09/20/2009, Myth Busting Water Maker Size
[I originaly posted this on a cruising site and thought it worth reposting here on the Blog as we start to get close to November, when all the new cruising boats typically start heading for Mexico from California]
Cruising Myth Number 27 relates to sizing a watermaker to fit your needs. Every single time the discussion of how you should size your watermaker comes up either on a BB cruising site, or in some "expert advice Glossy Mag", they either fall right into cruising myth No 27.
The Myth goes like this and is often said or written in a style of a wise old grandfather passing on sage advise:
"Now be careful "Joe Newby Cruiser", be sure to not buy a watermaker with too large a capacity, because it's not good for your unit to sit for a few days without running. Calculate your water usage, determine your tankage and then buy a unit comenserate to your needs.
Ha ha ha ha...folks, let's get honest here and stop beating around the feel-good bush! The only reason anyone doesn't buy a larger watermaker is because it would cost another few thousand dollars added to the already totally outrageous cost!
We have been out cruising now for a year and we have NEVER....EVER....DOUBLE NEVER heard someone say, or heard rumors of anyone saying:
"Ya know, I should have bought the next size smaller of watermaker. I just can't seem to go through my water fast enough to run the unit every few days and am sinserely conserned about the life of my RO membrans due to inactivity"
Out here in Reality Land (aka Cruising) the conversations usually go more like this:
"Man Rich, I'll tall ya. I'm sick and tired of having to run my watermaker so much, the noise and AMPs sucked down are killing me. I would have loved that larger system, but shit, my watermaker already ran me $5K and I just couldn't fork out another $2K for the next larger output size. By the way, you said you have a water maker, what size is it anyway?"
I then respond with the following, making sure to only give the my watermaker production rate part of the answer while they are in mid-drink of their beer, for reasons I will explain later:
"Oh...it's a simple home-built job, nothing fancy like yours, with all the automatic back-flushing and push button ease. Mine's 100% manual and we only get...oh..(this is where I pause to make sure they are drinking)..about 50 GALLONS PER HOUR out of ours"
They then spit out their beer upon hearing our water output, while I take a sip of my beer and look away like it's no big deal. (he he he...I know I'm a bad!)
After they clean the spit up off their T-shirt, we open up my sail locker and then the tour of our watermaker goes into full swing.
I think the whole Myth is there to give people justification for not having a larger unit.
"Oh, I would have bought larger unit, but my calculations showed this to be my optimum size for membrane life."
Well, let me bust the Myth right open. You can never have too much fresh water while cruising...it just can't happen, not when you are out cruising with a stop in a marina only to make repairs or to leave your boat for a return trip home. We have a fresh water anchor rinse down. We rinse down the boat at least every few days. We wash SCUBA and snorkel gear after EVEY use and we take showers AT LEAST once a day with four people aboard! In short, we easily use about 20-25gals of water per day so we then run our watermaker every over day to keep the tanks (two 50gal) topped off.
I can see it now, you're thinking, "you're not a real cruiser, Rich. A real cruiser would use salt water to wash (and rust) his cookware and only shower when he smells"!
Well then, call me a fake cruiser then. In fact, I think I'll go take a shower now because I feel some beads of sweat forming on my forrowed brow for having to listen to all the "experts" tell me to make sure I don't get too large a water maker!
PS: If you want any "romantic activity" while out cruising where it's in the 90's with above 50% humidity...then Size Does Matter. Go as big as you can afford on your water maker friends, you won't be sorry
09/04/2009, setting the cruising rumors straight
Now that hurricane Jimena is over, it's time to start getting back to normal. For me and the blog, that means not just detailing our daily experiences of fishing, sunsets, and living aboard but also commenting on the broader topic of cruising. Right before we started running north to avoid Jimena, I made reference to our fabulous experience anchored off of the small town in Bahia Los Angeles. I'll admit that I was somewhat shocked, although pleasantly, at loving the town and area, because I had fallen pray to what I believe is one of the worst cruising rumors going in the Sea of Cortez. The rumor goes something like this:
Cruiser: ya, we are thinking of heading further north into the Sea for hurricane season. Perhaps as far as the Bay of LA, but we are still trying to figure it out for sure, really.
Rumor teller: Hmmm, (pregnant pause for dramatic affect) well have you heard about it up there?
Cruiser: Well, not really, just what I've read in the 7 different cruising guides I have aboard the boat. Why, what have you heard?
Rumor teller: Well, form everyone I've spoken to, there's nothing to do up there for the 3 months of hurricane season.
Cruiser: Oh, really what about all the Islands and anchorages in the area? And the guide books talk about world class fishing, any word on that?
Rumor teller: From what I hear, everything it trucked into town and very expensive if you can even find it!
(as a note: EVERYTHING is trucked into town down here in Baja Mexico!)
Rumor teller continued: And beer is like three times the price up there as it is here, I've been told. Well, I've never been there myself, but from what I hear, it doesn't sound like a place I want to hang out for the three months of hurricane season, plus it's hotter up there.
Cruiser: Oh well, I didn't realize all of that, darn I don't want to go all the way up there and be miserable. Maybe it's just best to stay here in La Paz, Escondido, Bahia Conception or Santa Rosilia then.
And so it goes; another person is talked out of cruising in some of the most spectacular areas we have seen to date in Mexico, the Northern Sea and the Bay of Los Angeles area.
