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At the time of Frost’s, then Aita Pea Pea’s, survey, I had the previous owner demonstrate to me that the installed watermaker functioned, and give me a brief lesson on how to operate it. Knowing that we’d have a lot on our plate to figure out in the coming weeks, and that we could easily rely on dock water in the large 1000L water tank, I then asked him to pickle (preserve) the membrane so that we wouldn’t have to worry about it. We’re now at the point where we’re trying to get all of our systems up and operational though, so I took a stab at getting it running the other day. As is often the case, things are never as easy as they should be.

I have installed two different watermaker systems, one on ZTC and one on the Leopard. Each time I gave a lot of thought to access, knowing that each piece of the system may (would!) need to be serviced at some point in the future. Obviously the person who installed this system did not think along those lines.

While I’ll grant that the space available on a monohull is different than on a cat, whoever installed this watermaker, for no acceptable reason whatsoever, installed the service end of the membrane assembly right up against a bulkhead. That end of the assembly has a pressure gauge on it, and the manual (I had to download the English version) says at least a dozen times that you need to make sure that the operational pressure is at a specific level. The only way to check that is with a mirror (note the little pink mirror in the photo below). This entire assembly could easily have been installed facing the other way!

In addition to that huge blunder, the high-pressure pump, another important part, is located in an area directly underneath the membrane assembly. How do you access that? You don’t, unless, of course, you want to disconnect every hose, unbolt the membranes, and remove them from the locker. Both of these things became issues for me when I tried to get the system running. I could not get the unit up to the proper operating pressure, which led me to believe that the pump had lost prime. Over and over, the manual warned against running it like that. This is about the time that I enlisted the help of Michael from Protech, a local technician.

With a bit of work, Michael was able to bleed the airlocks out of the system and get it running. And surprisingly, after doing so, the product water tested very good. Rebecca and I ran the watermaker yesterday and it was producing the 60L per hour that it is specced to do, As the system runs off the generator’s 220 VAC, that is not a huge volume of water compared to the newer systems manufactured by CruiseRO. As long as it is working though, it will service our needs.

What else was on our plate yesterday? Among other things, more winch servicing. We have now completed 4 of the 10 winches on board, including the two most complicated ones. We plan to have the rest done in the next week or so. Servicing winches is not that tough of a job, and in some ways, it’s almost enjoyable. That is, as long as you don’t leave a decade in between servicing attempts, as it appears has been done with these!


  1. That watermaker would have been installed by a “marine professional” as opposed to a competent cruiser. Been there. Fortunately I have learned not to rely on them, and use them only under close supervision.

  2. I learned all about “install for ease of service” as a plant engineer; after fighting with too many bastard installations, I ALWAYS put ease of service first. It was better for me, made me much more popular with the plant guys, and bottom line, it was almost always cheaper in the long run, since repairs and maintenance were done. Normally a good installation is more about planning than actual cost, which is why a rushed “marine professional” will simply get it in and working, while a cruisers will think it through.

    I’m working on an air conditioning installation now, and I promise the head scratching will take 10 times (not exaggerated) as long as the actual work, which I do pretty quickly. But I will be able to get to everything and nothing will be blocked.

  3. Oh I feel you guys on this one….One of the banes of my boating life is wondering why in the *(%*(##$ people install things the way they do….Like a water pump that requires you to be on your belly arched up reaching through an access port where you can’t even see the pump or screws and working entirely by feel. I swear things like this do a real good job of bringing out my inner sailing tourettes.

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