Today was all about water.  It wasn’t supposed to be.  But it was.   A few fast facts about our boat as it relates to hydration:

  • We are anchored in a salt water lagoon.  Nothing will crust you up quite as quickly as salt water.
  • Our boat has two water tanks totaling 600 liters (about 180 gallons for us non-metrics).
  • There are seven people (sometimes eight, with visiting guests) on board.
  • Most importantly: we have no way to create fresh water

We’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to manage our water needs ‘long term’, but in the mean time we’ve been trying out a few options:

  1. Pull the boat up to a fuel/water dock and fill the tanks. (We’ve done this several times and it’s worked okay, but that means you have to move your boat every time you need water.  And let’s face it, sometimes its nice to just stay put.  See: lethargy, inertia, homebody, writer)  Water in the Caribbean ranges anywhere from $0-0.25/gallon.
  2. Stay at a marina.  A variation on #1.  We have done this a few times, and it’s nice to just grab a hose from the dock and fill the tanks when we hit bottom.  But staying at marinas can be pricey, even before you pay for the water.
  3. Install a water maker.  We’re leaning this direction, but we’re not there yet.  A water maker basically pulls sea water into the boat, runs it through a bunch of high pressure tubes pushing it through membranes that get finer and finer until all the salt, microbes and bacteria are removed.  As the French would say, Voilá!  Fresh water put straight into your tanks.
  4. Haul it.  This is what we’re trying right now.  Our new friends on Day Dreamer are letting us test-run their backup system:  a couple plastic containers that hold a few gallons each, and a big collapsible bag (think: five foot long envelope) that has a valve in the middle.  You lay it out, put a hose into it and it fills up with water, about 45 gallons to be exact.  (I’ll let you metrics do the reverse conversion.)  We find a dock willing to sell (or give) us water, we pull up in our dinghy, we fill all said containers—balancing the bag across the bench in our dinghy—and then we motor back to our boat.  That’s when the fun begins.

How does one get a 45 gallon bag of water from one’s dinghy into one’s water tanks?  I’m glad you ask.  In a word: buckets.  We open the valve on the bag, a beautiful arc of water spouts out, we catch it in a bucket, and then hand it down the line.  Our crew (kids) carry the buckets down amidships where we then pour the water into a funnel which takes it directly into our water tanks. 

For those good at rapid mental math (metric or whatever the other one is called) can tell you that it takes approximately four—yes, four—trips to fill our tanks.  And that is why today was all about water. 

This morning I went to shore and asked the different folks on the dock if we could buy some water.  We found a nice French dude at one of the jet ski kiosks on shore who said we could just have some.  I tried to explain that we wanted a lot.  My French is lousy. His English was a better, but there was still a language barrier.  I rubbed my fingers together as to say, “We can pay,” but in the end he said, we were fine to just take some.  Okay.  Mercí beaucoup.  After the third run I think he understood, and I think we’d overstayed our welcome. We didn’t come back for the fourth.

Four hours later, our tanks were mostly full.  Turns out it take a while to get 135 gallons out of a hose, into a container, onto a dinghy, driven from shore to ship, poured back into buckets, ferried down the deck and poured into the water tanks through a funnel.   Needless to say, we’ve become quite the water conservationists on Fezywig.

Moral of the story:  we are lucky to have it this good.  People world over dedicate a lot of time and energy—certainly more than we did today—to having clean water.  We’re just the first-world wimps catching on.  In fact, with grey clouds overhead and downpours happening every six to eight hours, we spent a whole day last week scheming about techniques to catch rain water.  We even tried out a few with pathetic to moderate success.  For many people around the globe, this is their primary source of clean water.  I’m so glad my kids (and me too for that matter) are being forced into thinking about water this way:  it is precious, it sustains life, it keeps us hydrated, hygienic and happy. 

Truth is I’ll probably go online within the next week and order a water maker and a generator to run it, and have it delivered here on an airplane.  I will then install it in our boat (with the help of boater friends who are much smarter than me) and we will generate 30 gallons of clean water with the flip of a switch or two. 

We are the fortunate ones.  We are the lucky ones.  We have water.