Sunday, 11 November 2007

Water, water, everywhere.

Well thats what you hope when you are off cruising! Both in terms of enough depth to float your boat and enough rainfall to fill the tanks.

It's pouring with rain here this morning which set my thoughts off toward the subject of potable water for use on board.(I have always wondered where the word 'potable' comes from.)

We carry 125 gallons, spread between three separate tanks. One on the Port, under a saloon sofa, one on the Starboard side, under the other sofa, and a smaller one under the aft berth. The two main tanks are accessed by a pressurized water system and all three are also accessed by foot pump. It's quite a complicated set up, lots of pipes and switches in the bilges to change from one tank to another and from pressurized to pump access.

The complication is okay in practical terms, if we are low or on a long passage switching to the foot pump is an excellent way of keeping tabs on water usage as is the fact that it will be necessary to switch from one tank to another. Mind you we have taken it to ludicrous lengths in the past...
When crossing the Atlantic TBH was concerned that we didn't run out of water. Bless him! So we were extremely parsimonious, used the foot pump only, no showers unless it rained etc. Well when we pulled in to St Maarten's, 32 days after leaving Lanzarote, we had only used a third of our water!

Boy did we stink!

The custom's officers who boarded within minutes of us anchoring were amused, to begin with, as we warned them they went below at their own peril! They soon realized that we weren't joking and sat as far away from us as possible up in the cockpit!

One of the first things that we did on arrival in the Caribbean was to commission our water making system. It had been on the boat when we bought her but we had found it unnecessary in Europe. Fresh water was always easily available. Not so here. Quality and quantity are a little random in places.

We have an old 'PUR' maker. It only produces 1.6 gallons per hour but it runs on 12v and our wind generator creates enough power to run it. The perfect solution and very satisfying. Hearing the wind generator whooshing round on the stern and the water pumping in to the tank is a lovely feeling!

We can only fill the small aft tank directly from the watermaker. Once that is full we have to fill cans and pour those in to the other tanks.
In reality we only ever put water from the watermaker in the aft tank, ensuring that the reserve supply is always the best that we have in terms of quality.

Our boat, a Bowman 40, is designed to allow water to be collected straight off the decks in to the two main tanks. Its a fabulous system when the decks are clean. We remove the filler caps, both at the lowest point in the side decks, plug the run off holes with bathplugs and away we go. In a good rainstorm we can fill both tanks in under 20 minutes! I get a real kick out of that!!
The water from these tanks then goes through a carbon filtration system before arriving at the taps down below.

I treat the water in these tanks with a proprietary water treatment, when I have it, or with bleach when its not available.
We keep the teak decks clean at sea by pouring saltwater over then every day, swilling away any debris and maintaining the wood at the same time.

One of the boat projects before we go much further is to install a 'Seagull' filtration system which claims to remove bacterial contamination. It's expensive but the only thing I can see on the market that addresses that problem.

On deck we have 4 x 20 litre cans, they are essential when carting water from shore and, god forbid, they are easily accessible should we ever have to abandon ship.

Ooh nasty thought...

There are some things I still need to do. We really ought to have a set up for catching rain on canvas and piping it to the tanks, great when the decks are not clean. Like so many things on the boat I have all the bits to make it but still haven't done the deed. Probably 'cos we just haven't needed it yet!

Generally though we are very satisfied with our water systems. We run hot and cold water to three places on the boat, two heads and the galley. TBH has the skills to rebuild the watermaker when necessary and we carry a large stock of spares.

We can be away from land sources of water pretty much indefinitely, so long as we are careful. And last but not least it satisfies my need to be as self-sufficient as possible onboard.

No comments: