Monday, April 07, 2008

Fresh Water Usage and Tankage Issues

Vero Beach Public Library

Checking our records from our recent 1 month voyage to the Bahamas, I see that we consumed only 0.75 gallons of fresh water per day per person. That's an important number because fresh water costs 20 to 40 cents per gallon in the Bahamas.

0.75 gallons per day per person is about half of what all the books and articles on cruising recommend as the minimum water consumption. Still, we didn't skimp, and we had plenty of water for drinking and cooking. Why so little? I have a few ideas.

  1. We have no pressurized water system on Tarwathie. We use foot pumps in the galley and head sinks. I'm convinced that no matter how hard one tries to conserve, that merely having pressurized water increased consumption by 100 to 200%. The extra water goes down the drain unused.

  2. We have no hot water system. If one uses hot water, then one needs to spill water several times per day to expel all the cold water in the pipes between the tank and the faucets.

  3. We have a salt water pump in the galley sink. Whenever we are not in a harbor, we use salt water for washing dishes. In the Bahamas, it was about 50-50, in harbors and not. Dish washing is a major source of water consumption.

  4. We use a sun shower. The sun shower (a plastic bag that allows water to effectively absorb heat from sunlight) is a marvelously effective device. We bought the one we have in a camping store in Fairbanks. It works well in arctic as well as tropical zones.

    In the Bahamas, we used rain water to fill the sun shower. We collected the rain water from the dinghy. After a rain storm, instead of bailing the dink overboard, we would bail it in to a jerry jug. That water was not clean enough for drinking, but it worked well for showers. Even though it only rained a little in the month we were there, we still managed to collect twice as much rain water as we needed for showers.
    (You can skip the snide comments on our hygiene.)

  5. We do all our laundry on shore. To tell the truth, we have never even once attempted to wash and rinse laundry on board. If we did, the final rinse needs fresh water. However, rain water would work fine for that.
Tarwathie carries 45 gallons of water below decks and another 20 in jerry jugs on deck, for a total of 65 gallons. That's too little according to many sources. Still, we finished our month with about 20 gallons yet unused in the tanks. I'm also reminded of Tarwathie's previous owner, Al Hatch. He lived on board with 2 adults and 2 kids for more 11 years without serious water problems.

There are no pump out stations in the Bahamas, so holding tank capacity is not an issue. Black water must go overboard. A few boats though have no provision to pump overboard. They must be modified before cruising offshore or in many countries in the world.

Our friends on Eagles Wings had a Catalina 32. Catalina makes fine boats, but they learned that the 32 carries only 20 gallons of fuel and 20 gallons of water. That's too little for cruising. They (and many other boaters) carry as many plastic jerry jugs as they can fit on deck for extra fuel and water. The point is that water, fuel and holding, tank capacities are important issues when choosing a cruising boat.

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