Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Water water - learning how to conserve

We’ve been away from shore power and a water supply for three days. When we explained to some seasoned cruisers that we’ve used over 120 litres of fresh water in this time, they were horrified. They explained they use 400 litres in more than a month.
One of the many lessons we’re learning is how to conserve. To be conscious of exactly what we consume and just how precious and rare both power and water really are.
And we really thought we were ‘being good’. We have been showering off the back of the boat, first rinsing and lathering up with salt water, then rinsing off with the fresh water. I’ve been only washing dishes once a day and we’ve been washing just the clothes we wore the day before, each morning. This was apparently a big mistake. In hindsight, I’m sure that we’ve gone through 20 litres of water for each shower and another 20 for each clothes wash. Daily. At this rate, we’d never be able to stay away from shore, or be dependent on amenities on land for more than a couple weeks. Though we have two 400 litre tanks aboard Shiloh, and that seems like a lot, we will have to completely curtail our water usage.
It is wonderful to meet people who have been living aboard for years. I sometimes wish I could take out a pad and pen to capture all their knowledge. Last night, standing around with rum punches in hand, we got the insiders’ scoop about the importance of wind generators, about rigging up a tarp to catch rain water, and the need for large jerry cans, to gather water with the dinghy to avoid heading into a marina with the boat.
We also found out why all the cruisers make use of onshore laundry facilities – it doesn’t deplete your water supply!
It really brings to light just how many hundreds of litres of water we spill, waste, pour away every day on land!! It seems almost obscene from this perspective.
Water is a scarce commodity when at sea – I now truly understand the saying, “there’s water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”


  1. Hey Holli,

    We learned the same lesson at our house on Contadora island. Water on the mainland is $7/month. Water on the island is approx $200/month. We had a group of 10 guests at our house rental on the island that went through 800 gallons of water in 3 days and they were actually good compared to most. We too have learned the art of capturing water in water bottles and in holding tanks. The sad thing is when we tell our rental guests that water is precious and so is power they don't seem to get it..as the average North American as we once were believes that it is endless and just part of the monthly utilities.....I love your posts mi amiga!

  2. One of my biggest fears ... the lack of water, as here we used to suffer from water shortage, even being right on the sea. Somehow it's like beign on a boat. We have the Mediterranean right in front of us but we do suffer from water shortage every now and then.
    Anyway, we're all very spoiled with how we use our natural supplies ...

  3. Interesting post. I recall my early years living in the Caribbean where there would be water shortages for a week or two, for drinking water we had a backup drum/barrel which captured rain water when it flows down from the roof. I also remember taking my daily showers in the ocean when those times arrived, and how uncomfortable I would feel when the salt water dries off and the dry salt starts irritating my skin while in class. Now living in New York I've grown to NOT appreciate water as I once use too.

  4. @ Karyn - yep it's amazing! I used to take showers leisurely as the water poured away down the drain - and the days I washed my long hair?! Must have gone through hundreds of litres during those showers! So crazy! And thanks for reading chica!

    @Paola - I guess when you grow up appreciating the scarcity of water, it can be different. Hopefully it means you cherish it more than those who have no clue!

    @Garnet - thanks for reading and sending through a comment! Where did you grow up? I can definitely imagine how uncomfortable it would be to shower using only sea water!! These days we try to shower at the back of the boat, using salt water and soap, and then rinsing it all off quickly with fresh water. But that last step is critical!!!

    Try to share those experiences with your US friends who would have no clue how scarce and precious water is! :)

  5. I grew up in St.Lucia, based on your current location it should be a two island hop away, minus the minor islands.