Cruising World Feature Article – Installing a Huge Watermaker!

Cruising World February 2015 Issue Installing a Watermaker on a sailboat

Cruising World – February, 2015

The February 2015 issue of Cruising World Magazine features our article on how to install a big engine-driven watermaker.

How big? 60 gallons per hour big!

Unlike boondocking in our RV, where we run from water spigot to water spigot to fill our fresh water holding tanks and jerry jugs in our truck, our watermaker was our sole water supply for the nearly four years we lived aboard and cruised in Mexico.

During that time, this system happily desalinated about 20,000 gallons of ocean water surrounding our sailboat Groovy. It created truly delicious drinking water while pumping raw water from the ocean through a massive filtration system into our fresh water holding tanks.

Talk about long showers! We had virtually unlimited water and could even wash our decks at anchor or underway after a tough, salty passage.

Water, Water Everywhere Page 1

Article: Water Water Everywhere!
By: Emily & Mark Fagan



However, I have to say that showering on a boat while rolling around on the Pacific ocean is a hilarious caper that has to be experienced to be believed!

This sprawling piece of watermaking equipment was spread out across compartments throughout our bilge and under our salon settees.

It included a sea strainer, two large pumps, three big water filters, two 4′ long desalination membranes, countless feet of high pressure and low pressure hoses, a mountain of stainless steel hose clamps, and two holes with valves drilled through the hull of our boat.

To put it mildly, installing our engine-driven watermaker was a mammoth undertaking. Mark did the entire job while bobbing around at anchor in San Diego bay, without electric power other than from our house batteries, despite having to do things like saw through bulkheads to run the high pressure hose. All I can say is: he’s amazing!

Sailboat Groovy anchored with Bella Marina at Glorietta Bay in San Diego Caifornia

Groovy (right) anchored with sistership Bella Marina (left) in Glorietta Bay, San Diego

Preparing to drill a hole in the boat's hull

Preparing to drill a 1″ hole in Groovy’s hull for the discharge brine water

We also did it without a landing dock for the dinghy, except for the few days here and there that we stayed at the Police Dock near the entrance to the bay.

When Mark needed parts, I tied the dink to a boulder and scrambled up some rocks on the end of Harbor Island to get to our truck. I got to know San Diego’s industrial areas and back streets surprisingly well!

Most cruising boats have watermakers, and most run on 12 volt DC power and produce 6 to 13 gallons per hour.

We knew from our years of RVing off the grid that we would want a lot more water than those small systems could produce easily, but we did not want to install a large generator to run a big watermaker either.


Watermaker installation manual errors

The manual had some major errors (sigh).

So, we invested in an engine-driven model that required having a special aluminum mounting bracket designed and constructed so we could hang the main high pressure water pump off the engine to allow it to move with the engine’s vibrations.

In the end, after a lot of cursing (the installation manual was very vague and often outright wrong), and some failures (the first two sets of watermaker membranes both failed: the first pair failed upon installation and the second pair failed after we’d been cruising in Mexico for 3 months), we got it all squared away and it worked like a charm.

The Cruising World Article can be read here: Water, Water Everywhere!

As the years went by, this miraculous piece of equipment became our absolute favorite piece of gear on our boat. To this day, when we think of Groovy, memories of our awesome watermaker and its grueling installation are among our fondest memories of the boat itself!

Cruising World is the premier American sailing magazine for cruisers (available in print and digital subscriptions), and it is with enormous pride that we are among the contributors this month.

The February 2015 edition of Cruising World Magazine is on newsstands now. Most chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble carry it in their magazine section, and it can be found at boating supply stores like West Marine as well.

Landing a feature article in Cruising World is not easy, as there are many cruisers who write brilliantly about their unique and truly inspiring sailing experiences. Famous cruising author Beth Leonard has said that the biggest sailing magazines receive 1,500 submissions per month! So, it was a wonderful surprise when I received an email from the editor saying:

“this is the absolutely clearest and best-organized technical/installation article I’ve ever read in CW. also very interesting. kudos to the author”

In September 2012, our first feature article appeared in their pages about our maiden voyage from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas when we began our cruise of Mexico.

Sailboats anchored near Coronado Island in San Diego Bay California

Sailboats anchored by the Coronado bridge in San Diego

I have been a Cruising World reader for several decades and recommend it highly for all sailors and future cruisers that are planning their own great escapes. When I first began contemplating seeing some of the world by boat nearly thirty years ago, teenager Tania Aebi was recounting her stories of her solo circumnavigation issue by issue.  The publication of Cruising World Magazine not only predates her cruise by a few decades but has presented the tales of many other impressive voyages since then as well.

I am extremely honored to be counted among their contributors this month, and I feel very fortunate that Mark’s incredible hands-on mechanical and electrical expertise made for an article they were eager to publish.

Our portfolio of other published work can be seen here which is also linked to the Press Room menu item above.

New to this site? Visit our Home Page to learn more about us, and see our Intro for Cruisers to find out where we keep all the good stuff, including tips for planning your cruise to Mexico, our Solar Power pages, and our ideas for outfitting your boat.


3 thoughts on “Cruising World Feature Article – Installing a Huge Watermaker!

  1. Mark impresses me with his mechanical skills. Have you ever considered a Reverse Osmosis system for your RV? I saw a video on a company the provides one for RV”S but I’m just not sure. Would love your thought’s if you have ever considered it.

    • No, we haven’t, Ed. We are never hooked up to a water source long enough, and besides, reverse Osmosis systems discard inordinate amounts of water. For 25 to 50 cents we can get a gallon of drinking water, and that’s what we do. We have 10 one gallon jugs that we fill at supermarkets and water kiosks around the country.

      However, when you are living in a sea of water, a desalination system makes a lot of sense!


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