October 19, 2007

Let's talk about water and human adaptation!

Salt water for everything??? Ugh!!! Yuck! Gross!  Those were my thoughts while preparing to cruise. How could one expect me, born and raised in fresh water
New Hampshire, to adapt to that sticky, salty, sandy stuff? Clearly, I had some issues to overcome. Well, what to do, what to do? I'd just have to adapt. Life is
about compromise and if I want a nice, extended  vacation I'd have to adjust my priorities. So that's exactly what I did. Now, that's not to say I wasn't cursing
mentally through the process but slowly I succeeded in thinking there was no real difference between salt and fresh water...with a few exceptions. Let me explain:

First off, our boat has 2 water tanks on board, each holding 22 gals. We also have 2 jerry jugs on deck, for a total of 12 gals. The sum of water storage is 56
gals. Pretty good,huh? Nope! Given that the average U.S. Citizen uses 70 gals. a day per person, we'd be out of water in just a  few hours. You can see where
conservation would be a necessity. Water is needed for drinking, cooking, all personal hygiene including bathing,  laundry, cleaning, etc. We read the books and
did the research. An average couple could (should?) be able to live quite luxuriously on 5 gals. per day. Another "hum". This translates to having about a 10 day
supply on board. We took matters into our own hands.

We purchased a "water maker".  The unit, a Katadyne Power survivor 80 doesn't really "make" water; it converts salt water to fresh water.  And, indeed it does,
at the very slow rate of 3.75 gals./hr.  But, heck, isn't that just about all we'd really need on a daily basis if we didn't need "luxurious" amounts? Since making
water also depletes a portion of  our main energy source (the batteries), we need to keep our production in balance with availability of power. This unit is
wonderful and has been very reliable.

When we first started out, I was
cheating. I'd occasionally use fresh water to wash the dishes AND, I'd use the faucet (again, fresh water) to rinse them. I wasn't
hurting anyone but myself. Soon I ran out of the fresh and had to run the water maker overtime to replenish. This meant something else couldn't be used (like
those nice, bright halogen light bulbs) until the solar panels kicked in to revive the batteries. Through a series of errors as a "water pig", I've learned and prescribe
to the following  techniques:

Dish washing has evolved, as you will see from the photos below. We have a 4 gal. bucket with a lanyard attached to the handle. I would dip the bucket into
the ocean, catch about 3 gals of salt water and
carefully carry it through the cockpit and down the companionway stairs (of the pitching boat!).  Then I would
gently dump the contents into the sink. I would then repeat the process, using the second bucket's worth to fill a tea kettle and set it to boil. (no, we don't have a
hot water heater on board). The bucket would  then be put back in the cockpit locker and  I would proceed to wipe up the sole (floor). You see, no matter how
careful I was, the water preferred to go on the floor as it was entering the sink. Once the hot water was combined with the cold salt water, I would add detergent
and wash the pots,dishes and utensils, leaving them in the other sink until finished. At this point I would treat those babies to a fresh  water rinse, but not with the
faucet. Instead, we have a smaller, foot pump activated faucet that draws fresh water from our tanks in very minimal amounts. I catch the fresh water in that sink
and it is used to rinse the silverware without needing additional water. The results are that less than 2 quarts of fresh water are used for an entire day.

Note: once we started cruising the Sea of Cortez, I became much more aware of how small the sea life can be. I was always worried that  each bucketful of
water contained thousands of "little sea critters", some microscopic. Every time I dumped a bucket into the sink, I'd scan for a fish that didn't get away.  Never
did see any, though!

