To have a water maker or not?

On the down side they are really expensive, use lots of power and difficult to maintain.

On the up side they can extend your cruising time – no need to be rationing your water, you can guarantee that it is potable, which might not be the case from out of a tap in say the Pacific or Asia, imagine having to fill your tanks with bottled water and how long would that take and cost? How great would it be to be able to have long showers, wash your clothes and dishes without worrying if you were going to run out, and you don’t have to have extra storage space taken up with larger water tanks.

I have just been following a thread on the Liveaboard Sailboat Facebook group and people had all sorts of suggestions in regards to water makers. Here are some of the tips that were given.

  • Make sure that you run them regularly. If the seals dry out then they need to be replaced
  • If you are leaving the boat for any period of time, you need to flush the system – i.e be meticulous with your maintenance of the unit
  • They use lots of power – figure out how you are going to power yours before buying one!
  • Keep at least one water tank full at all times, that way if the watermaker fails then you have got time to get it repaired or get to a marina etc. – have a back up plan!
  • Add Himalayan salts to the water to put some minerals back in when you are drinking it. Apparently the reverse osmosis process strips everything out of the water, so you need to add some goodness back in!
  • TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids – or when talking specifically about sea water they relate to sodium and chloride ions.
  • A safe level of water maker TDS for drinking water is 500ppm (parts per million)
  • A new reverse osmosis membrane should start producing 100-150ppm and then slowly climb until it reaches 500ppm – then it is time for a new membrane

Spectra sounds like a popular brand, and I believe there is also a NZ made one as well. So I will do some more research. There is a whole chapter about watermakers in Nigel Calders book we just bought. It is all quite technical, so I might delegate research on this topic over to Andrew… Watch this space!

Ellen & Seth some fellow sailor bloggers have chosen the Katadyn water maker. The Katadyn website says that it is the smallest, and most power efficient model available. It also converts to a manual pump in emergencies – I guess if you lose all power, and it is guaranteed for 3 years. Looks great! Its output is 5.7 litres an hour using just 4 amps of power and it weighs 11.3kg. Cost is around EUR3090. Thanks for the tip guys! Let us know how it performs on your adventures!

The Spectra Cape Horn Extreme has also had good reviews on the forums I follow. It can produce 31 litres an hour and uses 120W of power. It has a 1 year warranty and while it produces quite a lot more water than the Katadyn, it weighs three times as much, and uses quite a bit more power. The price is around USD$6700.00 – so probably similar to the Katadyn.

Also check out Sailing Journey’s Blog for a really in depth look at water makers.

3 thoughts on “Watermakers

  1. Hi Vicki,
    If you’re searching for a super low-draw, compact watermaker, take a look at Katadyn. We’re getting the Power Survivor 40E for our Northwest Passage attempt–it only draws 4 amps, which is fantastic! Katadyn also makes manual desalinators for emergencies.

    P.S. Hope you’ve gotten a positive answer to the drogue question!


    • Thanks heaps Ellen. I’ll look those ones up!
      Yes I emailed your contact re the drogue and he sent me back lots of info which I’m reading through. It sounds like a great system so we will definitely get one too.
      Thanks heaps for your tips!
      Cheers Viki


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