Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Katadyn solves our water issues


In need of an emergency manual watermaker and wishing for a 12V one, we approached Katadyn for sponsorship.  We only work with companies whose products we would use regardless of sponsorship.

After 4 years of filling our water tanks like this, a desalinator was on our wishlist!

After 4 years of filling our water tanks like this, a desalinator was on our wishlist!

After four years of hefting water in buckets from the shore (and sometimes rather bad tasting water at that) and after four years of knowing our life-raft was not fully equipped, we’re thrilled to have Katadyn watermakers on board.  Their most energy-conserving watermaker—the PowerSurvivor40E, drawing only 4 amps—will allow us to be completely self-sufficient aboard CelesteWe’ll no longer have to depend solely on water from shore or on rain catchment, and we’ll still be able to generate the electricity we need with our solar panels.  While preparing for the Arctic, Seth and I originally worried about our water solutions.  On our circumnavigation we carried over 150 gallons aboard the heavy-displacement Heretic, which lasted us about 6 weeks without rationing.  We never use potable water for anything other than drinking or cooking (and often use half seawater for cooking), but we drink a lot of water to stave off seasickness. Unlike Heretic, however, Celeste is a medium-displacement boat and weight makes more of a difference to her sailing and trim.  So she only carries 100 gallons in her water tanks.  This might be fine for some cruises, but water is scarce and expensive in the Arctic.

PowerSurvivor 40E takes up almost no space! Installed and ready to use!

PowerSurvivor 40E takes up almost no space! Installed and ready to use!

We debated filling the bilge with several dozen 2.5-gallon jugs, significantly adding to Celeste’s weight and taking up a lot of storage room.  Nothing is more essential than drinking water, so we were willing to do that.  But really we needed a desalinator.  Many watermakers are big units which require so much power that you’d need to run the engine or have a separate fossil-fuel generator, and Seth and I wanted to avoid all that.  Also, Celeste’s carefully designed interior left no room for a big watermaker.  Katadyn’s PowerSurvivor 40E was the answer! As the most compact and lowest-draw desalinator, it would fit aboard Celeste and allow us to continue covering our electrical needs pretty much as before.  It has 40% fewer parts than its predecessor, making it simple to install, use, and maintain, and ours has the newest updated motor drive, so we’ll benefit from the latest engineering to come out of Katadyn’s state-of-the-art Zurich factory!  We’ll be sure to care for our watermaker properly: we have Katadyn’s Maintenance Kit aboard since we’ll be heading so far from civilization.

Manual Survivor for the abandon-ship bag.

Manual Survivor for the abandon-ship bag

Despite the fact that we actually did so on our circumnavigation (and worried about it!), no boat should venture offshore without a manual desalinator for emergency situations.  Water is one of the very few things the human body can’t do without.  You can survive several weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water.  Katadyn first developed their watermaker technology with life raft emergencies in mind, and the company continues to be the only established manufacturer of hand-operated units.  The Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E converts to manual operation in case you lose electrical power on board.  For abandoning ship, though, we needed a separate manual watermaker to take with us in the life raft.  Katadyn designed its hand-operated desalinators upon request from the US Government and the units are now widely used by militaries and adventurers around the world.  We’ll have a ManualSurvivor 06 in our ‘rapid ditch bag’. Weighing only 2.5 pounds, it can still produce nearly a liter an hour.

Katadyn is able to achieve the low-draw of its electric desalinators—and hand operation!—through its patented Energy Recovery System. A lot of pressure (and thus a lot of power) is needed to force seawater through a membrane fine enough to remove the salts.  Katadyn solved this problem by diverting the high pressure briny waste to the rear of the piston to aid the next stroke.  This reduces the energy expended by 90%, thus allowing for operation by hand or by 12-volt direct-current electrical systems.

We’ll be giving updates on our experiences with our Katadyn watermakers, but until then, check out their many innovative products at http://www.katadyn.com!

 UPDATE, November 2015: Check out how our PS40 did in near-freezing water at the edge of the polar pack ice with this video!

Comments are closed.