Water water everywhere! More money to spend.

One of the first things humans discovered upon sailing the ocean is that drinking saltwater is deadly. Not only is drinking saltwater deadly, but bathing and washing in it can lead to an unpleasant lifestyle. You see, the high salt content in seawater means that anything soaked by seawater will dry leaving behind that salt. Since salt is hygroscopic, that item will never completely dry as the salt will hold some moisture even if the item is heated. This is why its essential to wash everything in fresh water (including yourself) so it will completely dry and you don’t live in clammy sheets, clothes, ect. Clammy stuff is not only unpleasant but can encourage bacteria growth and lead to nasty skin infections.

 

So on a cruising boat, fresh water is one of the most important provisions we carry. However, like everything on a boat, its a trade off. Since boats are weight sensitive (especially Cats), carrying a large amount of water can massively impact sailing performance. Not only does it impact sailing performance, but how do you actually get fresh water on your boat when you anchor most of the time. Traditionally,  boats had HUGE water tanks and carried water from shore on their dinghy. It was a weekly ritual to run 10s of gallons of water from shore to ship in containers carried by the dinghy.  Doesn’t sound like fun, does it? Thankfully some smart people realized that we have the technology to turn seawater into drinking water and began selling desalination plants (wistfully known as “Watermakers”). That, my dear reader brings us to Party of Five most recent dilemma.

 

When I bought this boat in Cuba, I knew it had a watermaker installed, but in unknown condition. Upon possession, I asked the Cubans if the watermaker worked and received the response of “Dunno, we have never turned it on”. I feared the worst, but hoped for the best. I hoped that I could simply power the unit back up, replace the membranes, and have a functional watermaker. Alas, that is not the case. Although I have been able to get the unit powered up, I have not be successful at making water. Furthermore, its very clear that some parts will be required to bring it back to full operation (some non-essential parts fell apart in my hands). So I’m now faced with the following options:

 

  1. Repair the current watermaker at an unknown cost. I estimate between $1000-$2000 to bring the current maker back into full production. Unfortunately it could take a month or more as parts are only available in Italy and shipping is very slow. It will be very hard to get parts once we are in the water. Definitely a risk that will delay our departure from the USA.
  2. Purchase an “exact” replacement watermaker from an American company (Spectra). Cost $7500USD. Easy install as all the existing wiring and plumbing should work with the Spectra system. Support is good worldwide and they make a quality product. Just hard not to choke on the roll of 100s needed to purchase.
  3. Purchase a 110V watermaker from a USA company (Cruise RO), add a 2kw Honda generator. Total cost about $6500USD. This watermaker offers 2 advantages. One its very fast and only requires an hour or two of operation every 3 days to provide enough water for our family. Short run times mean I don’t have to be on the boat babysitting the watermaker. Second, the Honda 2kw generator will provide backup power to charge our batteries. Unfortunately install of this watermaker will be complex and require new plumbing and wiring (my boat is 220V) to be run. Probably take 2-3, 8 hour days to get it installed.
  4. Purchase a 110V watermaker from an Australian company (Rainman), add a 2kw Honda generator. Total cost $5600USD. This unit comes complete and is modular so it doesn’t require installation. You simply set the components on deck, throw a hose in the water and make water. It offers the same advantages as the Cruise RO unit but without the complex install. The downside is I would have to find places to store all the components and would need to haul them out every time I use them. However, I could install it semi-permanantly at a later date (using the same locations as our original maker).  Rainman is also very new to the market, but gets great reviews! A Florida company has stock so shipping would be as quick as option 2 or 3!
  5. Purchase a 110V watermaker from China, add a 2kw Honda generator. Total cost $3400-$3600. This is a complete wildcard as I have heard reviews both ways for these units. One person in the yard praises them and says he has bought a bunch and they are flawless after some mods (the downside). Other users on the Internet claim that they are pure crap. They offer the same specifications as both the Rainman and the Cruise RO. Delivery would also be very close to launch and could delay us. It would also require a complex install the same as a Cruise RO. Is it worth the $2000 gamble?

So what to pick! Lets play a fun game. Please leave a comment as to which option you would lean towards. After a couple of days, I will post what we picked!

 

P.S. Stay tuned as reveal day is fast approaching. Pics and video will be posted once the “Splash” job are complete!

 

  28 comments for “Water water everywhere! More money to spend.

  1. Andrew Olekson
    March 10, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Pay the 7500.00 and be done with it!

  2. Danica
    March 10, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    My pick would be the $7500USD. The price is scary, no doubt. However I think the pros outweigh the cons with that choice. Worldwide service. quality product. You don’t lose storage space (compared to generator/portable unit). “Easy” install. And you would have it faster than the other choices. My two cents

  3. Teresa Bodker
    March 10, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Take the easiest road. You’ve already been hit enough times. Give yourself a break.

