the exhale. Be conscious of your breath. Continue for four minutes, after which time you should feel cooler and calmer.

21. Sleep time guided meditation involving snow/cold imagery


Our daughter, Sienna (age 8) often has trouble drifting off to sleep at night. This is in the cold and hot weather. We often play sleep time meditations. On one of our iPad apps she has a meditation that involves playing in the snow. When it’s particularly hot Sienna requests this meditation and it really helps to cool her down and send her to sleep! Check out Bedtime Meditations for Kids at the Appstore.

22. Replace all lights with LED lights

You’ll want to do this for energy reasons anyway. We replaced all our lights to LED and watched our energy consumption drop massively. And old style lights not only take up a lot of juice, they produce quite a bit of heat. LED don’t produce much heat at all.

Any other suggestions above and beyond the 22 Ways To Stay Cool On A Sailboat? Please leave them below and share with other readers.

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22 Ways To Stay Cool On A Sailboat

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