Do Cuddy Cabins have Air Conditioning?


When my family and I got into the market for Cuddy cabins, we wanted to know if the cuddy itself would be outfitted with air conditioning (AC).

Even though we know that staying out on the boat will be something that doesn’t happen too often, we justed wanted to know the level of comfort in the cuddy on a hot summer’s night.

Do cuddy cabins have AC?

Nearly all true Cuddy Cabins will not be outfitted with an AC unit or system.  These are generally reserved for Cabin Cruisers (and larger) which are the next class of boat in size and features.  However, there are 12-volt DC battery-operated fans available that can be used for convective cooling when below deck.

The lack of an air conditioning system shouldn’t scare you away from making a purchase if a cuddy cabin offers everything else that you’ve been looking for in a vessel.  There are quite a few tips and tricks that I’ll share below that I’ve learned from my research, conversations with other boat owners, and my own personal outdoor experience that can help mitigate being uncomfortable on a hot summer’s night.

Why Doesn’t a Cuddy Cabin Have AC?

The primary reason why cuddy cabin does not have air conditioning is mostly based on its size, the price point, and the general expectation that the end user has for this particular vessel.  

Most Cuddy owners that I’ve come in contact with agree that not having an air conditioning unit is not a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing one, and in fact, when asked whether or not they would think of installing one on their own, the general attitude is that it’s just not worth it.

The reason for this is that the Cuddy itself is not designed for maximum comfort anyways.  There’s already limited room to even sit up in the Cuddy when in a sleeping position and most of them have the Porta-Potty situated in between the V-berth which is right in the middle of the bedding area.  

The cuddy cabin offers the bare essentials and does not market itself as a vessel that appeals to luxury.

Can I Rig Up an AC Unit on My Own?

Conventional AC

In my research, I did see a few examples of people successfully rigging up conventional 110VAC (volts of alternating current) air conditioning for their cuddy cabin but overall it seems a lot of work for the purpose of the Cuddy Cabin itself.  That’s just my opinion, of course. 

Some have used perfectly sized foam inserts for the hatch to go with the AC unit.  Others have set up an enclosure up top and tied their AC unit into it to cool the top and bottom decks. 

I mostly saw window units that you’d find in a house, so if you go that route you’ll need to remember that there will be a constant drip of water as the AC is running. 

Either way you slice it, conventional AC units cannot be run with battery power so you’re going to be reliant upon 110 VAC dock power or generator power. 

If you’re thinking of bringing a quiet generator,like a Honda EU2000i, you’ve now got to worry about not damaging the generator while on your boating trip and also keep in mind the possible dangers of carbon monoxide on board when you’re sleeping.  You obviously wouldn’t want to run the generator within the confines of an enclosure up top.

If you’re boating alone, and don’t mind losing some space in the cuddy, you can check out a youtube video from a guy who rigs up an exhaust box for his window AC unit and vents it out the forward hatch as the AC unit sits on the V-berth.  If you’re sleeping 2 people down below this is likely out of the question, but it might give you some ideas.  It’s worth checking out!

12-Volt Air Conditioning Units

There are options out there that allow you to air condition your small vessel with an AC unit that runs off of the 12 or 24 volts provided by a battery(ies). 

When at the docks, you could also charge the batteries simultaneously with an adequate charger while running the unit to not drain the batteries down. 

The amount of power required by these AC units is about 30-40 Amps.  With a 200-225 AH battery bank (2 x 6-volt 225 GC2 golf cart batteries hooked in series, for example), you could run this thing for a single night and likely have nearly fully discharged batteries at the end. 

You could run it intermittently for optimal battery health and conservation. 

A unit like this with 6,000 BTU’s will cost you between $3,500-$4,000!  It starts to make the fan option look a little more palatable.  Your situation might make it worth it though.  Here are links to two companies (not affiliated) that sell these specialized products: 1.) Dometic, 2.) MES Marine.

Using Ice to Cool a Cuddy

Other methods that I’ve seen while doing my research about cooling a Cuddy have been devices like “swamp coolers” that blow the cold air from ice into the sleeping area.

Doing this may work, however, you’re introducing a heck of a lot of moisture into the Cuddy and that’s just inviting mildew and mold to start. It’s already hard enough to clean down there, and it’s best practice to keep things as dry as possible in the Cuddy.

What do Cuddy Cabin Owners have to say about Keeping Cool?

Some of the coolest things (pun intended) I’ve learned from my research and from speaking with experience boaters have been the tips that they’ve used to keep cool on a summer night while in a Cuddy.

  • The first thing you want to do when you dock at night or if you’re going to anchor is to try to make sure that the stern is facing into the wind.  In non-boating terms: make sure that the back end of the boat is facing into the wind. This way you can open the hatch at night and you’ll get a draft coming in from the back of the boat down into the Cuddy to keep you cool.  If you have a forward hatch above you when in the Cuddy, you can open that as well for a cross breeze.
  • Opening the hatch will help keep you cooler but biting bugs often accompany the mugginess of a hot summer night.  For that you’re going to want to make sure to have a mesh screen that can cover the hatchway when it’s open. There are Outfitters out there that sell customizable mesh screens but it probably wouldn’t be that hard to make one on your own. It might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but some self-adhesive Velcro along the trim of the hatch might work well if some velcro could be sewn onto the reinforced edges of the mesh screen.
  • There’s a number of 12-volt direct current (DC) fans that can be operated with a marine battery on board your vessel. Make sure to pick one of these up to help keep the air current moving especially if there’s not a breeze at night.  Better yet, have one wired and installed into the Cuddy permanently ahead of time!
  • A hot day and a hot night are sure to make you uncomfortable, so another tip is to make sure to bring a solar shower with you if you’re going to be out past morning the following day.  Hung from a tree, this will feel really refreshing to get rid of the sweat from the previous day. Of course, it’s recommended that you wear your bathing suit if you’re worried about anyone spotting you.
  • You can also turn the deck up top into a sleeping area as well if the Cuddy is just not working for you or if you have more people than are comfortable down below. They make cabin covers that can rig up with the Bimini to help to close up everything.  These can also be made custom as well with windows and whatnot wherever you please.
  • Finally, another helpful way to deal with bugs is to get yourself a Thermacell which keeps bugs at about a 15-foot radius from where it is placed.  Pair this up with a mesh screen for your hatch and those little bloodsuckers shouldn’t be ruining your outing.

Final Thoughts

If you’re absolutely adamant about having AC in your Cuddy and a fan with a natural cross-breeze won’t do, the cheapest method would be to pair a small window AC unit with an inverter-generator (or solely use dockside power). 

This option would probably cost you between $700 and $1,000 if you bought everything new and went with a Champion brand inverter-generator.  If you went with a Honda, you’d probably be looking at $1,200-$1,400 total. 

Another option is to shell out $3,500-$4,000 and get a DC air conditioning unit to run off of a battery bank.  You’ll need to consider the added cost of the batteries and their weight onboard.  Two deep-cycle golf cart batteries will run you about $250, and add an additional 130 lbs to your boat. 

The final option is to accept that a Cuddy Cabin does not have AC and that its bigger cousin, the Cabin Cruiser, will have plenty of option for you to choose from.  

Either way you choose, I wish you the best of luck and safe travels on the water!

Bob Van Nuck

Bob lives in central Michigan and enjoys running, woodworking, fixing up small engines, and getting out on the water with family, of course!

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