‘Branch water and Bourbon’ . . . making drinking water from the ocean.
Many of you who read this know that one of the philosophies of Spiritus, as a boat and means of travel, is to have as little effect on the local environment as possible. So the boat is solar-powered for all electrical; uses a solar oven to reduce her need for LPG; has a solar shower we use for heating water; and, as much as possible, uses rechargeable batteries for portable devices. These are drills, cameras, lights, radios, computers, GPS, clocks, flashlights, headlamps, even our mascot–a mechanical butterfly.
Even the large batteries of the boat are charged primarily by solar panels … that allow us to use the boat’s electrics and start her diesel when necessary.
As part of that, we acquired a water maker. It is a used Katydyn Survivor E40 that makes about 1.4 gallons of water an hour thru a process of a mechanical piston forcing salt water thru a membrane that only lets the water part thru.
We can now make water anywhere there is ocean. Yeah! For most boats, the ocean is like a big desert made of water. Because, you can’t drink it. On this desert, Spiritus travels like a desert camel carrying his Bedouin rider from oasis to oasis or from well to well. In the case of a cruising sailboat , that is from port to port, or from an anchorage with a river to another anchorage with a river.
The water maker changes this equation of navigating from water to water …. or more precisely from drinking water to drinking water. If you look at our decks, we have water jugs in addition to two internal water tanks for drinking water. Now we can fill our own tanks … or the tanks of others if there is an emergency. It also allows us to move freely, without regard to a marina with water for drinking … so the anchor-out opportunities are now abundant.
So to steal a line from Lawrence of Arabia (the movie at least) if “The desert is an ocean in which no oar is dipped’ and on this ocean the Bedu go where they please,” then the ocean is a desert on which Spiritus travels as she pleases!
Well, enough about nautical nomads … back to the water maker. Below is a pic of the new baby.
It draws water up through the boats salt water intake for the engine .. uses the boats salt water strainer .. and takes a very small amount for the water maker. For every gallon of pure water we get … nine gallons are returned to the ocean as ‘brine’ meaning slightly saltier water on return.
The installation was not straightforward is all I will say. It took me and a decent mechanic two full days to get it working … air bubbles in lines … leak at the flush valve … a need to put in the factory recommended spooler thingy replacement … that previous owner had not had to do … but it all was worth it after the first few ounces of drinkable water came out. Then, we got the new calibrated electronic tester to confirm what our taste buds say is great water.
The water we have access to in the slips at Marina La Paz tests at about 280 parts per million and it, too, is made from sea water to reduce the demands that a cruising fleet would place on local water supplies in a desert city. My first glass of pure water from Spiritus water maker tested at 177 parts per million. EPA water standards say up to 400-500 parts per million is probably ok. We use about three gallons a day so it has to be run about two hours a day …not every day but pretty frequently to keep tanks topped off. We have storage for nearly 100 gallons on the boat .. so she can go quite a while on the stored water. That may change now that we make water .. there is already discussion of do we need the deck five-gallon water bottles anymore? And we may retire one inside tank and make it boat water for cleaning and not drinking.
But, back to the water! It tasted very special … as in great … pure and not like anything I have tasted before … just water in all its life-sustaining glory. It is like a little miracle next to the engine.
Now, what to do with that first shot glass of water …. hmmm!