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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!