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post #1 of 11 Old 09-22-2018 Thread Starter
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Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Hello All,

I'm Updating my Islander 37 MS for a voyage from Panama City, FL to New Zealand and return in 2019 or 2020.

The voyage is for two people. I was reading up on Water Makers and read that the -- Spectra Name Brand is one of the favorites. It's recommended because of Low 12 V. Amperage draw and Good Reliability as well. However, I have not determined the correct __________ model that has been used by the members on this forum. I'm guessing, I'd need around 20 to 30 gals. per day. I'd like to hear from actual users that own Water Makers and can vouch for it's day to day reliability as well. Yes, cost is a factor bit I will buy what is necessary to have a trouble free water maker.

2nd.

Looking for a Manual Water Maker that would go in the ditching bag that is also, it's 100% Reliable and will do it's job when it's so important to do so... our lives may or are dependent on it working 100%.

3rd

Looking to add a Diesel Generator in the 5.5 K output range. Marine Generators are pricey and I'm shopping around. I see a number of them on E bay with low hours or new units for around $ 5 K (+) price range. I'm a retired (30 years) Army guy. I have a back ground as a Diesel Mechanic and worked for Cummings Diesel on large Marine Gen. Sets but this was years ago. I have never been around smaller gen. units... so this is new territory for me.

My Question... is from actual owners of diesel marine generators and own or like a particular brand _______ name and model _______ and it's been bullet proof for them.

4th

Solar Panels - Wow, I've read lots of information and I'm still not that versed on what to buy. So, Same questions from actual owners. What name brand ___________ and model __________ do you have ?

I don't want to invest a lot of $$$ bucks in buying solar panels and have them fail in a few months or whatever. So much stuff is made overseas and will (mostly) just make it's warranty time period. It's not like I'm going to remove them on a long trip and get a warranty replacement or buy another model solar panel along my way.

I will need a Rectifier Control Unit as well... so same questions as well; name __________ and model ____________ ?

Thank You, Thank You for your Advice... it's Greatly Weighed from Actual Owners & Users.

Avery
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-23-2018
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Hi Avery,

You have some really heavy questions. They really need to be answered in depth by some nose-down heavy research by you. I will give you my opinion on your questions, but these are only my opinions based on my experiences in my situations. It can't be directly extrapolated unless you happen by chance to have the same experiences and situations - but it does give you a point of reference.

I expect you will receive other opinions, and that some of them will contradict mine.

1st.

Spectra is the only DC-powered watermaker I would consider. However 20-30 gal/day is a large usage. You don't mention your tank size, so that plays a role in the calculation of watermaker need. If this is really your expected usage, and you had modest tankage, then I would want a 20-30 gal/hr watermaker. This output strains a reasonable DC-powered system. At the minimum, I would look at the 12-16gal/hr Spectra DC units.

At a minimum. Frankly, I would (and did) go with a AC powered unit that puts out 30gal/hr. If you have large tanks, and expect to have stationary periods of significant passive energy production like solar, then a smaller output watermaker can be managed by using the tankage during passages and other short-term needs, then a long fill period of running the watermaker to restore the tanks. But to just blast 30gal/hr for a couple of hrs/day every so often is much more convenient.

We have a CruiseRO AC-powered 30gal/hr unit. It is pretty much bullet-proof, dead simple, and repairable with parts found almost everywhere. It isn't the only game in town, and EchoTec and a few others make similar systems. If you go DC-powered, then Spectra is the only reasonable choice IMO.

Which leads me to 3rd (I'm leaving 2nd for last).

If you are intent on a generator, and envision needing to run it regularly under a load, then definitely an AC-powered watermaker is the way to go. As for the specifics on a genset, if you really want a 5.5kW unit, then you are mostly looking at a small, non-continuous duty, high rev unit. Nothing wrong with that - it is what we have - but there are some tradeoffs. These will not be heavy-duty gensets, and should be viewed as supplemental power for short-term operation (meaning several hours at a time instead of several days at a time). So, if all you need to do is bulk charge some batteries, make a bit of water, and maybe heat water or run a bit of air conditioning for a couple of hours, these are fine units. Their downsize, other than being non-continuous duty, is that they are not particularly rugged. Expect 1,500-2,500hrs out of them before major work is necessary. If you want to run full-boat air conditioning 24/7, and operate electric stoves, etc, then you need a more rugged genset.

These heavier duty ones typically start at 6-8kW. The penalty, of course, is weight and size (and fuel usage). However, you can expect 8,000-10,000hrs out of them.

