Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Taking the salt out

Because Sea Gem's prior owners sailed to far-off places, sometimes for years at a time, they installed a quality, high-capacity watermaker, which converts ordinary seawater to drinking water.  Sea Gem has a large, 267-gallon water tank, but that volume will not last us forever (without rationing, it lasts us about a week), and there are many desirable places to sail to with less-than desirable drinking water.  Accordingly, a watermaker is a must-have for any boat destined for serious cruising.

Of course, at this stage in our lives, we spend almost all of our time at the dock, and when we leave the dock, it is only for a couple nights.  Further, the city's water supply here is perfectly drinkable.  As a result, filling up our water tank once a week suits us just fine, and we don't have a real need for the watermaker, at least on a day-to-day basis.

When we bought Sea Gem a year ago, we "pickled" the watermaker (filled it with chemical preservatives) for long-term storage.  A watermaker is designed to be used every few days, and so it must be preserved if it is not going to be used with that frequency.  The pickling has a lifetime as well, however, and so we recently "un-pickled" the watermaker and, for the first time, tried our hand at making water.

Making drinking water may not be necessary, but it sure is fun.  There are all sorts of valves and settings to play with, and we have a special meter that tests the quality of the water before we divert the flow into our tank.  It's a lot like the first few minutes of chemistry lab when you get to play with the equipment before the teacher shows up with an awful assignment. 

Our Little Wonder Watermaker
Testing our Water with the TDS Meter 
For now, our plan is to run the watermaker for a few hours every couple days, at least through the end of hurricane season.  That way, if we lose power and the city water is no longer drinkable, we will be ready to flip a switch and fill our tank with our homemade, clean drinking water, which is definitely preferable to fighting people at the grocery store for the last tray of bottled water or boiling the city water from the tap.  (It would take about a day of watermaking to fill our tank from empty.)  In addition, we are adding enough water to the tank to make up for the amount we are now using to run our washing machine (about 20 gallons per load), so we can stick to our familiar once-a-week fill-up schedule. 

After hurricane season has passed and the novelty of testing our water for dissolved solids wears off, we will probably pickle the watermaker and store it again until next summer.  Whether we are using it or not, though, it is sure nice to know that it is there.

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