It wasn't just me that felt this way. The crews of Just-a-Minute and Windfall who made the trip with us to the town tienda (market) were of the same opinion. The selection and price of items rivaled that of La Paz! Sure the store was a bit smaller than CCC or Super Ley back in La Paz, but the quality and quantity of items available boggled our minds after being feed a constant diet of the cruising rumor. Give me the tienda in the Bay of Los Angeles (BLA) over Santa Rosilia any day! We found a Costco size block of mozzarella cheese for $280 pesos ($20 US). I had paid $31 for a slightly larger bloc of cheese at CCC in La Paz and was happy to pay it! Tortillas were $1 (US) per pack. Beer was the same price as Santa Rosilia, as were most other items, even the mega tub of Skippy extra chunky peanut butter, a staple on THIRD DAY, was priced reasonably. A double scoop of ice cream was $5 pesos and it was $23 pesos for a single scoop in La Paz and Rosilia. With my WiFi booster antenna I was able to access a free internet connection from the anchorage, something every cruiser checks for soon after his hook setting into the bottom.
About the only negative we had heard about the BLA area that turned out to be true was that there was no fuel dock, meaning you had to jerry jug your fuel. However, it was left out that for the price of a tip, the folks at Guerremos dingy landing and restaurant would arrange for someone to drive you and your fuel cans to the local Pemex station about a mile or so up the road. Ah, now I think we have stumbled on the real reason for the Bay of Los Angeles cruiser rumor: there is no dock! Meaning there is no marina, no shore power, no marina showers, no easy marina internet lounge, and no marina restaurant, Bar, and tienda within 300 feet of your boat. As much as cruisers will go on and on about not liking to stay in pricey marinas, Mexico marinas are packed full with cruisers. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with staying in a marina every night of your cruise if you can afford it, heck, it's darn convenient and we wish we could do it more!
With all the northern Sea of Cortez has to offer, a cozy marina berth isn't one of them, which I think is at the heart of the cruisers rumor about the northern Sea of Cortez.
01/11/2009, It’s time for some reality mixed into the cruising dream
Sailing and working on our boat was always something I did for rest and relaxation during the weekends back in Port San Luis. However, now that we are out cruising we still enjoy sailing, when we have usable wind, but working on the boat has morphed into something we once did for "rest and relaxation" to something we have to do to either keep THIRD DAY from sinking or to keep here systems up and running. See friends, a boat, by her very nature, wants to rest soundly on the bottom of what ever body of water she is floating on and it's the job of a boat owner to constantly fight the forces of nature, the laws of physics and the principals of metal corrosion to keep her afloat. It's not something we boat owners talk about often and share with our non-boating friends: this never ending battle. Perhaps it is because we figure that if we talk openly about all the time and energy it takes to keep a boat floating and functioning we will appear even crazier to our non-boating friends.
"Hey I have a great idea, I think I'm going to cast off cruising on a vessel that I know in advance the forces of nature are conspiring to sink, maim, or render her systems inoperable. And oh by the way, I'm bringing my wife and two kids along and we will have a ball!"
The work required to fend off the forces of nature and keep your vessel afloat and functioning, lead to what we call "Cruising Myth No 3: Cruising is all Rest and Relaxation". Long ago even we bought into the myth because just the word "Cruising" conjures up scenes of a tropical beach, a rum drink, and a hammock hanging between two, perfectly spaced and positioned just right to block the suns rays, coconut trees. The reality, however, is that the person in the hammock is resting only after a morning of bending and contorting his body into inhuman shapes and positions to repair some boat system tucked away in some hard to reach alcove of his boat.
For the aspiring cruisers out there thinking that if they buy a new boat they can somehow sneak around these forces and avoid the cruising axiom, "Cruising is fixing your boat in Exotic places", I have some bad news for you. New boats have just as many needed repairs as our 30yr old boat. Sure, you can decrease the amount of needed repair items by going through every boat system before you cast the dock lines, but despite all the ads in Yachtworld and Latitude 38, there is really no such animal as a "Cruise Ready Sailboat"! That's actually Cruising Myth No 4, by the way, but that's another post. New equipment fails at almost the same rate out here cruising as old equipment, just look at the hole in my bulkhead where my brand new MPPT (Multi Power Point Tracking) solar controller was once mounted! The controller failed while coming down the Baja, so for now, the panels are connected directly to the battery, awaiting the return of the repaired controller. Then there is the brand new autopilot control head that failed along with the multiple other small items that then required the almost standard ½ day repair. A friend on a 6 month old boat had me bring him down a new 100A Balmar alternator when I drove back to San Diego to replace the unit that fried ½ way down the Baja coast. Just hang out in a large cruising destination like La Paz for any length of time and you will see every style of boat and cruiser needing repairs, in short, you can't beat the laws of Physics folks, so instead of trying, just accept it and don't add extra stress and aggravation to yourself and crew when your just rebuilt V-drive suddenly has a 1" hole in the housing, cruising happens!
Now there is plenty of rest and relaxation while out cruising, and we don't want to paint an overly depressing image of 24-7 boat maintenance and repairs, but it's cruising nature to not dwell on all the work involved while out cruising and only post photos and stories of perfect anchorages, sunsets, and landed fish. Just remember that for every photo of a pretty fish, someone aboard that boat had to gut, clean and filet the fish and then wash down the blood from the boat before it dries into a permanent blood trophy stain on the topside. We have also yet to run across a sailboat equipped with a dishwasher, so every knife, plate, pan, and serving bowl used to enjoy that pretty fish will need to be washed and dried by hand. Each time we have caught a fish aboard THIRD DAY the next 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the fish, is spent preparing the fish to the point where you would typically see it for sale in the supermarket back in the States and then cleaning the boat. The words "Fish On" are cruising speak for "Get to Work", but you know what they say about a bad day fishing compared to work!