Friday, June 1, 2012

Collecting Water from the Sky

Fresh water is one of those basic needs in life. Especially on a sailboat, where it doesn’t just come out of the tap indefinitely, we realize its value. While people on shore rarely think about the commodity of fresh water, on a sailboat – where water capacity is limited – every time someone turns on the faucet, the use of water is kept to a minimum. Irie has one 52 gallon (200 liter) fresh water tank, which is small for a cruising boat. We have a few jugs to store another 24 gallons (90 liters) in our anchor locker and that’s it. This amount lasts us about one month, when we take the usual precautions. The fresh water is mainly used for drinking, cooking and rinsing the dishes. Mark and I shower in the ocean and do our dirty dishes in a bucket filled with sea water, after which they are moved to the sink for a final fresh water rinse. Our own bodies, we rinse with water out of our sun shower.

During the winter season, we locate marinas or public docks (in the Eastern Caribbean and mainland Panama) or a village (in the San Blas) to purchase water. We take our empty jerry cans to shore, fill them up, haul them on Irie’s deck, pour them into our fresh water tank and repeat the back breaking process a few more times. In the summer - or rainy - season the hard work comes to an end. These months, the rain provides us with all the water required. The roof of our Fountaine Pajot Tobago (35’) came with built in gutters all around. We plugged three of the five drain holes and attached a hose to the other two. They join at a T, where another hose leads to our tank. Thanks to a quick connect system, we can easily remove this short hose while we are underway or not using it.

To collect water for our sun shower and to do laundry, we strap a rain collector – a piece of cloth with a hole, a hose and lines to secure it to stanchions and winches – on our side deck. The hose leads to a jug in our cockpit and we have to remember to set the whole thing up before going to bed and to have replacement jugs ready. I hate “wasting” water by not collecting it when a squall passes through! Sometimes, we also place buckets in parts of the cockpit where water “streams” down. It all depends on how desperate we are for water. Collecting rain water is one of those “primitive” habits that make the basic boat life pleasurable and special. It gives a tremendous feeling of satisfaction to use Mother Nature for so many things!

The water on our roof streams into the gutters and then into our fresh water tank.

Notice the gutters on the roof and the "extra" rain collector for non-drinking activities.

The water from the cloth rain collector ends up in jerrycans in the cockpit.

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