  4. Douglas
    March 10, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    My initial thought is go for #1. But as you stated, would risk delaying your departure.

    #2 is your next best option, and for that reason, also the most expensive.

    I have already dismissed 3,4, and 5, any potential cost-saving is outweighed by other factors that you mentioned.

    I ask myself, what would I do in this situation. Do you have 7.5k spare for “exact” replacement? If so, spend the 7.5k and be done with it. If you had the month or so it would take for spare parts to arrive, I would say rather go for #1, however, it appears that you don’t really have that much time before your departure.

    So, yeah, my vote is for #1.

    • Douglas
      March 10, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      Whoops, type there, I meant to vote for #2, NOT #1. It’s early in the morning and I’ve been up all night (work)!

  5. Norma Sovka
    March 10, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I’d almost go for #3, but the complex install would use up too much of your time. And you’d also need to make space for the generator.

    Instead, I’d go with #2. Spend the extra $$ and get the easier install, quality product which is known worldwide, and no extra space needed for the generator.

    I, personally, wouldn’t even consider the other options.

    Can’t wait to hear the final decision!

  6. Shirlee
    March 10, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Carmen says do the 7500 factory replacement and get the generator next year.

    • travis
      March 10, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      Nothing factory about the $7500 replacement.. Its still a custom item, just has the same specs as the Italian one that was on my boat (installed by a previous owner). It “should” be able to use the existing wiring and plumbing. Our boat is also equipped with a 3.5KW built in diesel generator already! A second generator would offer another backup to our list of charging sources!.

  7. Judy Wizniuk
    March 10, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I would pay the 7500.00 bucks …

  8. dawtwo
    March 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    #3 — you want a small generator to charge the batteries when the solar doesn’t get it done. If you ever upgrade the batteries and add additional solar, I suspect you could run the water maker off the batteries if you have a lot of sun.

    • travis
      March 10, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      We just replaced the batts and now have 900W of solar on board. Not sure it would be enough to run any of the 110V watermakers (definitely not supported by any of them). It might be enough, but then I would need a $1500 inverter to do that (3KW minimum to start the pumps). We were trying to avoid adding another piece of electronic equipment to the boat.

      A question though.. Why would you pick the Cruise RO over the other 2 options?

  9. Henrik
    March 10, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    Tough choice. Number 2 is the exact replacement and number 3 requires the make and generator and new plumbing to get it to work. The other potential downside to #3 is that you now have two systems to maintain. The maker and the generator. If either or breaks you’re out. I would ask, is #3 modular? If the maker breaks can you just replace the maker? If the the generator goes can you plumb the boats generator into the system? If yes, then maybe this is the way to go. If choice number two breaks are you out of options to make water? I’m thinking more if you are sailing and something happens to your system. You do not want to be without fresh water.

    I’d go with #3 if you have the time to plumb the new system in and IF you can use the boat generator in case of emergency to make water.

    Just my two cents…you owe Dean a bottle of BBQ Sauce. 😀

    • travis
      March 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      I probably should have given more details but I didn’t want to make it boring. Number 2 is completely reliant on my 12V system. If the sun don’t shine or the wind don’t blow, I can’t make water (or I have to run my battery charger through my generator). Option #2 is also 4-6 times slower than option 3. So it would require me to run it about 5-7 hours every 3 days. However.. option 2 is the only option that can be run off solar or wind.

      • Henrik
        March 10, 2016 at 9:40 pm

        Do you need it to run off solar or wind? Is that important while you’re at sea or while you’re anchored? Option 3 saves you 1k USD, gets you a second generator and I’m assuming is modular so you can replace components if required. Would appear to work faster as well which could be good if you’re trying to get going but need to fill your fresh water supply before you take off.

        Sounds to me like you’re leaning towards #3.

        • travis
          March 10, 2016 at 9:48 pm

          You will have to wait for my answer!

  10. Greg
    March 10, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    I pick option 2. Spectra

  11. Artem
    March 10, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Where is the option that works on 220V?

    Also, a silly question: did you ask your wife what she’d choose? 🙂

    • travis
      March 11, 2016 at 4:41 am

      I gave my wife the same options and she picked the same answer as me in about 30 seconds.

      Although options 3,4 and 5 are available in 220V, we decided we didn’t want to look at a 220V option as it would be reliant on our on board generator. Our on board generator works but it has a lot of hours on it and its quite loud and stinky (diesel). A 110V option gives us a backup charge source as our on board charger can accept voltages from 85-300V.

