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Old 01-16-2021, 05:43 PM   #1
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Water Maker or just tanks?

Where is the crossover where a WM is more beneficial than just tanking? Is it the number of days you spend away from a potable hose or is there more to it?
I seel them mostly on larger boats, but my experience is nil.

I'm going to guess that a WM is a pricey thing to add to a boat and probably just LOVES maintenance.
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Old 01-16-2021, 05:54 PM   #2
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As we now boat inland waters 99% of the time, it is a pumpout that brings us to a dock every 2-3 weeks where it is then easy to top up the water tanks (no Water Maker cost or maintenance). When we used to sail in the Caribbean it was the need for water that brought us back to the dock - so a Water Maker would bring more value for those who regularly boat offshore.
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:19 PM   #3
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A great question. And a very difficult one to answer.

Following.

For us, we dream of a watermaker one day. However, for must cruises, up to a week, we don't really need one. With 80 gals of fw and a salt water head, we can get by just fine.

If we were headed to the more remote parts of the Bahamas, or cruise where the water coming out of a garden hose was suspect, it might start to make sense.
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:23 PM   #4
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One option to consider with a watermaker is you need less water storage so some of that space could be used for something else. And you also get use more water when you have a watermaker.
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:26 PM   #5
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For me the crossover depends on the admiral’s point of view.
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:28 PM   #6
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As a guy with 200g of water and a watermaker, I will say the lines never cross. A watermaker is a convenience. You can use seawater, collect rainwater, and use strict but comfortable conservation practices.

Eric and Susan Hiscock circumnavigate around 1960 and carried 80 gallons of water. My guess is they didn't have much access to decent water along the way. Not saying this is a good model, just pointing out that some reasonable practices can extend water

I chose to have a watermaker. But it's a choice and a convenience.

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Old 01-16-2021, 07:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Lebowski View Post
Where is the crossover where a WM is more beneficial than just tanking? Is it the number of days you spend away from a potable hose or is there more to it?
I seel them mostly on larger boats, but my experience is nil.

I'm going to guess that a WM is a pricey thing to add to a boat and probably just LOVES maintenance.

Hi Jeff,
Good question and as others have said, no easy answer.
I have boated in the areas you say you are interested in boating, but I do spend most of my time in the northern part of Vancouver Island or the mid BC coast (above Vancouver Island). In these locations, finding GOOD, clean potable water can be a bit hard, but not impossible. We have a 150 gallon tank and use freshwater for flushing. We always shower onboard as well. We can easily make our 150 gallons last 2 weeks, and more if we get very careful with our use. We find that we need to go into a port for provisioning every 2 weeks anyway for veggies, milk, and other perishables. We do not have a watermaker.
Advantages to having a watermaker as I see them:
-You don't have to limit your water use. EG. more and longer showers! You can plumb your "washdown" pump to use freshwater and rinse your anchor and even wash (or rinse off) your boat with freshwater if you want. We can't do that and most marinas up in the areas I mentioned do not allow boat washing/rinsing.

-you don't have to worry about water quality. Some of the northern marinas either don't have potable water, or it is "cedar water" that looks like brewed tea (brown colour), and has a smell to it. I will not put that water in my tank. We often go to Port McNeil for provisions and water.

Disadvantages:
-maintenance. If not used regularly the membrane must be pickled to extend it's useful life. It must be backflushed regularly as well.
- filter and membrane replacements, and other issues like "breakdowns".
- extra costs as a result of this maintenance, but not really significant.
- space for the installation (convenient access to the unit).


I would consider a watermaker to be a good piece of equipment, but not a necessity.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:13 PM   #8
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It all boils down (no pun intended) to your cruising/boating style. In the Bahama's we'd consider it a must. Even in the PNW we will be putting one in on our new boat.
  • If I go swimming, I want a fresh water rinse.
  • If I come out from diving, I want a fresh water rinse.
  • The forward head will be converted from salt to fresh water flush.
  • Fresh water wash down of anchor chain.
  • Periodic fresh water rinse of windows.
  • No washing of dishes in salt water.
  • No water restriction on use of washing machine.
  • Fresh water rinse of fishing reels after days fishing.
  • Fresh water rinse of Dinghy engine.
  • If I want to take a shower at noon, and have gotten sweaty before bed, I'm taking a fresh water shower!
We COULD survive on a lot less fresh water . . . but why would we WANT to? I've slept in a ditch on the side of the road rolled up in desert parka and a poncho over me . . . but I don't HAVE to do that anymore, so why WOULD I?
For us, it comes down to quality of life.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:50 PM   #9
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We have no water maker only tanks. Being careful and conservative (no headache we are as much conservative at home), but still taking showers, the maximum time we were able to stay without refilling was 4 to 5 days. I wish I had a water maker or a way to filter water from river/lake to refill the tanks (we are in fresh water no salt water for now) so to be able to stay away from any dock for a longer duration.

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Old 01-16-2021, 09:22 PM   #10
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After spending the summer with Crusty who hade a watermarker, that convinced me to get one. Northern BC and SE Alaska are remote and having to make a run to a settlement for water is a PIA.

