Monday, June 17, 2013

Keep your Cool

From Wikipedia:
In 1902, the first modern electrical air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Carrier in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from Cornell University, Carrier, a native of Angola, New York, found a job at the Buffalo Forge Company. While there, Carrier began experimenting with air conditioning as a way to solve an application problem for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York, and the first "air conditioner", designed and built in Buffalo by Carrier, began working on 17 July 1902.

Good things come out of Buffalo I guess. I left there in 1979. OK, so maybe a few bad things escaped as well. The whole time I lived in the city that smells like Cheerios, I never experienced Mr. Carrier's invention in the home. I grew up in the inner city, and we would cool off by sitting on the front porch with a cold drink and maybe a wet wash cloth on our necks. Neighbors on their porches would chat, commenting on the heat, and how awful it will be trying to get a good nights sleep. Porch to porch conversations would pick up, and you could hear the laughing and chatting up and down the street, along with the occasional siren or car coming down. People out for a stroll would say hello, and us kids were always playing in water from the hose or in some cases, small pools erected in our concrete backyards. We all knew our neighbors. We knew their names, or sometimes their inappropriate nicknames, which we were told never to say out loud. There was a good feeling of community back then, times were different. 

When I moved to Rochester, I had a small apartment in a nice suburb, and I had a tiny noisy window air conditioning unit that took most of an evening to get the place cooled down. Most times I did not bother, and just slept with the windows open. I eventually moved from apartment to apartment, with pretty much the same old AC units, that never worked all that well. The best way to cool off was to wash our vehicles. My first apartment, I met many of my neighbors just by washing our cars. We would eventually get some lawn chairs, a cooler, and have a great time getting to know each other. 

Homesteading with Deb in the suburbs of Rochester put us into a nice house without AC, but with a swell pool out back. We introduced Kelly to the world in that house, and we all lived happily in a house with it's windows open all summer long. The next home we had built, and it was designed and constructed without air conditioning. Nicole popped into our lives then. She was brought up without AC as well. In fact, no one on our street had air conditioning, and this was about 1986. Summers were very similar to my time in Buffalo as a kid. All the neighbors would be outside grilling, hanging out on the porch, and laughing and joking the night away. Kids were outside playing in the yards with the sprinklers soaking them. One night some of the kids had water balloons, and a friendly fight had occurred. Deb and I quietly slipped out back behind the house and started launching our own water balloons at the kids from over the house. We had a large balloon sling shot that surprised the little demons with liquid aerial bombardment  Before long we had all the neighbors charging the kids in a water war. Their were buckets, squirt guns, water balloons and hoses. The laughter and screaming could be heard blocks away. 

A few years went by, and neighbor after neighbor installed air conditioning in their house. It was a keep up with the Jones type of thing. Before long the whole neighborhood was a ghost town, with only the low level hum of air conditioning units. Our kids would still play in the yard. Soccer, swings, bikes, etc. kept them occupied all day. This was before cell phones and other electronic brain distractors too. Good thing they had each other because the neighbor kids were all inside behind the closed blinds and shades. Eventually the little Popsicle's would pop out around 4pm, looking for something to do that doesn't make them sweat too much. Our nice little community became a ghost town during the day and the evenings were filled with the sounds of lawn mowers, weed whackers and leaf blowers. Nobody had any time to chat or play anymore. 

Summers in Rochester could get a little toasty from time to time, when it's not raining. We relied on the breeze, the hose, and some ceiling fans to cool off, but we weren't too stressed. It seems we were used to the heat, and it did not bother us like our neighbors. One day my neighbor came out to get the mail one hot summer day. She had a sweater on. I was spraying myself with the hose after cutting the grass, and she was dressed for a crisp fall day. "How's life in the meat locker!" I thought. I got a smile and a wave, and also a shake of the head, as I was completely drenched with water, and a cold beer was in my hand. She must have thought we were either cheap or stupid for not having our windows and doors closed and the curtains drawn.

Living on a boat is the closet thing to living outdoors besides a tent. There isn't much room inside, so you tend to be outside a lot. Shade from a Bimini is important. Little or no clothing is also important. I walk around in a bathing suit most of the time, and an occasional dowsing from the hose takes the edge off a spectacularly hot and humid day. Sometimes I feel a bit self conscious  as others around me are not doing the same thing. In fact, the others around me are only mostly visible around 4 pm. Sometimes I spy a white face in a port hole looking at the crazy person polishing stainless in the middle of the day. I'm not suggesting that we are somehow immune to the heat. I succumbed to a bit of heat stroke last week as I got super dehydrated, and suffered a nice migraine because of it. I'm smarter now, I hope. What I am saying is that once you get used to that cold air coming through the vents, you are hooked, and we will not see your butt outside for most of the day. I've witnessed this too many times for you to prove me wrong. There are exceptions of course. We know some sailing folks who only turn theirs on to sleep. Probably why we didn't see them anchor out much anymore after that. Mentioning AC and it's effects is like discussing gun control. It's a very touchy subject for most people. I had a hard time deciding whether to write about it at all, but what the hell. It's not like I'm advocating for national removal of AC units to cut the grid use in half, saving the planet. Or am I?  :)

We had a neighbor that was sailing well before we started. They would be gone every weekend, and they also cruised the Canadian of Lake Ontario all the time. After they got air conditioning, they cruised less and less. We never saw them outside like we used to. Eventually they sold the boat. Was it because of the air conditioning? They would never admit it. 

