On the passage from Nuka Hiva to Fatu Hiva, an upwind bash, I tried to make water. I quickly realized how difficult that would be. You need to put quite a lot of force into the pump to operate it and doing so in a boat which is pitching and rolling in a seaway was difficult. Its hard to push down with any force when the whole boat is flying upward as it does when climbing the face of a wave, before crashing down on the other side. Downwind passages are more peaceful, although again making water manually would be very tedious.
Around this time, a friend of mine, Dave Mancini, who is cruising s/v Swan around Mexico at the moment, forwarded some information about how he and his wife Rhonda dealt with water as they cruised through the South Pacific on their earlier passage. Swan is a Pacific Seacraft 34, so very similar to Luckness. Swan doesn't have a water maker and relied on collecting rainwater on their entire journey. They went through French Polynesia, Tonga, Fiji and then up to the Marshall Islands and back to Washington state. Dave seems to pass along all sorts of good info every time I see him or exchange email with him.
In the past whenever I thought about collecting water on a sailboat I would think about it in terms of some sort of canvas collection system I would sew together, incorporating a hose of some sort which would lead to a jerry jug. Or perhaps some sort of canvas I could add to the mainsail to collect the water the sail captures. These techniques seemed complicated.
Dave's technique is simply to plug the scuppers on both side decks on his boat. Once you do this, the entire boat becomes your water collection surface and as the water drips off everything it finds its way to the side decks where it collects. He then puts a rag over a funnel, places it into a jerry jug, and uses a tupperware bin to scoop water from the side deck into the funnel. Finally he adds 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to the jug before adding it to his water tank.
I've tried this technique now, several times. Its super easy and can capture a lot of water. Since hearing about this from Dave I've started to hear other cruisers talk about it as well - when it rains I've heard others talk about going to plug their scuppers to collect water. However I've also mentioned this technique now to several people who have boats where this would work, and they didn't know about it and liked the idea.
So. If you have a sailboat, and your sailboat has high bulwarks, and the scuppers in your side decks are easily plugged, this technique can work for you.
Dave uses four rags to plug the scuppers, as their are two holes on each side. First let the rain fall for a little while to clean any salt off the surfaces. I go around when this is happening and use a rag to wash away any dirt I can. Let it rain long enough so that the water pouring down the scuppers is clean. Then plug the scuppers and let some water collect. Put a rag over a funnel, put it into a jerry jug, and pour water into the funnel. The rag is a good idea as I constantly find little bits of dirt and hairs in the rag after pouring clean water through it.
|Plug the scuppers with rags, once the water is clean|
|Let the water collect...|
|Prepare the funnel, rag filter and jug|
|Scoop water, pour into jug, repeat|
My water maker, when it was working, only made 1 1/2 gallons of water an hour. It used between 6 and 8 amps to do this, so power was a concern on cloudy days (I prefer not to run my engine to charge my batteries.) With so little water available I would never consider having showers or washing my clothes onboard. This all changes when water becomes plentiful, as it does with this technique - at least in areas with rain.
Back to the Tuamotus and my first experiences. A few days after my first experiment some more squalls started to roll through. I started hoping that the passing squalls would hit me directly rather than wishing that they would miss as I did in the past. I wanted to collect the squall water! I had two close misses that day and was able to collect 5 gallons of water which I treated with bleach (1/2 a teaspoon) and poured into my tank.
Since then I have had several occasions when I have had heavy rain. One day while I was in Papeete I collected 15 gallons for my water tank and it continued to rain. I then started washing clothes. I would collect 5 gallons, use it in my double sinks to first wash clothes and then start rinsing. Rinsing takes a lot of water so I went out to pour 5 more gallons into the jug, using 10 gallons to wash my clothes. On days when its raining hard, or lightly but constantly, you'll have more water than you'll be able to use. I filled my water tank, washed clothes, washed myself and then unplugged the scuppers to let both side decks drain as they were completely full, with water overflowing over the top of the cap rails.
Collecting rainwater is awesome! I haven't made water with my water maker in the last two months. Between collecting water and getting water from shore when its available, my tanks are always full. Thanks to Dave for passing along his advice on how he did it on Swan. Any other owners of PSC 34/37 or other boats with high bulwarks - take note, this may apply to you as well.