Some days it’s just too hot to think, let alone write!!! Living in the Midwest during the “off” season for cruising is usually very pleasant – keep in mind, we like hot weather. But this week is overboard! I happened to glance at our weather station yesterday afternoon and it said 121 heat index! 121! YIKES! That’s not “pleasantly” hot, that’s brutal. The humidity is a killer. We haven’t felt intense heat and humidity like this since we were in Cartagena and then cruising the Columbian coastline islands on the way back to Panama.
Keep in mind when you’re returning to the boat in the tropics, the heat and humidity are likely to be considerably above what you’re adjusted to — especially when we return in October which is beginning to get crisp and cool, football weather in the Midwest. It takes a few days for me to acclimate and we try not to overdo the basic boat chores during the first few days back.
This kind of heat is literally dangerous and it’s possible that having the “luxury” of a watermaker aboard the boat might compound the problem! A controversial debate rages regarding whether watermaker water is completely free of minerals or contains trace minerals since it is made from sea water. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, ask your doctor. My doctor says it can’t hurt to take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement during our six months aboard. I’ve also heard of cruisers that are concerned about RO water using a bit of seawater to cook with – the theory is that adding seawater to the cooking water will add enough minerals to the diet. I have no idea what the real answer is, so we try to hydrate with a combination of liquids, gatorade, water, lemonade, iced tea, eat our vegetables and fruits and take a multi-vitamin when I remember.
Changing topics, most boats don’t have air conditioning while away from a dock. Generally when it’s sweltering outside, we’re mostly comfortable aboard Winterlude, but we have alot of ventilation and opening hatches/portholes to let the breeze in, plus fans to add to air circulation. Unless we’re in Cartagena, we’ll jump in the water to cool off whenever we need to — if you’re at a marina, the pool works well too!
And don’t forget the shade! Wherever possible, rigging up more shade will help keep the boat cooler below. Despite the fact that we have a dark green hull, our boat stays cooler than what we anticipated and we think it’s the shade – we have a bow shadecloth as well as the bimini and dodger – we can also add the Shadetree awnings if it’s really sweltering.
I do know that whenever I’m in a cruising locale that’s this hot and humid, it takes a lot of extra effort to stay hydrated! We always have powdered gatorade aboard. I’ve read that adding a pinch of gatorade to your drinking water (in the glass or bottle, not in the tank) adds the hydration elements you need. After a bit of a dehydration scare in San Andreas, Columbia, we always have some individual bottles of Pedialyte (the infant and kids rehydration fluid recommended by the emergency room doctor) aboard Winterlude. At the end of this post, I’ve also included a homemade rehydration recipe from our upcoming book, “Galley and Cooking Manual” to be published by International Marine.
Be sure you know the signs of heat stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic website:
What makes heatstroke severe and potentially life-threatening is that the body’s normal mechanisms for dealing with heat stress, such as sweating and temperature control, are inadequate. The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature — generally greater than 104 F (40 C) — with changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma. Skin may be hot and dry — although if heatstroke is caused by exertion, the skin may be moist.
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Elevated or lowered blood pressure
- Cessation of sweating
- Irritability, confusion or unconsciousness
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults
If you suspect heatstroke:
- Move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space.
- Call 911 or emergency medical help (if body temperature is over 102 or accompanied with fainting, confusion or seizures).
- Cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water. Direct air onto the person with a fan or newspaper.
- Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine, if he or she is able.
Rehydration Drink from The Galley and Cooking Manual
OK, so Gatorade it isn’t, but when you need a rehydration drink, this one will work.
Makes 1 quart
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon “lite” salt or salt substitute – NOTE: bring it from the US if necessary – regular salt does not contain the potassium necessary to make this work!
Mix all together until salt and sugar dissolve. Take small sips rather than large gulps to help get it down.
Do you have special precautions you take for excessive heat? Leave a comment and let us know! THX! Jan