We have a NextGen, which is a small 5.5kW non-continuous duty genset. We just had to replace the electrical head at 1200hrs at a cost of 25% of a new unit. Other people we know with this genset have had to replace their electrical heads between 1500-2500hrs - and this is really the usable life for them. The small Kubota engine itself is ticking along just fine, and will last 10,000hrs or more.

Solar is the easiest decision (IMO). Just buy the cheapest hard panels you find. This will probably be contentious, but we have a mixture of expensive Kyocera panels and the most cheap no-name panels. I can't tell the difference in operation, and so far they have all held up the same for several years. If the cheap ones do ultimately fail at double the rate of the expensive ones, we will still be ahead in cost. Our expensive Kyoceras deliver exactly the output they are specified to deliver. Our cheap no-name panels that cost 1/3 of the Kyoceras deliver 5-10% more than they are specified.

We do have a high quality, relatively expensive MPPT controller for them, and I do think this is important. If I were to do it all over again, I would go to higher voltage panels (ours are all nominal 12V panels). So look for 270-350W 40-50V panels and stick good MPPT controllers on them. You should be able to find panels at <$1/Watt, but expect to pay $400-600 for appropriate controller(s).

We have a Morningstar MPPT controller, but other good ones are Outback and Victron. Others too that I don't mention - just stay away from the cheap Chinese stuff, and I personally don't like, and have seen many failures with, BlueSky - but others will disagree with opposite experiences.

There is no such thing as a 100% reliable, hand operated watermaker stored in a ditch bag. First, these units truly are survival-only outputs when they are operating at spec - which they never will for many reasons. It sounds good in theory, but let's be practical - the unit has been stored for 10yrs (hopefully much, much longer) before you have been put in a situation where you need to use it. Once you are in that situation, you only need to use it after your carefully packed and stored water rations have run out. When they do run out after many days, you are now weak and have to pump, and pump, and pump, and pump, and pump, and pump, and pump, and pump your watermaker to achieve a half cup of water. Almost assuredly, you have lost more than that in sweat in your efforts making it. All the time, you will be thinking "I paid $1,000 for this?".

And the answer is yes, that hand-operated watermaker cost you the total equivalent of a second EPIRB, a satphone, and a personal locator beacon - those three are what will really keep you alive and get you rescued. The historical cases of people lost at sea for 6 months before rescue are, well, history. Today's reality (for your cruising plan) is much different than back then - you want reliable communications in a ditch situation, not a reliable watermaker.

Mark
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-23-2018
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Love my spectra Cape Horn. No electronics I can’t fix to break. KISS and works great and filters are generic. Can run it on my panels and D400s when at anchor. Do need genset every third-fourth day if radar, AP, electronics, frig/freezer are running but only for 1-2 hours.
Hate my lombardini 4kw generator. Noisy and parts hard to find.
If you have room go with a low rpm, multi cyclinder, fresh water cooled genset. Stay away from any high rpm including fisher panda, lombardini etc.

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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Should mention with current set up can get through a whole season only going in for food and topping the fuel tanks after and before major passage. Major fuel hassle is getting propane. While in tropics usually run genset once or twice a month to make sure it works.
We have AC. If you have good ventilation on your boat surprisingly it’s not necessary as the trades are more then sufficient to keep you cool. We actually run AC more when in the states as the humidity is higher so that makes it uncomfortable. Truly it’s not the heat it’s the humidity.
Also good to not be AP dependent. Put on a hydrovane and amp hours have gone down significantly. Still, it’s a PIA to use if you have multiple course corrections so only is used on passage.
While sailing boat runs on just alt. energy except if using radar and AP and making water. While at anchor when we have a day we’re just hanging around the boat make water. Different mindset then Mark. Neither wrong it’s just whatever floats your boat. Big deal with watermakers is counterintuitively they give much less trouble if used frequently so don’t see low output units as a detriment. A down day making water and doing little fixes or making a fancy meal is a nice break. Back-flushing uses a lot of water so when you do make water makes sense to make a bunch.

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Last edited by outbound; 09-23-2018 at 12:43 AM.
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post #5 of 11 Old 09-23-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

colemj & other's.

You Really gave me a Spot on Eval. of What I Wanted to Know !

Nothing Beats 1st Hand Experience. I say this in regard to being a Maint. Test Pilot for over 25 years in Army Aviation, Helicopters were my World. However, I'm not that experienced in the Sailing World and need Good (experienced) Advice.

Thank You All,

Avery
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post #6 of 11 Old 09-23-2018
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Quote:
Originally Posted by outbound View Post
Different mindset then Mark.
To be clear, it really isn't a different mindset. I addressed his propose water usage - 20-30gal/day, which is fairly high. This variable begins to weigh on the decision as to which way to go with a watermaker.

