Chill, Baby!

You can make your boat as comfy as any megayacht with air conditioning by installing this one simple accessory—in an hour or two.

9th June 2014.
By Lenny Rudow

Water… I need fresh water. Sweat is streaming down my forehead, and trickling into my stinging eyes. It’s one of those rare slick-calm days on the ocean where there’s zero breeze. With the August sun directly overhead temperatures must be in the upper 90’s or possibly even over 100 degrees, and adrift on my little fishing boat is a miserable place to be. I—gasp… need… gasp… water.

fishing with AC

Blazing hot, slick-calm days may be great for fishing, but without air conditioning, they are also a sweaty misery.

I shuffle to the helm, flip a switch I installed last weekend, and suddenly 130 PSI of pressure starts forcing liquid comfort through a series of tiny plastic jets. Within seconds, I’m surrounded by a curtain of mist. Evaporative cooling begins immediately, and I shudder with delight as the temperature plunges.

I… have… water… atomized into millions of tiny droplets, swirling all around me.

Creature Comfort

Those guys fishing near-by in the 60-footer think they’re so cool. And they are, because in between bites they can duck into a salon chilled by 20,000 BTUs of air-conditioning. That’s simply not an option on a little 22-foot boat like mine, and for years, I’ve envied those one-percenters for their comfort. Until one day a few years back, when I was walking through the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in the baking Florida sun, and I suddenly ran into a wall of cool. It was a new form of outdoor air-conditioning: misters.

Soon misters began appearing on yachts, installed in the flybridge overhang, where they could chill down the entire cockpit. Now that just didn’t seem fair—not only were those Ritchie-Riches enjoying their salon AC, they even had it while standing outdoors. If they could enjoy such sumptuous pleasures, why couldn’t I?

misters

Mister systems from companies like Misters Unlimited can chill the cockpit of sportfishing yachts. But what about us little guys?

Fortunately for you and me, the price of misters has come down quite a bit in the past few years. Today, you can buy a kit or just get a mess of pieces and parts and put a system together by yourself for around $300. The best part? Very little actual work is involved. As long as your boat has a Bimini, an arch, or a T-Top to mount the spray nozzles on, this is a one- to two-hour job. It’s so easy, you won’t even break a sweat—although once the job’s completed you’ll wish you had, so you could give your new misting system a trial run.

Depending on the size of your boat, the capacity of your water supply, and the size of your boat’s top, you’ll need to decide whether to go with a pre-packaged kit or design a system of your own. Kits are available from outfits like Boat Misters or Taylor Made, and for your average 20-something-footer, they’ll have more than enough power, tube, and nozzles to keep your entire crew chilled out. For my 22’ center console I installed a Taylor Made Comfort Zone system, which is powered by a 12V 130PSI pump that draws just one amp and comes with four jet nozzles. The kit included literally every piece and part I needed to get my system up and running. But the system uses about two gallons of water per hour, and my boat doesn’t have a freshwater tank, so I also had to purchase a 10-gallon Jerry can to keep the system supplied.

How will you know if a kit like this is sufficient for your needs? The key item to bear in mind is that once the nozzles are spaced more than about three feet apart, you lose the curtain effect and instead end up with individual cones of comfort. Though this is better than nothing, it’ll still leave you gazing in envy at those guys living the easy life on their yachts. But you can’t just start adding more jets, because the pump isn’t powerful enough to feed them the pressure necessary to break the water down into 30 micron droplets. The nozzles will drip instead of jet. So if six or eight nozzles are necessary to cool down your boat, you’ll want to move up to a more potent pump offered by outfits like Misters Unlimited.

mister pump

The pump can be located belowdecks, as long as it’s within a few feet of the water supply and relatively near the misting jets. On my boat, that meant screwing the mounting plate to a bulkhead amidships, near the T-top rigging tube.

Step 1: Installing the Pump 

This is probably the toughest part of the job, and the only task that requires tools. Find a hidden spot somewhere belowdecks to drill two holes and screw or bolt the pump’s mounting plate in place. You don’t want to be too far from the jet locations or you could run out of tube, so before you mount the pump be sure to measure out the distance to the farthest nozzle’s mounting location. With the kits, that generally means 25’. You also need to be within five feet of the water tank.

Once the mounting plate is screwed down, run power lines to the pump from an accessory switch at the helm. Use crimp connectors to join the wires, and (especially if the pump will be located in the bilge) use heat-shrink tubing to seal the connections.

Connecting the inlet line to the Jerry can on my boat is easy, because I merely remove the can’s cap and drop in the inlet hose and its integrated sediment filter. You could plumb the system directly to an existing onboard water tank, but this would make the job significantly tougher—and could quickly eat through your boat’s freshwater supply. For these reasons, I’d recommend the jerry can method.

Step 2: Running the supply line

The kit I used included mister tube-holders with alligator clips, for temporary use on a Bimini top. To use these you’d simply clip the line up to the Bimini every time you wanted to chill out, and remove and stow the mister line after every use. But since my boat has a T-top, I chose to permanently run the ¼” line up through the pipe work along with the radar and VHF wires, and out through an access hole in the top. Then I used plastic zip-ties to secure the line to the T-top frame.

mister installation

Attaching the tubing to the pump and jets is amazingly easy; note the gray locking ring, which grabs the tube when you insert it.

Step 3: Installing the Nozzles

This turned out to be shockingly easy. All you need to do to attach a nozzle to the line is to simply push the tube into the nozzle stem. That’s it—the stems have self-gripping attachments that do all the work. You will, however, need to cut the line at each spot you want to install a nozzle (except for at the very end of the line).

Step 4: There is no Step 4

Remember when I said this was an incredibly easy job? I meant it. With these pieces in place, all you need to do is drop the end of the inlet hose into the Jerry can, flip the switch, and say “Ahhhhhhh.”

mister jet

Zip-ties do the trick for securing mister jets to a T-top, but the tube needs to be supported every foot or so.

During the first few weeks of use, I did learn a few more things about the install. First off, if you don’t have zip-ties supporting the tubing every foot or so, it tends to shift and sag. To eliminate this problem, I removed the zip-ties and wove the line through the cord securing the canvas to the top to provide some extra support. Then I re-installed zip-ties at each nozzle. I also found it necessary to lash the Jerry can down, so it didn’t fall over and spill when boats went by and sent us rocking.

I also discovered that you can’t expect too much from one of these systems on windy days. The mist gets blown off course rather easily, and a breeze of five to 10 knots is enough to make the cooling effect erratic, at best. Of course, when there’s a breeze, you usually aren’t sweating to death.

Now, with my boat’s outdoor AC in place, I can laugh at the heat. Those cool one-percenters don’t seem so cool any more. And I have water… all the atomized water I need, to be comfortable on my boat.


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About the author:

Lenny Rudow

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Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
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