Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink - or so it seemed for many years. Bob and I have lived aboard our 1958 Block Island 40 sailboat since 1997. When we first started out, water was a non-issue; we had 60 gallons of water tanks on the boat. At that time, sailing down the East Coast of the United States, water was available at every stop and it was usually free. Sure, we often had to jug it, but we were young and it was all part of the adventure.
In 2000, we departed Florida headed for the Panama Canal and then on through to the Pacific. To address our water needs, we devised a large water catchment system, which consisted of a tarp, poles, through-hulls and hose. It was such a complicated thing, but we felt sure it would provide all the fresh water we would possibly need. Visions of showers in the cockpit while gazing at white beaches and swaying palms filled our minds. Back in those days, my hair was down to my waist with a texture similar to a beaver tail, so it took a full gallon just to get it wet enough to wash. Needless to say, I was onboard with anything that would help the cause. And how eco-friendly to use what Mother Nature would provide!
Unfortunately, most of the time Mother Nature decided to give us our allotment of fresh water at 2 a.m. Was the fill open? Was the tarp at the right angle? We would crawl out of our cozy bunks to find a blowing vertical squall that only provided enough water for a pot of coffee, which was required because we were chilled to the bone from trying to adjust our complicated and useless water tarp. No problem - we would just make a minor change to the plan and open the fills when the decks were washed. Of course, most of the time the rain stopped before the fills were even open.
So it was back to jugging and conserving as much as possible. We had installed a salt water pump in the galley for doing dishes. We soon discovered that the fresh water rinse at the end didn't stop the rust spots from appearing on our pots and silverware. Nix that idea.
The passages became longer in the Pacific and the coating of salt aboard Misty Dawn was amazing. There were many a landfall you would find me with my spray bottle attacking the dodger, blocks and other salt encrusted equipment with a half vinegar, half water solution.
In addition, Bob and I love to scuba dive - I enjoy the scenery, Bob hunts for dinner. Our expensive dive equipment was taking a beating because we seldom had enough fresh water to give it a proper rinse.
Despite all this, my water maker envy was not in full swing yet. Many other yachts had the name brand water maker of the time, but it seemed that they were always waiting on parts to be shipped to them while we sailed on to our next destination. We made due. Many of the atolls we visited had very limited water, but they were always willing to share what they had. On some islands, if the water was a bit too "tasty," we would add a drop or two of bleach. My breaking point was when friends offered to side-tie to Misty Dawn and give us their water hose to fill our tanks and rinse the boat. They felt sorry for us after witnessing my pathetic spray bottle technique.
The pros and cons list was becoming pretty one-sided - it was time for a water maker. We did our research and discovered that many of the common boat water makers were complicated with lots of expensive, specialty parts. We knew our system had to be simple and easy to maintain so that it wouldn't hinder our cruising, so we used off-the-shelf parts that were readily available almost anywhere. Since then, our cruising lifestyle has only been enhanced. Now if we love an anchorage, we can stay as long as we like. No more worries about where the next water supply is located. No more guilt of taking water from an island village that has little to spare. No more smelly, salt encrusted equipment.
And in case you're wondering, yes, those lovely fresh water showers in the cockpit with views of beautiful beaches are just as we'd dreamed.