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Cruisingdad 08-22-2013 04:17 PM

Water Useage/conservation Cruising
This thread is for those trying to get a feel for what their water useage will be cruising. I have tried to keep a pretty good track of it for us and over the years, we have a good generality. However, I want to STRESS that this is a generality. Every boat is different because the climate and people are different. Some people have long hair (a water-killer, IMHO), some have kids (an even BIGGER water killer <smile>), some are accomplished cruisers and racers, some pack extra jugs, drinks soups, hot climates, cold climates, etc. My point is that these are just generalities but a good place to average for your voyages.

We carry roughly 135g fresh water on Sea Mist. I would say about 110 of that is realistically usable as part of it resides in a hot water tank. We can, with conservation, go about two weeks on that and have. Now, that is not super-conservation as you would use if crossing an ocean. This conservation includes a 5g bucket (maybe two) with ammonia in it for washing clothes. It includes a very skimpy shower. It includes some alternatives, as we do keep gatorade and bottled water aboard but don't use it a lot. It also includes drinking alcoholic beverages which in my opinion, causes you to drink more water for replacement. This is on a boat in the sub tropics of Florida. This is with two adults and two kids of 9 and 12. Younger children may consume less water, but they also don't conserve it as well.

So my numbers, as a cruiser, is 110g @ 14 days @4 people and a 38lb bulldog. That equates to about 2. gallons/person/day. For more comfort, less conservation, we often use the 12 day number which is about 2.3g. remember, this also includes the dog. No conservation is about 10 days at 2.75.

Pretty conservative is not living really 'comfortably'. This is not long showers and it is not fresh water washes. It probably is not showers everyday.

Incidentally, lets discuss some uses and ways we conserve. I have measured my water usage on a shower. If I am very conservative, I can shower in about 3/4 of a gallon. Less conservative but conservative, about 1.25 gallons. My wife who has longer hair will use a bit more. I think she came out at 1.5-2g. I have not measured the kids. But, showers aren't the killer for water that many people think they are. You can learn to conserve. Tricks are as follows: Drop your rag into the bottom of the shower to begin with. Get hair wet. Shampoo but do not rinse. Use water from rinsing hair to get rag wet (if it is not already). lather rag. Wash body. Drop rag into bottom of water basin (where water runs through) and rinse body starting with hair. A wand-type shower head is best for this. Rinse out rag in water that collected in bottom of shower. It will still be soapy.. so what. Hang up rag and you are done. That is the very conservative method. For those that want a hot shower, you can also collect the water that you run to get it hot in a container to be returned to fresh water supply. Also, we drop our bathing suits in the bottom of the shower and let all the soapy water run over them and let everyone stand on everyone elses bathing suits. WHen all showers are done, we will either hang out to dry or rinse in ammonia water (see below) and hang to dry.

Depending on how long we are out, we will often wash the boat. We wash in salt water (prefer boat Zoap). We generally collect the shower water and can use it for a fresh water rinse for the cockpit. You can do this with a basic stick-type pump that you get to pull the water out of your tender and keep it in empty water jugs.

We ALWAYS keep a stopper in the kitchen sink, and sometimes in the head sinks. We use this for rinsing off glasses or depending on how the water was used, it can also be your rinse water for dishes. When conserving, we do wash our dishes in salt water in a 5g bucket with joy and bleach. You will be surprised how well that cleans the dishes! I do not know what is in salt water, but it works very well and it is also great because someone can be washing in the cockpit while the other person is rinsing and drying down below. You also don't have to worry about cleaning off the dishes in the trash or how much food gets into the sink. You will find as cruisers that trash becomes a huge issue as well as its smell. So the old habit of wiping off the food on plates and sticking it in the trash will be a huge mistake because after a few days in the tropics, that trash will STINK horridly!! Instead, as mentioned above, everything wash in salt in a 5g bucket, rinse in fresh. Minimizes trash, water consumption, and stench.

We have two tanks. One is 65, the other 35 (we also carry four 5g jugs of water, but the measurements here were based upon two which is what I had when I took them). We use the 65 g tank first. The reason for this is several fold: It allows us to know when we really have to conserve (showers may be cut out if we hit the 35 too early) and it is a safety net if we accidentally empty a tank (has happened twice, both when the kids left a faucet on). Many cruisers prefer manual pumps for this reason, but outside of accidental losses, I cannot see a manual pump of any help. And quite frankly, I prefer the ease and comfort of at least feeling like we are at home. We do have a manual pump that connects to our sink which is our emergency backup should a pump/electricity fail. We also carry a spare pump. Another 'trick' is to put your auto pump where you can hear it. Many boats (and I almost did this too) put their pumps in a back closet or lazarette so they cannot hear it. Hearing my pump has saved me! And as a cruiser you become very accustomed to that sound.

We wash clothes via lemmon ammonia. It works pretty well. What you do is you get a 5g bucket and fill fairly full with fresh water and put about a cup or so of ammonia in it. You can drop your clothes in it, shake them around, and let them sit for a while. Shake them against before wringing out and and let them dry. No rinsing necessary. You will not smell any ammonia in your clothes. We often do our bathing suits, wash cloths, dish rags, and skivvys that way. We generally can make our towels last for two weeks by hanging them out to dry everyday.