That was then.......this is now! The buckets  have been replaced with a portable, 12V water pump. John mounted it to a piece of wood, attached rail clamps
to the back and wired it for our 12V plugs. He connected an intake hose and fastened a weight to the base so that it will sink below the water line to draw in
water. He was also kind enough to humor me and put a filter on the intake end so as to keep out any fish that may have been curious! On the other end we
connect a garden hose. Now, when I need to fill the sink, all I have to do is plug in the unit, bring the hose down below and spray into the sink. Much easier and
it's practically "spill proof"! The rest of the procedure remains unchanged. Other great advantages of the pump are that it's used to rinse the boat down after
several days of dirt blowing off the land AND rinsing the cockpit down after cleaning the fish caught for dinner

Personal Hygiene Processes:

Showering  and Shampooing
depends on the weather and water conditions. During the cooler months, a fresh water sponge bath is taken on an "as needed"
basis. This isn't the typical daily routine, I can tell you that! And let's leave it at that! Suffice it to say we use minimal fresh water (warm it if you wish) to wash and
rinse. The use of baby wipes is also allowed. ...I mean used. : ). In warmer months, which is more often, we do a lot of swimming and snorkeling on a daily basis.
Since we're already in the water and wet, we add a bar of soap, some shampoo and a bit of conditioner. The body and hair get a salt water wash, followed by a
salt water rinse. Conditioner is applied to the hair and allowed to penetrate. Then we climb back into the boat, stand in the cockpit and rinse off with fresh water
that has been warmed by the sun in the Solar Shower. Of course, we only do this at the end of the day but do it just about every day!  The  results? Oh, ah..the
hair comes out feeling like hay after a while which explains why many people chose not to have any (hair, that is!). Whole body wash photos are not being shown
so as not to embarrass myself or the audience. I'm sure you understand. And  I ask you..who can say their bathing area can compare to this setting?

Shaving- Him Vs. Her

John hides in the "head" (aka bathroom), takes care of his facial hair and comes out smelling  and looking wonderful. I'm not sure of his procedure but I do know
that he likes to be a water minimalist so I'm sure he's doing the right thing. And I'll  gladly spend the water to have him clean shaven!

My legs get the salt water attention from the start. I partially fill the bucket with salt water. I wet one leg at a time and then lather up with a bar of soap. After I
have shaved the first leg, I spray off the soapy salt water with  fresh water from a spray bottle. The same procedure is used for the other leg and armpits. Be sure
to rinse the razor with fresh water or the blade will rust.

Tooth Brushing

There's really no difference here as there was on land. Put the toothpaste on the brush, slightly dampen the brush, brush and rinse..all with fresh water. We never
did leave the faucet running while brushing so it's the same on the boat.


Here's where I have not been able to adapt and don't see it in my future. No, I can't (won't)  cook with sea water. I don't boil noodles, or veggies. Heck, I don't
even rinse off the  fruits and veggies with sea water. I use fresh! A little goes a long way. A friend on another cruising boat gave me a recipe for Sea Water
Bread. Did I use it? Are you kidding me? Remember the creatures I didn't even want staring back at me from the sink? Do you think I'd be comfortable taking a
bite of bread and thinking every crunch could be a fish bit? I love fish..just not in my bread!

So there you have it. As an average, this ship of two consumes about 5 gals./water a day (fresh water, that is). The majority of it is used for cooking and
drinking. The usage goes up when we do our laundry (in the bucket) but we try to keep that to a minimum. Since laundry uses so much water, we
(surprise,surprise) don't change outer clothes every day and we wait until we're in port and use the services of the locals or dock water at a marina.

Looking back at my concerns and attitudes, I'm pleasantly pleased that I've evolved and can make the changes necessary to have a wonderful time cruising!

Oh, and by the way, this conservation process has become a game of sorts..how to use even less instead of "how to make more"!
Someday I'll write on the subject of "lighting requirements and human adaptation". Someday!
Bridgie's Babble - October 19, 2007
Click to enlarge images
Back to Bridgie's Babble
Using the faucet is a NO, NO! But look at this great
garden hose technique!
The pump just clips on to the stainless rail. The intake
hose goes to the water and the garden hose to the galley
If you just can't stand your salty
hair any longer, give it a quick
wash! Hang over the dinghy, dip
your head to get it wet.....
add shampoo and scrub, scrub, scrub. Most shampoos
lather up quite well in salt water..some even better than
they do in fresh water. There's no longer any need to
use Joy dish wash liquid on those beautiful locks........
Next, throw your upper body over the tubes and hang
your head down into the water for the refreshing rinse.
Apply conditioner and get yourself under a solar
shower filled with fresh water for the final touch
Next Bridgie's Babble Nov. 17, 2007