14 December 2011

Watermaker finally installed!

The control panel

After several days the Watermaker is finally installed! What a relief to have the boat back in normal and not full of tools, hoses and wires lying around. The install looks OK, I guess. We could hide most parts behind lockers and under the floor. That makes the installation actually much more complicated but as space is a premium we had to bite in that lemon. We have a few bruises more, quite an amount of money less but we should be able to spend more time on the hook without carrying water canisters in the dinghy.

There will be later on a special entry about the install story itself, but lets share so far what we have done and why we went this way.

A Watermaker is actually a simple thing: Basically a few pre filters, a controller, two pumps and a membrane (like a filter) which separates the salt from the sea water. The problem is, that the membrane needs a LOT of pressure and sea water to be able to do that process - up to 950PSI or 65 Bar! Means you have to pump seawater with that pressure trough the boat, up to 50 liters to get one! liter of fresh water. This high pressure is one of the main reasons why watermaker (or the high pressure pump) are failing. The membrane itself is very sensitive against oil, chlorine or too much dirt (as fish poop). Any of you may ask yourself now: is it safe to drink that processed seawater? Yes, if the membrane is in good shape, it "filters" up to around 0.0005 micron: A virus is usually 0.01 - 0.04 micron big and bacterias have between 0.1 and 15 micron. So our water should be safer than water from most harbors in remote islands.

high pressure pump (20kg!!!)
and vessel mounted in a locker

After a very long decision process we opted for an Echotec 12 Volt Watermaker (http://www.echotecwatermakers.com). This models are not the best in terms of energy use, but virtually bullet proof engineered, built by a German Engineer/Sailor who lives in Trinidad. The system lacks any electronic for automated processes or a hype "power reverse energy saving system". I like that simplicity along with the use of high quality standard parts, there's not much to break. I talked/chatted to several cruisers on this, and as usual everybody opted for another system (of course the one they had on their own boat). As a contradiction, almost every Echotec user had a different brand of Watermaker before and was not happy so he changed towards Echotec. And what is better than learning from other peoples mistakes? The unit by the way comes with a three years warranty overall and a life time warranty for the high pressure pump. Great promise.

some filters in the bilge

The bad thing is we could not really test the system yet, as mentioned above, the membrane hates oil and there is always some in a harbor. Se we just let it run for a few minutes with fresh water (filtered with two charcoal filters to get rid of any chlorine). Looks great so far and not too noisy (OK, was not much pressure on it). We will try and check it in two days, before we're heading over to the Bahamas. Keep your fingers crossed that after that nerve wracking install everything will be OK!

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