We are big believers in bleach. Here is a great trick: Take a cheap 12 oz disposable water bottle like you would find at the convenience store. The cheaper the better because you want to be able to squeeze it. Make your bleach solution in it. Drill a hole in the lid with your smallest drill bit. Now replace the cap and you have a very good dispenser of bleach water for your rinse water or to clean off your rags when done. You cannot use a spray bottle for very long with bleach water because it corrodes. This is a super cheap solution. We keep one of these in the shower and beside the sink.

When done washing dishes, always rinse your rag really well in your rinse water and spray it down with your little bleach bottle that you keep beside the sink. We also do this in the shower when we are done showering to keep it from mildewing. Caution around wood with this trick.

You can microwave your sponges to kill the mildew/stench. We do about 30 secs.

Some people turn the breaker to their water pumps on/off when using to keep from accidental loss. We don't generally, but up to you.

We keep an emergency backup of water on the boat. This is generally about 2.5-5g's in the bilge.

I am sure I will think of some other things, but that is a start. Remember, these are OUR numbers, which may be different than your numbers for reasons discussed above.


PS I welcome all others to share their water usage here... especially cruisers.

Cruisingdad 08-22-2013 04:22 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
Just a word of caution: THere have been anchorages (esp mooring fields) where we did not feel comfortable using the water for washing dishes or much of anything. In those cases, that is when having the sink of water you have been collecting really useful.


Cruisingdad 08-22-2013 04:24 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
Oh yeah, another point (I will probably have several of these), the water usage per person may be higher on less people. THat is because you will still fill the 5g bucket for one person, but four people can use it. Same with the sink water or shower water.


RTB 08-22-2013 05:41 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
Nice CD. Thanks for some pointers that will help us in the future. We are pretty new out here cruising, and can use all the help we can get.

Your numbers are spot on as far as I'm concerned. We carry 80 gallons, and go 3 weeks on that. It's just myself and my wife. So, just under 2 gallons/day per person. We don't carry bottled water these days. We did at first, but as you say, trash becomes an issue over time.

In the Bahamas, you not only pay for water in most places, but also pay to rid yourself of the bag or two of trash that has collected. $5.oo/bag in Staniel Cay.

We haven't used our tanks for showering so far. Fortunately, there were plenty of rainy days in the Bahamas. A dinghy holds a lot of water! That was what we used for bathing, and washing hair. We had stopped in Nassau on the way down to the Exumas. We showered there before heading down. The next shower that we had was when we returned to Nassau 5 weeks later.

I'll probably think of some questions for you in the future, so don't go away....:D

Water view at low tide | sailing away with R & B

Brent Swain 08-22-2013 06:18 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
On my last trip from BC to Tonga and back ,I never took water from ashore, catching all I needed from my decks, and drinking water from my mainsail via lazy bag held up by lazy jacks. A plastic bucket under the front end with a 3/4 plastic thru hull and hose, leading to a plastic valve below decks, lets you fill your tanks without going on deck in the night. Washed my clothes and bod in sea water with dishwashing soap, no problem. Rinsed beans in sea water, no problem. Even soaked them in sea water, no problem . Added three cups of fresh for cooking, which left just the right amount of salt in them. Washed dishes in salt water , with only a brief rinse required afterwards, using very little fresh water.
Didn't have my watermaker then. Now I have one, but no urge to go anywhere at the moment. Lots of the best water in the world here , free for the taking.

wingNwing 08-22-2013 06:34 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
We also end up using about 2 gal/person/day on average when we're in "careful" mode. I just cut my hair really short, unlike my avatar from a couple of years ago, so maybe our total usage will go down? We *don't* use saltwater for washing, partly because some of the places we like to stay have questionable water quality, and partly because it always seems to take so much freshwater to get the salt out that it becomes a net zero. However, we are fanatical about using the pressure cooker to conserve water & fuel while cooking.

minnow1193 08-22-2013 06:34 PM

I can't speak to cruising, but imagine if everyone examined their personal water usage this way. Don't think the old man that thinks he needs to hose the dirt off his driveway every other day, just for lack of anything better to do, has ever given a thought to how limited out fresh water supply can be. Good thread, Brian. Always a pleasure to hear about your adventures.


aeventyr60 08-22-2013 06:35 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
Good numbers CD. I'd say we are pretty close to those as well. However, we shower on deck with a 5 gallon bucket as the it is too hot below. Our shower water is a separate entity from the drinking supply., kept in 5 gallon jugs or a few buckets on deck while at anchor. Enough rain here in SE Asia to keep the tanks topped with a few well placed tarps and buckets.
Like your bleach ideas, vinegar works wonders too. A small spay bottle with fresh water is how we do a fresh rinse on the dishes.
Offshore I'll wash in salt and a one quart fresh water rinse is all it takes. A short haircut helps.
Our historical average is 1.1 gallons per day per person, excluding showers. Not to hard on us either. With over 100 gallons in tanks and another 30 in Jugs we are good to go for about 2 months. Now if we could get the fresh veggies to last that long...

CaptainForce 08-22-2013 07:32 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
When our children were with us, as a family of four, we used to get by with 200 gallons for a month. This was with bathing in salt water and rinsing with a bit of fresh water. This puts us at 1.7 gallons/day/person and not far from the two gallons. Likely, our daily bathing practice was the difference.

marianclaire 08-22-2013 08:51 PM

Re: Water Useage/conservation Cruising
Single handed I use about 1 gal/day. Most of that is for drinking. :rolleyes: Might explain the single handed part. Dan S/V Marian Claire

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