At 30gal/day usage, a 100gal tank, and a 8gal/hr watermaker drawing 10A, then the watermaker will need to be run for 8hrs every 2 days and consume 80Ah of battery to do so.

Alternately, it could be run for 4hrs every day consuming 40Ah each day.

During these run times, it is likely the batteries will not be fully charged, so that 40/80Ah deficit to run the watermaker needs to be considered in solar provisioning. This requires ~250W of extra solar necessary to run the watermaker above that needed to meet battery charging and house needs. This is quite a bit of space - an extra 18sf of clear-sun mounting surface needed.

Moving up in output, a 15gph unit drawing 20A would change the time calculus to running either 2hrs/day or 4hrs every other day. However, the energy calculations and strategy would be the same as above.

Larger tankage could give more options on timing watermaker runs, but most likely these would involve running a generator for at least a good portion of the time. Once one's energy strategy involves periodically running a generator, then it makes a lot of sense to be using it to power an AC watermaker that makes 30-40gal/hr.

10-15gal/day water usage makes DC-powered systems more workable on average boats with lead batteries and modest solar space. 20-30gal/day fits into a more difficult space as described above. 30+gal/day definitely belongs in the high output realm of AC-powered watermakers.

Lithium battery chemistry changes things, as does lots of space for a solar farm.

We have both, and mostly run our 30gal/day AC-powered watermaker off the batteries with no generator run. This was not possible when we had lead batteries and 30% less solar. Our previous watermaker was a 6gph DC non-energy recovery unit that could not keep up with 15-20gpd usage without running the generator - it still wouldn't even with the 30% more solar we have now. So we found exactly where the power usage/generation line is drawn for a cruising boat using 15-20gal/day water.

There is no one correct answer, but there are parameters and variables that can be calculated to get to an individually best answer, and there are pretty defined lines where one decision is definitely better than another (large water needs, generator only power source, etc). In between those lines are grayer areas that require choices.

Mark

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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

20 to 30 gallons per day for two people is a lot. I cruise off the grid and on my own use 2 gallons a with a daily shower; with a guest this goes up to 6-8 gallons a day. This can be trimmed by discouraging long hair and frequent hair washing.

Watermakers seem to require frequent maintenance, anywhere cruisers gather there is someone who makes a living fixing watermakers. Having said that if I was to spec a boat for a trans pacific I would have a Spectra because it runs on 12 volts but I would run it for a while before I left and would carry lots of spares including a complete Clark pump assembly.

If you have to have a generator then as others have said get a multi cylinder 1800 rpm unit. I personally would avoid having a big generator and buy more solar plus a small Honda generator as an emergency backup. I would also have some form of water driven generator. I had a AmpAir Aquair which ran reliably for 7 years generating 6 amps plus at 6 knots 24 hrs a day.

I have 400 watts of solar mounted on a rear arch and the panels can be tilted to follow the sun. This gives you at least 50% more than fixed panels. Mine are Kyocera rigid panels and are 11 years old and still producing 22 - 25 amps in direct sunlight. I have seen some cheap non marine panels that have failed after a year with the terminals turning to green goo. Semi flexible panels are not reliable in the long term especially if frequently flexed. I have a Blue Sky 2000E MPPT controller which needed replacing after 7 years.

Do you plan to have a large fridge freezer? If so do be aware that they are real power hogs even if well insulated.
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

When spec boat aimed at decreased Ah devices. Frigoboat, single AC for saloon, webasto for heat. Aimed at multiple sources for electrons. High out alternator, multiple non shadowed panels each with its own outback, twin D400s. Boat all leds. So although I donít know monthly water usage (would have to go through log and figure hours run/ net production) do know we run it whenever engine is on for awhile and if still about once a week. Find the spectra Cape Horn is more than adequate. Also we have two water tanks of 100g each. One gets shore water if itís free. One only gets RO water so thereís no chance of back flushing with chlorine. Given this set up itís hard to give a monthly water use number. Most use is rinsing off after swimming.
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Wow guys I've read hundreds of pages and blogs on this and this was the most informative postings I've ever read!
Great real world experiences! Thanks....following. I've been torn between the low output per hour on DC vs high and small gender for some time. Wont pull the trigger until 3 months before departure for good practices.

Smooth sailing and fresh warm breezes,
Tony
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Re: Advice on Water Makers & Marine Generator

Yeah, real world experience/advice.
Good posts.

Imho, 20-30 gal per day for 2 people = marina...
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