  12. Bob Fortier
    March 11, 2016 at 10:43 am

    the current water maker is 10 years old possibly,. complete new unit would be the way to go. make it current to fit all the requirements to not have extra weight on board, make it simple and efficient, your demand of fresh water will be large. so changing all the right way would be a confident way and in the long run if parts were needed access would be the defining decision to what you would get. You always said shit breaks, and the stress of not finding parts in all the stops you will make in the next while, would help to round down the possibilities of what to get… but you already have your answer… b…….

  13. Brian
    March 11, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Very interesting dilemma you find yourself in. My thoughts… I lean towards the Rainmaker. The reviews (as you noted) look good and the shipping time matches with the best available. I like the modular now and install later option to allow you to be on your way and plan for the time for installation (once you are frustrated enough with pulling it out). Backup generator is nice if you can afford the extra weight. If you don’t want the extra weight and hassle, then I would go with #2 ….beggars/choosers after all.

    P.S. Saw your house and thinking seriously about it. How long are you away for? Looks VERY similar to the one that my wife and I designed / built in Forrest Court.

    • travis
      March 11, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks for the reply.

      We have no real plan for length of time. We could be 6 months, 1 year, 5 years. I plan to make some trips back to help out with a business I’m still part of. The house may stay as a rental indefinitely depending on where life takes us!

  14. March 13, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I thought the Rainman contained a generator already?

    Which type of water maker is highly dependent on boat and expected use. Hard to give specific advice. We got rid of one of your options and replaced it with another of your options.

    Some thoughts:

    We are a party of two and use 15gal/day. We rinse down coming out of the water several times a day, rinse the dinghy down when it is full of sand from the beach or salt water from diving, rinse the boat after passages to wash of the salt spray, etc. Then there is laundry day every other week – that takes more water than you think to do it right. Salt is an enemy on board – if it gets tracked around, it is hard to get rid of. Three kids will probably need a lot of spraying off.

    You will REALLY want to rely on your water maker. There will be no spare or replacement parts once you leave the dock. Even relying on Fedex will mean you get sequestered into a place to receive it, let alone the customs and delivery hassles (some countries are so onerous that you may as well do without). Water makers aren’t rocket science – they are pretty simple, actually – but their components must be first-rate. I don’t know anything about the Chinese one you mention, but caution you to look at every single component for fit for purpose, rather than relying on anecdotal descriptions on how well they work in general.

    A 120V AC water maker will draw 8-11 amps. I don’t think you will have an issue with existing wiring sized for 220V.

    Generators break down. Personally, I would be uneasy with an AC unit that didn’t have an inverter that could operate it with the engines charging. Ours is run probably 20-30% of the time this way – whenever we have to motor. However, Honda generators are available pretty much everywhere in the world – amazing how prevalent they are. Also, our tertiary backup is to borrow one in exchange for water (we are always around boats without water makers which we fill jugs for them gratis – they would be happy to let us borrow their Honda).

    900 watts of solar puts you in a difficult position. You will most likely find it fully takes care of your charging needs, but isn’t quite enough to operate a lower output DC unit long enough to meet your water needs. This all depends on how much power and water you use daily, of course. We use ~150ahrs per day, and our 700W of solar gives us fully charged batteries (the water maker is AC). However, our fridge only uses 50-60ahr/ day – most of the boats we meet use much more than this.

    I’m assuming you are taking advantage of the built in water collector that IS designed. When it is raining hard enough for water collection, it is rarely sunny or windy. While we don’t have such a nifty design, we do have about the same collection surface area. During rainy (summer) season throughout the Caribbean, we don’t run the water maker for many weeks at a time. One good squall every 2-3 days fills our tank.

    Hope this its useful, but probably too late – sounds like you have made a decision.

    • travis
      March 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      I appreciate the detailed response as it confirms much of what I had researched. Unfortunately our IS was ordered without the collection option. I will eventually glass my own version in, but it won’t be for a while (its not even on the list yet).

      I have made my decision and ordered the unit. I will post back later this week what we choose. I’m finding the responses very interesting..

  15. March 13, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    BTW, how does that picture get associated with me? It is me, but I don’t know how it got there.

    • travis
      March 13, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      I’m not sure how it picked up that picture. WordPress must have somehow picked it up from Facebook. I’ve added a bunch of plugins for Facebook so thats the only way I can think that happened!

      • March 14, 2016 at 5:49 am

        You look kind of round and blobby and need some sun…

        • travis
          March 14, 2016 at 6:21 am

          It was bugging me, so I think I figured it out… So it looks like you have (or did) a wordpress.com login. At one time you probably setup an avatar there or over at Gravitar. It picked up your avatar from there.

  16. Dean
    March 16, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Ok, I specifically did NOT read your new post yet. I read down to comments, but stopped and chose this page. I would pick #4. Modular and portable to me makes it a better choice. It means you could make water on a dinghy or lifeboat should something happen. Water is life.

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