While in New Zealand we have been taking on water from a dock-side hose, which has been very convenient. This is the first time since leaving California that the water on shore is safe and drinking-quality. In Fiji we don’t have that luxury, so a watermaker, or desalination unit, is a necessity. While here in New Zealand we “pickled” our watermaker, which means we flushed the unit out with fresh water and then put a mixture of sodium metabisulfite and fresh water into the membranes. This prevents any biological growth in the system during non-use. So now that we are leaving NZ we needed to clear out the pickling solution and get the unit running again. We plan to use it on passage to ensure the Mermaid gets plenty of hot showers (trust me this is crucial to a happy and successfully passage just as much as replacing those chainplates!)
When we bought QUIXOTIC she had an older Village Marine watermaker system in the engine compartment of her port hull; and it was the port hull that went swimming for two weeks after the cyclone. So, we didn’t have high hopes we would be able to save the high-pressure pump and electric motor; although that didn’t stop us from trying! We had the local Fijian shop “rebuild” the 110v AC motor which included a re-winding, new bearings and some cheap spray paint to cover the rusting case. Shockingly, it wasn’t done well and they didn’t even replace the capacitors so we gave the motor an expected life of 2-3 months tops. The high-pressure plunger pump that was coupled to the motor may had been salvageable had we serviced and ran it immediately upon getting possession of the boat. Unfortunately, little things like making new bows and keels got in the way and when we got to the high-pressure pump it was completely seized up and not repairable in Fiji. Luckily, we have some great contacts in the marine watermaker industry who sold us the previous unit we enjoyed so much on Ellie during the previous three years of cruising.
So, we rang Rich over at CruiseRO watermakers and asked him for some advice. We had one of Rich’s systems on Ellie and loved the simplicity and complete lack of extra electronics and microchips (that could fail and are hard to replace in foreign ports around the world). We discussed our current setup and decided that we could still use the membranes and low pressure pump (it’s a submersible 110v March pump) but Rich was going to supply us with a great discount on a new 110v AC motor coupled to a brand new stainless high-pressure plunger pump. This setup would utilize our three membrane housings and produce 25 gallons per hour of fresh water. CruiseRO was extremely helpful along the way and were even patient enough to go back and forth on email a dozen or so times to figure out exactly what fittings and sizes we needed to run new hoses to our existing membrane housings. They shipped us out a new pump and motor along with new high-pressure hoses and new pressure gauge and valves.
We received the new motor and pump and after an afternoon of re-arranging some plumbing and a little wiring we had a working watermaker unit and could finally throw away the camping style emergency drinking water filter we had been using during the entire boat rebuilding saga! We sure don’t miss that thing hanging in the cockpit!
I really like the system we have now because none of the components are proprietary to a single watermaker brand or company and the entire electrical complexity consists of two on/off switches and lastly, I can repair most of the components in any port in the world. The high-quality motor is dead simple and any competent shop (outside of maybe Fiji) can fix or re-wire it. Everything is valves and switches and very simple and we produce about 25GPH, which allows us to fill our 100-gallon tank in under 3-4 hours. We can also run the watermaker on a relatively inexpensive Honda 2000 portable generator if/when our tired inboard genset decides to crank out its last stroke.
Rich at CruiseRO has also been excellent to us for after-sales support. On Ellie he drove down to San Diego to help us fix a membrane issue before we sailed for Mexico. He has also been there to answer the phone when we are calling from some remote atoll with a (most likely) self-inflicted watermaker issue. But he’s always been able to help us get everything going again and always in record time. Thanks again man!
We will keep reporting on how our system holds up and if we end up going to larger membranes at some point for more output.
Here are a couple pics of our dead-simple system and the CruiseRO pump and motor combo we are talking about.
Lewis & Alyssa
Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand