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  #1  
Old 12-16-2012
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Making a still...

One of my recent winter projects has been to figure out how to make myself a still for the boat.



NO! Not that kind!


Many years ago I bought a product called the "E-still" which was sold to survivalists and Y2K folks. It was a collection of stainless steel pots, and a couple of modified lids that allowed you to distill salt water (or contaminated) water into fresh water over the stove. It was under $100 and some of the pots could be re-used for other things like cooking crab and pasta.

I loved having it aboard as it provided me with some peace of mind if my tanks were to all leak out into the bilge on a crossing, or if I were to get dis-masted and stay at sea much longer than necessary. I had the ability to make drinking water. Somehow though, I lost it in a move.

In my research I came across this website which seems to have the best set of concise instructions on how to build a still using a minimum of equipment. You'll notice that they also use a pressure cooker, which is nice to have aboard anyway. Of course they're not using it to distill salt water, but the idea is the same. I plan on building one of these this winter so that I'll have a cheap, reliable backup way to make water aboard. I also consider it a very useful ability to be able to make your own distilled water for batteries or to mix with engine coolant. I've once been in a remote anchorage and realized that I can see the top of the lead plates and did not having enough distilled water to top up the batteries.

Here is the article:
How to make a still


PS: In New Zeland it's legal to make your own distilled spirits. So if you sail there, you could use this device to make your own rum. I have no real interest in doing so except for the extreeeeme pirate cred I might get out of it. Arrrrrr....
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Old 12-16-2012
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Re: Making a still...

Basically Meds, the sun heats the water it rises off the surface as vapor (doesn't have to boil) and condenses into another receptacle.


I'd not have selected Ava maria as back up music LOL
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Re: Making a still...

My... what a large galley you have MedSailor.
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Re: Making a still...

You would have to scale down to size and space requirements.
I've always thought the butterfly hatch would work like a small green house/still





I've always thought the butterfly hatch would work like a small green house/still
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Old 12-16-2012
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Re: Making a still...

Quote:
Originally Posted by B.Christ View Post
My... what a large galley you have MedSailor.
Thanks! Good ol' Bill Garden sure knew how to make 41 feet feel like home!

I can't take credit for the how-to website. I do like, however, that you can use a pressure cooker (or tea kettle) and a bucket (with removable plug at the bottom) and then the only non-dual-purpose item is the copper coil. I think you could also do it with a smaller bucket and coil (say 2 or 3 gallon) and still have it work. This means it wouldn't take up much space, especially compared to most solar still designs.

"Sailing the farm" (book) has a few good drawings on how to make a compact solar still, but they're best made (and thus, stored) before needed and can't be re-purposed for other chores. From what I've heard they don't make much water either. Enough to keep you alive, but it sure would be nice to "make up a batch" of water and have several gallons made at a time, like you can do on the stove top. The solar stills can often contaminate their fresh water if they get sloshed around and the salt water gets out of it's area. This depends on the design though.

I like this setup because it's a setup that could work in any small galley and uses many multi-purpose parts.

MedSailor
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Last edited by MedSailor; 12-16-2012 at 10:12 PM.
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Re: Making a still...

note... you dont want to drink distilled water on an ongoing basis as there is a total lack of minerals in it and by osmosis, it will leach out you minerals as it passes through.

At least that is what I have heard.
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Old 12-16-2012
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Re: Making a still...

The mineral content of groundwater varies so greatly that it is not wise to depend on it for mineral uptake. Many people drink nearly pure water, for instance living in mountainous regions with low leaching rocks. The gatorade folks know this and add minerals to replace those lost through sweat. Very little worry about drinking distilled water. The WHO (World Health Organization) did a study to determine if it was harmful and found that while it did cause greater urination that regular water, the mineral content wasn't much different. The primary source of minerals in your diet is in the food you eat. The WHO also formulated an ideal drinking water, which isn't found anywhere in nature, though the water from Caribbean and South Sea islands comes close! (calcium laden waters)
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Re: Making a still...

Hmmm.... I wasn't planning on making a health drink, nor living off my distilled waters. I was hoping that this device would be a useful backup to those of us who may cross oceans without a watermaker. If you're in a spot of ocean without much expected rain and your tanks fail or get contaminated it pays to have a backup plan.

I bet though, that if you crushed up a gooseneck barnacle or two that were attached to your stranded hulk, and added them, plus a tablespoon of seawater to the distilled mix, you'd have all the sodium, chloride, and calcium that you'd ever need. Eat that WHO!

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Old 12-17-2012
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Re: Making a still...

Medsailor,

That will probably work but the copper tubing is too short, most of the vapour will not change to water. The tubing can be coiled to increase condensation, or some part of it can be cooled with sea water.
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Re: Making a still...

Quote:
Originally Posted by celenoglu View Post
Medsailor,

That will probably work but the copper tubing is too short, most of the vapour will not change to water. The tubing can be coiled to increase condensation, or some part of it can be cooled with sea water.


In the link he uses, maybe, 15' of tubing in a bucket of cold water (seawater in my case). It sounds like you may have some experience in this area no? Any thoughts on how long the tubing should be?

MedSailor
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