We are racing across the Atlantic Ocean, a vast expanse of water, in fact all we have seen for the past 12 days is water, our boat and the sky. Yet we were devoid of the type of water needed to stay alive; fresh water.
Our water maker gave up the ghost early in the trip, further investigation revealed that the motherboard had blown up and a subsequent rewiring of the board proved futile as the unit failed to pressurize, part of the process as the unit takes in salt water, desalinates it via pressurization and a series of membranes in order to produce fresh, drinkable water, producing roughly 50 litres per hour.
Roughly 400 miles into our 3300 mile race, it would have been too easy to turn around and head back to land. However being the driven and adventurous crew that we are, we resorted to using our emergency water maker, which involves hand pumping and can make roughly 10 litres per hour. Take into account there are 14 of us on board, allow 2.5 litres per person per day plus additional stock to fill our water tank, so you start to get the picture that this little pump has become an intricate and critical part of our existence!
Day 1 of manual pumping, conditions were fair, allowing us to drop a bucket over the stern to collect sea water for the process.
Day 2 and we've picked up speed and the risk of losing a bucket as we collect water is deemed too risky, so some spare hose is commandeered to siphon the sea water into our bucket.
Day 3 and we are not speedy enough for the siphon process to work, so our system gets an upgrade by way of adding a bilge pump and a boat hook for easy access to drop the pick up hose over the transom: rudimentary yet functional!
To make enough water to fill one of our 600ml water bottles requires 6 litres of sea water. Running the numbers we have collected 3950 litres of sea water to run through our pump to make 395 litres of drinking water. Which has involved about 121 hours of pumping!
Yesterday was a monumental day, with 2 days until the end of our race, we stopped pumping, having accumulated enough water in our tank. There are mixed emotions, relief yet also a sense of loss, as our structured pumping schedule is no longer required, something that had become so integral with our watch system! All in all, our tiny little Katadyn water maker has saved the day, ensuring we stay in this race and ultimately stay alive!
We are all looking forward to drinking water that doesn't have a slightly salty taste to it, swiftly followed by a cheeky beer!