We sailed to another harbor one weekend, and a friends boat was there, all buttoned up. I walked by, looked, saw no one. Guess they are away for the weekend I thought. On our way to dinner one night we saw them pop up out of the cockpit. They asked us when the hell we got here, and I replied, "yesterday." They never noticed we were 10 slips down, and we never thought they were there because they were inside with the AC trying to stay cool.

With the exception of our offices, we never live in air conditioning so we are not conditioned by it. We are able to cope with the extremes better than people with it. I have no data to back that up except personal observations, and experience. I don't begrudge anyone for having AC. Stay cool. Do whatever you need to do to stay comfortable on your boat. It doesn't bother us. We could install a unit over a weekend, and be sitting down below all day as well. It's just not for us. We would get extremely claustrophobic, and probably go a little bonkers too. That's just the way we are. We do however, have a big challenge ahead of us. Florida is going to be devastatingly hot and humid real soon. In fact, hardly anyone really lived down here until home air conditioning was introduced. It was too damn hot and humid. We have friends in Rochester that are waiting to hear we installed AC to get through the summer. I believe there might be some betting going on with the predicted dates that we finally give in to Willis Carrier. I would be disappointed if we caved, but Florida summers are known to be killers. We will not be stupid about it, and will install something portable if we find it to be unbearable. We are not doing this to prove how tough we are, we just do not want to be hooked on AC. 

So, can we survive Florida this summer without it? We did it up north, but there's a hell of a difference in climate between NY and Florida. Time will tell, as we are only into June. We have a long way to go. We will not let our health suffer because we are stubborn, but we truly do not want to live in a floating meat locker. 
Water balloon fight anyone? It's a good way to meet your neighbors!

Do we have other reasons for not wanting to be hooked on refrigerant? From Wikipedia:
Spending most of the time in AC environment could lead to lower immunity because, lack of free supply of oxygen hinders with normal functioning of white blood cells that fight bacteria. Moreover, lack of free supply of oxygen tends to increase blood pressure and heart rate since the body has to work that much harder to acquire oxygen in an AC environment.[38]
Blood oxygen level is linked to serotonin also called the 'happiness hormone'. Thus, a person is more likely to feel refreshed and relaxed in an open, green environment.[38][39]
AC achieves cooling through the process of evaporation. Due to this, mucous membranes in the nose and mouth get dry.[40] When moist, the immunity cells in the nose and mouth are able to attract and trap viruses, bacteria and allergens. If the AC is not fitted with humidifiers, there is an increase in the levels of dryness in the surrounding air.[41][38]
Consistent direct exposure to cold, dry air could cause skin conditions[35] like dermatitis and eczema by reducing skin's elasticity.[38]

Sitting here writing this in the cockpit, I see very little human activity outside. Our dock mates are here, but inside their vessels. Some boaters are out and about, but hurrying from boat to building and back again. We only know our neighbors from quick hellos as we pass by. Very few conversations last more than a few minutes. We are all strangers, yet have so much in common. Cockpits, just like porches used to be good places to meet and chat. Now instead of the hum from the AC units, I sit here listening to water tricking out of thru hulls, but little conversation.

Years ago, I noticed a friend of ours in Sodus Bay had his Beneteau all closed up on a hot and humid weekend. "You get AC?" I asked. "No, we went with ceiling fans." he said straight faced. Still makes me laugh.

I only wrote this because so many folks  have asked how we can stand it down here in the heat on the boat without Air. Maybe it's a genetic thing. My parents are in their eighties and still do not have AC. They don't like it. Never have. Debra's family is on the BTU's, so genetics aren't playing a role there. Debra likes fresh air too much, and can be quite claustrophobic. This explains the need for the large aft cabin. Quarter berths feel like a coffin to her. Mostly though, she is just not used to being chilled down, and it makes her joints hurt. Mine too actually.

Good articles on the history of AC and it's impacts:

Should we have to install some AC to survive this summer, we were thinking along these lines:

They are about the size of a dehumidifier and cost about $150. I really hope we don't have to do it, but if we do, this would be the ticket.




  1. People we met in Florida went to the Bahamas in the summer as it is a few degrees cooler and always a breeze. Now there is the hurricanes...

  2. People we met in Florida went to the Bahamas in the summer as it is a few degrees cooler and always a breeze. Now there is the hurricanes...

  3. Thank you! I so totally agree. We do have air on the boat only because it came with, and truth be told I'm not sure we could have survived the week straight of 108° temps this past summer without it but the air is getting yanked as soon as we get to the coast. We intend to spend our cruising years chasing 70° . Maine or Nova Scotia in the summer and the Bahamas in the winter.

    S/V Kintala

    1. We'll be right behind you, except for that Nova Scotia place. Can't understand those people. :)

  4. We are right there with you sweating away as we don't have AC on our boat either. I don't want to add it because of long range we sweat. I did make some of those neck cooling things (I don't know the name) and that really helps us stay cool.

    s/v Honey Ryder Caliber 40 LRC

    1. Neck cooling things? Hmm. I have a wet washcloth. Better than that?

  5. Paul...don't know how you're going to do it. Heartier stock than us for sure. We had the our stateroom unit down for 2 weeks and I think I got about 4 hours sleep...and it's just getting started! I was tempted to pick-up a unit like the one you've indicated for the short term fix, but could never really figure how I would rig the fresh air intake.

    One solution that did work (at least on the weekend) was a pronounced spike in the vodka/tonic intake just before bed. I wasn't any cooler, just didn't care as much.

    Good Luck!

    Ron Mariano
    M/V Island Eyes