One of the lifestyle adjustments we made when beginning our new life aboard Nine of Cups was water usage. Gone were the days when I did some of my best problem solving while standing under the stream of a long, hot shower. Now, just leaving the water running while brushing my teeth seems like an awful waste of water.
Once we are away from the marina, keeping the tanks filled with potable water becomes a major activity. Even here in Chesapeake City, where we are tied up at a marina, keeping the tanks topped up is a chore since the water along our section of the dock has been shut off for the winter.
Generally, there are four methods of sourcing water. The first, and perhaps best method, is collecting rainwater. We've been in several parts of the world where it rained a lot, and collecting all the water we needed was a simple chore. On the other hand, we've been in just as many places where rainfall was so sparse that it just wasn't practical. We've tried several approaches – from simply placing buckets in strategic locations around the deck to elaborate troughs sewed into our bimini. This might make a good blog subject in the future.
The second method is desalinating seawater. There are a number of watermakers on the market ranging from simple, low capacity 12 VDC systems to elaborate, high output, engine-driven machines. When we were looking for a desalinator 17 years ago, there were fewer choices, and we went with a small, relatively economical, low output system. We make enough water to keep up with our needs by running it 1 to 1-1/2 hours a day – usually powered from solar and wind energy. We've been quite happy with the system, but if we were replacing our watermaker today, I'd definitely take another look at the current options. Our Katadyne system now goes for $4900 – about 50% higher than it did when we bought it
Another option we encountered while in Venezuela, when it was safe to travel there, was the Water-Baby. For a reasonable fee, a small barge would deliver water directly to the anchored boats. It was certainly convenient, but as Marcie reminds me, we both had the trots for a few days.
Then there's the third and most common method – toting water. There are a number of reasons why this isn't ideal: the water often tastes bad; it frequently can't be trusted without adding hydrogen peroxide, making it taste even worse; it's sometimes costly; and it is always a lot of work. But if the harbor or anchorage is too silty, brackish or polluted to run the watermaker and collecting rainwater isn't practical, toting water is often the only option.
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of techniques for toting water. Most yachties use water cans of some type or another. The most elaborate scheme we've encountered was the dinghy we saw in Puerto Rico that had a semi-permanent tank added, complete with a 12 VDC pump to transfer the water from the dinghy to the boat. Kind of overkill, and I'm not sure how easy it would be to drag it down the beach once the tank was full, but the owner was quite proud of it. The other extreme was the technique Tom Hanks used in Cast Away – empty coconut shells. I'm always a fan of finding a way to 're-purpose' stuff.
We use collapsible, five gallon water jugs. When not in use they collapse, as the name suggests, making them easy to stow – much easier than coconuts. They hold about as much water as I'm comfortable carrying, and I can still lift them up onto the deck from the dinghy. We've tried three different brands over the years, and our favorite is, without doubt, the jugs made by Coleman. They have two handles built in, making them easier to pour, and they seem to hold up the longest. Best of all, it is much easier to carry two of these than 40 coconuts.
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