using water on our boat.

Post date: Feb 26, 2015 2:32:27 AM

What we have learnt about using and storing water on our boat.

Part 1 storing water on our boat

on 32 footer without dedicated storage tanks

On our first boat, a 32 footer, we had water in 2 x20 litre jerry jugs for use in the galley. These were easily taken out and refilled. In the head we had a 50 litre water bladder and used hand pumps on the sinks. Because we were not sure of the quality of the inside of this bladder we were not prepared to drink it. We were never confident, no matter how hard we cleaned it that it was good enough for drinking water. It was perfect for the head, for bathing, for dishwashing water and teeth cleaning etc. But we were never able to go too far away from water. While we were cruising around the coast of Tasmania it was not a problem. We kept another jerry jug for collecting water from other sources, waterfalls, rain etc for laundry and as back up to our head water. We installed a salt water pump in the galley for washing up, washing hands, rinsing vegetables etc. Salt water in the galley was a great idea and helped us conserve our drinking water... but it killed the engine... but that is another story and one I am not qualified to tell

1. 20 year old galvanised tanks

When we first took possession of our current boat, Lupari2, she had approx 300l galvanized water tank, 20+ years old, plumbed to the galley and the head. It kept us in water on our coastal cruises and weekends away. We had enough to use for washing and we were always able to top up with clean fresh water when we returned to the marina or boat club. We also caught rainwater from our bimini. After a few months we began to notice red sludge in the drinking water if we had been out on a rough day, so we installed a particle filter in the drinking line to filter out all the dirt, thinking that it was just accumulation over several years. Before long it was getting through this filter as well. After crossing Bass Strait, we decided to investigate the problem and try and fix it once and for all.

2. 2x 80 litre caravan tanks

The first task was to try and get to the tank which was not an easy job .( note to self...make access to inspect tanks easy) When we cut through the tank we noticed large black muddy bubbles on the inside of the tank and rusty mud oozing from them. Here was our problem. After 20+ years in water, galvanizing does not last. The steel tank had rusted and was in danger of rusting through so we cut it out. It was winter in Melbourne and we were keen to get to warmer places. The cheapest, most efficient and time effective thing we could do at the time was get 2 x 80 litre plastic, tanks from a caravan shop and install these in its place in the engine bay. This cut our water capacity by half or more. But we did have room for a few 20 litre drums as well. The water coming from this new tank tasted awful. The plastic taste permeated everything, so as well as the sediment filter, which we kept in the plumbing system, we added a dedicated drinking water tap which was fed off the original plumbing and we put a carbon filter on the line, we later exchanged this for a ceramic filter which we could clean with a Scotchbrite scrubber, cutting down on waste that we had to dispose of. This allowed us to have lovely fresh clean water that we could drink. We added a deck fitting to fill up from outside, previously we had to lift the floor and fill up that way. Everything worked well. We used these tanks for several years (5); coastal cruising along the East coast of Australia while preparing the boat for passages further offshore in the future. For general use they used to last us about 2 weeks excluding laundry.

That is 160 litres for 2 people for 2 weeks.

After a disastrous attempt to leave Australia and return 4 days later to find all our drinking water had drained into the bilge and been pumped away, we needed another, and better, solution to our water capacity issue. While in Australia we were able to fill up every couple of weeks. But would this be the case elsewhere?

Eventually we were ready to head off again but we needed a solution to our water needs, particularly as we had decided to head to SE Asia and were not sure of the water availability or its quality if we had to fill up regularly.

3. built in steel tanks.

When the boat was built, 2 tanks were built in on the sides in the bilge, possibly for fuel tanks. then they were covered with the floor and cupboards put on top of them. The inspection hatches were very small. Painting them out with chlorinated rubber was a very uncomfortable and difficult task. There needed to be an undercoat and then 2 coats of the rubber compound. Then they had to cure for 3 weeks, so we left with our 160 litres and 3 x 20 litre jerry jugs, hoping for rain and started our northward journey. (

This got us to Townsville where, among other jobs, we washed out the water tanks and filled them with fresh, clean water. Now we have 1000 litres approximately and the boat sits almost 25mm lower in the water. 1 tonne makes a difference and we can feel it when she’s full. In installing the plumbing to go with the tanks we had to ensure that they drained evenly and we could turn either one off or on. This took quite some thinking about and trips to the hardware store for garden irrigation fittings which were perfect for the job. Finally we had it all working and it works beautifully. It was much more cost effective for us than installing a water-maker. And we were ready to sail away with no worries about our water, hopefully.

Water we filled up with in Darwin lasted us all through Indonesia without rain for 3 months. This did not include much laundry, we had that done by laundry services ashore. We were gifted a couple of jerry cans of water from boats that had watermakers and were producing too much water but that was all. We still had plenty when we arrived in Johor Bahru.

My notes about water use:

· Kitchen detergent lathers just as well in salt water.

We used salt water for dish washing and when we returned to shore and had access to fresh we just rinsed the dishes we used. Have a dedicated kettle for heating up the salt water. (camping kettle,billy)

· Make sure you have a charcoal or ceramic filter (We replaced charcoal with ceramic and give it a scrub every so often with a Scotchbrite or similar kept for this purpose) filters 99% bugs out of the water including Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

· You do not need a sink full of water to wash dishes.

An inch or so will suffice. We heat water on the stove in a kettle for that purpose. We use a plastic rectangular bucket which fits in the kitchen sink, it keeps water warmer, helps prevent chips in crockery and glasses (yes real crockery and real glass) and is great when we head out to sea and we can put coffee and cups in it for storage so they don’t end up on the floor.

· Be choosy where you fill up with water.

Use a filter on the hoses especially in foreign countries. (Our experience Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand) Bottled water is available in these places but is expensive. I did not hear of anyone getting sick... we did not need any extra water in 3 months in Indonesia.

· We use a 12v camping shower in the head

and another one outside on deck for hosedown after a swim. The pump fits inside the mouth of a jerry jug and we use water collected from rain for this. The jerry jug sits in the sun and is warm by late afternoon. The one in the head sits in a small bucket. We can shower in about 2-3 litres of water, heated by kettle to the right temperature if the weather is cool. This includes shampooing hair. Hose down, turn off water, wash with soap, turn on water and rinse.

· Leave in conditioner for hair is great.

It protects hair from the harsh elements and I don’t have to use extra water to rinse it out or have water with conditioner in the system, just soap scum and hair is bad enough.

· we feel just as clean if we have a sponge bath

if water is really an issue... we did this for years before we installed our shower.

· Always use a filter when filling up drinking water

· Have a tarp or use bimini for collecting water when it rains. We have a reinforced drain in the bimini with a hose attached which feeds into a jerry jug.

· We have a couple of solar showers on board but we hardly ever use them. When in Tasmania (in summer) it lay on the deck for 3 days and it still was not warm enough to use!

In the tropics it gets too hot! And there is the challenge of filling it up. Our system works very well for us.