Monday, January 30, 2012

We like to put the "Fresh" in Water

Being from the States we really do not think of how we get fresh water or how we use it for the most is not really in our awareness. When we pull into a marina stateside, we just hook up the hose and use what we need.

In the Bahamas it is quite a different story. There really is no fresh water in the Cays. Fresh water is either captured from rain water and stored in cisterns or it is made in desalination plants or individual water makers. Coming to the island therefore,  you pay by the gallon and it really varies from place to place. At the Boat Harbour, Abaco Beach Resort the average cost is $.15 a gallon. As members of the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club we get a discount. Even still,  it is an additional expense that you need to be mindful of. We've heard it can be as high as $.40 a gallon at other locations in the Abacos.

We have also found as we travel, that the quality of the water both here and stateside can vary quite a bit from highly treated urban water in big cities to small marinas with well water. Often the mineral content can be quite high, leaving a funky taste as well as leaving stains on things, such as a cloudy film on glasses. Actually this is quite common, making washing dishes and the boat itself more interesting and certainly a lot more of an effort. The other thing is that when you are off the boat for a while, the water can have a stale smell if not attended to.  For those who have boated in the past, this is not an uncommon problem and more pronounced in the hot summer months.

While we are certainly enjoying ourselves,  I thought it might be appropriate to talk about some of the behind- the- scenes work that goes on to make sure we are all happy and drink safe and clean water and don't break the bank in the process.
As a reference point,  I have attached a schematic layout of the fresh water system (above) and will discuss the components.
The most obvious one is our Max-Q fci watermaker 

What is reverse osmosis?
 The osmotic process involves the natural movement of a solution through a semi-permeable membrane without applying external pressure. The membrane allows the passage of solvent but not of solute. In reverse osmosis, high pressure is used to push the solution through a membrane, which traps the solute on one side making pure solvent obtainable from the other side.
We have a 1200g/day modular water maker. While our water tank is 400/g this allows us to make .83g/min and reduces the amount of time on the generator or shore power to make the water we need, 2-3 hours and we are usually good to go most of the time for the two of us. This water is so good that it is better than tap water at most homes in the states;  bottom line, great fast clean and plentiful water!
We typically use this process when we anchor out and we are running the generator to recharge the house battery bank, this is a good add on. Typically we do not make water while in a marina due to the usual crude found in the water. While this would  certainly be possible it would mess up the 5 micron pre-filter and might harm the membranes depending on what is in the water.

Our process, for all fresh water, regardless of the source includes the water from the fresh water tank going though ultra-violet-sterilizers before it goes to the faucet. This destroys most critters that can grow in your fresh water tanks, making it safe to drink. It is controlled by a ICE controller that keeps the voltage correct and has a timer for bulb replacement. The Sterilight is attached to the bulkhead with easy  access for maintenance.

Additionally the water is filtered by a 3M whole-boat-filtration the one that does sediment, chlorine and odor. This filter is in line with the Sterilight.

These units include timers so you know when to replace them. I recently purchased the UV light and filter replacement. The challenge of shipping parts is the cost which is very high,  almost to the point that it is not feasible unless absolutely needed.

Truthfully I should have gotten the supplies last fall before we departed the states but did not do it. We happen to have a friend of a friend who was still in Stuart and agreed to let us ship them to him and he crossed over last week.   Got them the other day and met some nice new folks aboard their DeFever and will go out to dinner with them later this week!

As part of our fresh water system as you can see on the schematic, we have two water pumps; (1) 110v Mach 5 water pump which is our primary pump,  giving us water pressure of 40-60 psi, great pressure just like home. This system operates on our inverter so it is always on. As you can see on the schematic we have a back up (2)  headhunter 24v xcaliber water pump We have this purely in the event of a failure of the 110v Mach 5.  Nothing ruins your day like a failed fresh water pump, so a back up is critical especially when traveling to remote spots. We do routinely use this pump to keep it always primed and ready to go. Murphy's law says these things never fail close to home or where it is easy to get parts..... we have been fortunate and have not had a failure!  

Just so this update is not totally about fresh water systems,  here is a Bahamian lobster caught just outside the marina in the beautiful blue break water.  Yum!

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