December 23, 2012

How little water do you need?

HOW MUCH FRESH WATER do you need on an ocean passage? Or, to put it a better way, how little do you really need?

If you’ve ever spent any time in the desert you’ll be aware that most town-dwellers are profligate users of water. It’s a tendency we have to learn to overcome very quickly when we put to sea because sailboats can’t carry much fresh water. It’s simply too bulky and too heavy.

For as long as I can remember, experts on public health have urged us to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, but I can assure you from personal experience that when you go cruising you can get by on far less, even in tropical climates. According to The Captain’s Guide to Liferaft Survival (Sheridan House) you can last indefinitely on a pint a day in temperate climates, two pints in the tropics.

My family and I once averaged just under half a gallon a day each on a six-month voyage in a 31-footer, and that included water for cooking and bathing, though I should add that we bathed in salt water and then used a small garden spray filled with fresh water to wash off the salt.

Nevertheless, for planning purposes it’s wise to count on a minimum of one gallon per person per day at a speed (for most medium-sized yachts) of 100 miles a day.

You’ll very likely average more than 100 miles a day, and that will automatically give you a welcome reserve and great peace of mind.

Finally, don’t ever be tempted to drink sea water unless you have plenty of fresh water to wash it down with.

Today’s Thought
Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say I’m thirsty, not dirty.
— Joe E. Lewis, Is Salami and Eggs Better than Sex? (Alan King and Mimi Sheraton)

Festive greetings
HERE’S HOPING you have a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday, whatever suits you best.  I hope Santa Claus has been checking out the marine stores and filling his bag with nice little nautical surprises for you. Best wishes to you all, and, with any luck, a peaceful and prosperous New Year to follow.

OUR local police department reports that they found an abandoned car containing a case of whisky bound up in a big red bow. They haven’t traced the owner yet. They’re still working on the case.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Don P said...

Merry Christmas John!
Many thanks for your gift of wisdom and wit this past year.

Aaron Headly said...

An additional water consideration:

A rough rule-of-thumb is that there is about 1 tablespoon of salt per pint of seawater.

In any recipe that calls for both salt and water, you can replace 1 pint of fresh water with seawater for every tablespoon of salt.

Rice, for example, comes out very nice when cooked with half fresh water and half seawater. Dried vegetables can be rehydrated with a similar mix (but will need to soak longer, usually).

And, of course, anything you are going to boil and drain, such as pasta or potatoes, can be cooked in straight seawater.

Aaron Headly said...

Also: I was reminded of the story of a bartender (an American, obviously) that asked the thirsty Scotsman if he wanted his Glenfiddich on the rocks:

"Not unless your ice comes from Scotland!"

KevinH said...

A luxurious ocean passage would budget 3lt per day per person. Any more would be wontan extravigance. Hopefully your crew would spell better that me. Thank you John for your entertaining essays. I join others in thanking you for insightfull naughtical thoughts. Merry Xmas/Happy New year/Prosperous enough to support your true love and the wife and family at the same time. OK, so that's a tough call. Alle sterkte boet.