How much water do I need to carry?

This is a subjective question much like many of the others. My answer was simple. "At least enough to get me comfortable across the longest passage. To be able to have a shower at least every other day and enough drinking and cooking water."


How do you quantify all that? Well we started by seeing how little water it took to shower. Each time trying a different method, it sounds weird but you really should do this to conserve your fresh water supply. We then looked at the way we did the dishes. We also considered drinking water, that includes ice for the martinis or rum drinks. Finally cooking.


Water is available just about everywhere we have been, but not always drinkable (potable). Rarely can you take your boat to the dock, so it is dinghy time. It's a pain to have to carry 22 liter (6 gal) jugs back and forth from a dinghy dock to you boat to fill your fresh water tanks. I have seen some boats do this day after day trying to fill a 750 liter (200 gallon) tank, 22 Lt. at a time. All along, they are still using more water. Conservation is definitely the word out here. Of course you could purchase a water maker! If you do, as we did. The Little Voyage, our choice, provides 5 gals of water per hour at a cost of 17 amps from the batteries.  You will need to consider what type and how battery power or fuel time will it require? Here we go again, in circles. Another example of how one answer or question leads to variables being inserted into other questions as we go.


We came up with the following method to conserve water. No it's not showering together, the head is too small, unfortunately! I would wash my hair first, this would get me wet all over. I would sponge bath myself with a well wetted sponge and soap. Then rinse my hair and rest of my body. I can take a shower with as little as 7 Lt. (2 gals) of water. I have seen others who are more conservative. They will jump in the ocean for their wash down then climb back on board to rinse off.


Dishes! We used the age old method described in many of the cruising books. Fill the sink, or a bowl, with salt water and detergent. Wash your dishes then either rinse lightly, or have another bucket or bowl filled with fresh water to rinse them in.


Drinking! The books we researched stated that, I believe it was, 7 liters (2 gallons) a day was the minimum requirement per person. We have survived on much less somedays on others we have drunk much more. We found that 7 liters (2 gallons) per day was about average for us though. We made lots of Tang Orange Juice and Lemonade drinks rather than sodas. Sodas have a lot of caffeine which will dehydrate you, it doesn't help keep you awake either. It doesn't enter the blood stream as well as other soft drinks or juices do. We purchased a large 2 liter "pump" thermos before we left with the intent of keeping it filled with hot water to make coffee or tea while under way. After we left Southern California, we soon realized that hot drinks were only needed up there. We were making OJ and lemonade all the time and it worked even better for keeping cold drinks in for hours at a time. But the thermos is the answer to yet another question that we haven't got to yet. There is that damned circle again!


Cooking! We have as yet to find a good way of substituting salt for fresh water. We have tried to boil potatoes in salt water and threw them away as they were just too salty. The same was true for pasta.


Wash downs! In the US we were used to pulling the hose out every couple of days and washing the boat. Out here I have seen only the largest of sail boats doing that. Several have salt water wash downs. We use buckets of salt water to wash the boat along with the old faithful "Joy" and brush. But you can't let it sit, you have to wipe the residue off before it dries. Not unlike a fresh water bath! When we were able to bring the boat alongside a dock we made sure we give "Mouse Pad" a good fresh water bath. Complete with a yellow rubber duck!


Interior Cleaning! Keeping the interior of the boat clean is a challenge too. Whenever possible we clean but not as often as we like. When we shower we find that by not using the shower curtain we would naturally clean the head! Convenient and with no scrubbing to! Whenever we do the dishes we will use the dish water to wipe down the counter and stove etc.


I found that I wanted to be able to carry approximately 375 liters (100 gallons) of water on board in tanks. This fortunately was almost what "Mouse Pad" carries (2x95ltr (25 gal)& 1x151 lt. (40 gal)). I came to this conclusion after testing and trials. I then calculated the longest passage time needed and did the math. When calculating your passage time add about 50% as a safety margin. We have come across boats that have taken as much as 38 days to get from the main land to the Marquises compared to our very fast and short, 20 day crossing.If you do the math you will see we would never have had enough water to make the big trip.  It HAD to be augmented with either rain water, or our choice, a water maker.  We met a couple of boat that ran out of water on the big trip, with no approachable rain fall to fill there tanks with.   Fortunately the rains did come and the got the desperately need fresh water.   We found well over 80% of the boats had water makers on board.  Several even installed them when they got to Tahiti, the first place after Mexico or the USA where shipping was available.


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Created by the Skipper of Mouse Pad.
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Revised: 19 September, 2005 .