I installed an RO 40ph water maker and haven't looked back.

Thanks Crusty.
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Old 06-18-2021, 10:43 PM   #11
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I'm looking at your boat pic on your post & thinking I might be a bit closer to you in application. To watermaker or not watermaker is one I wrestled with for a long time. I don't know of any <29' boats sporting watermakers, but that's not to say it's a bad idea.
I have 2 30 gal. tanks. That's 500 lbs of water. On a planing boat weight is always an issue. And even though we can be thrifty and usually make 60 gal. last a week with 3-4 people, it's really a pain. On top of that, along the Calif. coast, when it gets droughty, many docks cut off water so your stuck with no way to refill. Lastly, we usually go for 1-2 weeks and sometimes have extra people. Soooo, the following is the rational behind us deciding to add one.
If I close off the second 30 gal. tank, that saves me 250 lbs. (which offsets things like kayaks, air tanks & weight belts, etc.). That also gives me a location to put the majority of the watermaker. We're going for a 20gph setup running off AC. Can run off the Honda generator, or inverter (solar charged). I figure we'll probably run it 1 hr. every 2 or 3 days. For me, the weight savings and unlimited water is worth a little maintenance. Also, if the SHTF, or there's some other disaster, it's a source of fresh water for survival.
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Old 06-19-2021, 12:45 AM   #12
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Adding a water maker is a very personal choice that is influenced by the size of boat you have, the amount of money you have, the area you boat in, the amount of time away from a dock, your definition of glamming and what you like best about cruising.
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:53 AM   #13
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The only thing I can add to this is my watermaker came with a water tester to determine ppm (parts per million) for total dissolved solids. I now test anything that goes into my tank. I didn't do that before and was probably lucky I didn't get sick as not all water is as pure as you think it is. If nothing else, get a water tester. I think they are about $10 or $20 on the internet.
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:53 AM   #14
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I carry 150 gallons of FW. (one tank, just aft of the shaft log.) One of the first things I added was a water maker.
I have yet to use it but it is nice to have when you cant find a free water supply.
You dont need a large capacity unit. On my N46, I had a Village Marine 150gpd 12vt water maker. My thought was, 12vt run it while under way. 150gpd, run it all day when you are underway.
The N46 carried lots of water a (500 gals+ ??) and was used for ballast.
I think if you run out of fuel before you run out of water, that about the right ratio. Pull in for fuel, fill the water tank at the same time.

The disadvantage of a water maker, gotta find a clean salt water supply to run the water maker ie, off shore. Running in the ICW will significantly shorten the life of the membranes. Then you have to maintain the unit flush and pickle the unit if it is shut down for a period of time.

So, I agree with the 'personal choice' criteria .... is the work worth the benefits.

My water tank had a plug drain on the bottom of the tank. I replaced the plug with a spigot so I can drain and flush the tank. Plus the added feature, if the water pump craps out, I can still get water out of the tank. (I do carry a spare FW pump too)
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:26 AM   #15
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The only thing I can add to this is my watermaker came with a water tester to determine ppm (parts per million) for total dissolved solids. I now test anything that goes into my tank. I didn't do that before and was probably lucky I didn't get sick...
Just a point of clarity... Your TDS can be very, very high and still not have anything in the water that would make you even the least bit sick. "Sick" depends a lot more on bacteria in the water than it does on dissolved solids.
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:50 AM   #16
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The choice to have a watermaker is determined by how you use or want to use your boat than anything else.

If your boating style keeps you away from potable water for longer than your tank capacity you need to have a watermaker or additional tankage.
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:54 AM   #17
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Just a point of clarity... Your TDS can be very, very high and still not have anything in the water that would make you even the least bit sick. "Sick" depends a lot more on bacteria in the water than it does on dissolved solids.
I agree.
The only way to reduce the bacteria count is to add "something" designed to reduce the bacteria count into the water tank or pump outlet line.
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Old 06-19-2021, 09:25 AM   #18
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Watermakers are rarely a necessity. They are usually a convenience item. However, everyone’s needs are different. Ksanders has his water turned off all winter, I would call a WM a necessity in his case. My water hose freezes up for a week each winter. I can drag out a spare hose, fill up the boat, drain the hose and repeat this as long as necessary or I can just push a button and be done. In my case a WM is a convenience.
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Old 06-19-2021, 10:45 AM   #19
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Ok, Ok!!

WM's sound great to have aboard... for "reasons" and in many "instances".

So...

1. What is the recommended makes/models and what is the general cost?

2. In general... How difficult is it to position in a boat and hook up to water tanks and power source?

3. In general... 40 gph WM is how big and how heavy?

4. What happens to a WM that was un pickled and not used for considerable time span? How hard is it to get the WM back into operation?

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Old 06-19-2021, 10:45 AM   #20
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Before you put one in, become very familiar with the maintenance requirements of a watermaker. They are one of the highest maintenance systems on a boat. This is especially true in intermittent use. More than a few days between uses you need to pickle it.
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