After spending many months aboard "Unbound," we had come up with a series of lists: Must-have;
Nice-to-have; and Really-cool-to-have. Top on the Must-have list was water independence.
While cruising in the Virgin Islands (mostly US and British) we had no troubles finding decent
water. For $0.10-0.15 USD per gallon, we couldn't complain about a thing. Obtaining water from
several different marinas was fairly simple, and a routine occurrence all over the islands. We
would pull the big Cat up to the fuel dock and buy fuel and water at the same time, as well as
pump our holding tank (another story). Of course, we didn't need much fuel, but it made the fuel
attendant happy to not just be selling water. With a family of five on board, however, we found
that we needed to tank up fairly frequently. After implementing some conservation practices and
educating everyone about careful showering and dish-washing our water consumption was reduced
to a reasonable compromise.
Then we sailed for the Spanish Virgin Islands. Here, the marinas were too small to accommodate
our wide beam, so we were forced to haul water in jerry jugs. We found a fish market/gas station
in Culebra that would allow us to fill our jugs for free, so we hauled water jugs every time we
went ashore. Hauling water is a lot of work, so we increased water restrictions to conserve.
We topped off our tanks and stowed full jerry jugs of water in preparation for our long voyage
to George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas. While en route, we were successful at using very little
water. Once in George Town, we found that we could get free reverse-osmosis water at the dinghy
dock behind the Exuma Market. This is a fantastic service to cruisers, and there is often a line
of people waiting to fill up. We spent a few weeks in George Town making friends and seeing the
area. Meanwhile, my back started to hurt from hauling jugs everywhere I went.
We started our island hop up the Exuma chain to see some of the fantastic sights The Bahamas
has to offer. To conserve water, our rule for everyone was "one fresh water shower per day."
Now, being somewhat obsessive about salt water in the upholstery, we required a fresh water
rinse after swimming. This became a problem. Now that we were away from easy access to water,
but where there is spectacular snorkeling, we had to restrict our fun! This was a total BUMMER!
Also, it is absolutely necessary to dive on the anchor after setting it, to be sure it is safely
secured to the bottom. Chalk up one more shower. We ended up loosening our restrictions somewhat
on showering, but soon put our water supply in jeopardy.
Once we arrived in the US, a reverse osmosis (RO) watermaker, also known as a desalinator,
became a top priority for continued cruising. We found that while there is no purely economic
justification for a watermaker based on the low cost per gallon we paid for water, the
restriction on our freedom was unbearable. We had to have a watermaker or the Captain was
We chose to install an engine-driven modular unit for its output and space flexibility. Being
equipped with two small diesel engines, a cruising catamaran is an ideal candidate for
engine-driven accessories. We did not have a generator on board, and it made no sense to
install a 12 volt watermaker and then run the engines anyway to charge the batteries.
Once the desalinator was installed, we celebrated by drinking the most expensive water we
would ever see!
First Glass of Water: $6219.27
No more Jerry Jugs: PRICELESS!
We felt that if we associated the cost of the RO watermaker to the first glass of water, we
wouldn't concern ourselves with the cost per gallon. From now on, the water we used would
only cost us a little diesel fuel.