If you are like many of us cruising in a saltwater environment who visit remote areas with no or limited fresh water and don’t have a watermaker, keep reading. Water is gold when sailing. When you live on land you can just turn on the tap and have unlimited fresh drinkable water. In the Bahamas for example it’s a whole other story. Then you have to plan your itinerary more carefully. After cruising in the Bahamas for the last three years we’ve come up with a few tricks to save on water and to allow us to spend more time away from towns where freshwater is available. So let us help you do the same.
First of all, make sure to carry a few jerry cans or a water bladder because more often than not you will have to go get water with your dinghy instead of simply pulling to the dock to fill up your tank. A long water hose can also be very handy. We’ve noticed that in the Bahamas water can be anywhere from free to about 50 cents per gallon.
I think the biggest area where you can easily save on water is definitely laundry. Everything gets salty and stinky in hot and humid environments so we do end up washing a few loads. Our first season in the Bahamas I would do both wash and rinse in freshwater. To be honest we carried so much water back and forth that it was almost ridiculous, especially with our soft bottom dinghy with a 3.3hp outboard. Then last year I started doing my wash and a first rinse in salt water. But if you try to dry your clothes right after they tend to have that sticky feeling or simply don’t dry very well. On the other hand by doing a last rinse with only a small amount of freshwater (everything is very clean by that time anyways) you save on so much water.
For you mamas out there if you have a baby and use washable diapers you will be doing a LOT of laundry. The best and most efficient way of doing it seems to be to put all the filthy inserts and covers in a mesh bag which hangs off the stern of the sailboat. The wave action cleans them right out although you might want to shake off the poo first.
Who doesn’t love that clean feeling, or should I say freshwater softness after swimming. I guess you get used to always being somewhat salty but freshwater showers feel wonderful. Instead of showering entirely with fresh water, consider jumping into the ocean first. Then soap yourself, scrub yourself, shave and shampoo your hair. Afterwards dive right back into the ocean for a good rinse while getting all the soap off. Little conditioner ladies otherwise my hair turns into a complete tangle mess. Then back into the water. Lastly, rinse off with fresh water, It’ll save you so much water.
This one can be tricky and I don’t always adhere to it, especially for certain items. Doing a first initial rinse of all the dishes in saltwater will reduce the amount of freshwater needed to wash them. But be careful to not ruin some important dishes. I’ve noticed that some of my knives go a little more rusty if I wash them in saltwater even after a good rinse. Also my percolator coffee pot which goes on the stove only gets washed in freshwater.
Yes you can save water while cooking. I’ve noticed that cooking potatoes in salt water adds a really nice flavour. Same goes for lobsters and crabs. Although don’t try to rehydrate beans with saltwater because they get way too salty. Using a pressure cooker also allows you to cook a few things with less water and it even saves on alcohol or propane for your stove.
This trick won’t necessarily save you water but will make it so that you can last longer without as much freshwater in remote islands.
As soon as we get somewhere that has easy access to freshwater I’ll do the bigger items of laundry like bedsheets, blankets and towels. I also give a good clean to the sailboat like washing the floor or walls. Make sure to get a good shower and consider rinsing a few pieces of equipment like snorkelling or fishing gear. Just by doing that I know I won’t need as much water later.
Hopefully these tricks will help you save on freshwater and allow you to spend more time on these exceptional islands which don’t have any. Another great thing is to set up some sort of rainwater catchment system. We’re still working on a better setup but this quick funnel and hose did catch a little bit off the solar panels. Unfortunately it seems like certain times of the year won’t bring much rain but if it does rain you will catch that liquid gold. And get out on deck for a shower. It’ll also cool you down.
Now cheers and enjoy a nice glass of water!
Anne Alexandra Fortin
Cory and Alex share their adventure with weekly videos on their YouTube channel “Wildly Intrepid Sailing” and share stories on their website www.wildlyintrepid.com . Their dream is to travel the world and to live without any regrets.