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
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.....
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........
yourself under a solar shower filled with fresh
water for the final touch