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Conserving Water While Boondocking


wa_desert_rat

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I've seen some comments about how to make 100 gallons of water go farther when boondocking and since I have some little experience with the ultimate form of boondocking I thought I'd address the forum with my methods.

 

First of all, we were on a 32 foot sailboat on the ocean (salt) with 70 gallons of fresh water in our tanks. On some passages we could expect to be underway (at 4kts average speed 24/7) for 30 days. So how did we make 70 gallons last for two adults and a child for that long?

 

1. No power water pump. All water was pumped by hand. This greatly discourages leaving the water running. Trust me.

 

2. No shower. Well, we did take showers, but we did not have a "shower" on board (nor did we make much use of solar showers). We had a 1-gallon garden sprayer which we filled with hot and cool water so that it was comfortable. We wet ourselves down, soaped up, scrubbed down, then rinsed off.

 

3. Rain squalls. We would erupt onto the deck at the sound of rain squalls. Free shower.

 

4. No hot water system. We heated all water on the stove (a kerosine stove... with each burner primed with alcohol so it wouldn't spew flaming kerosine all over the galley). If you use a water heater then you waste a lot of water going down the sink until the hot water begins to flow. Plus you use a lot more of it. We used a teakettle tp rinse dishes and to add hot water to the garden sprayer.

 

Now I have to admit here that we had an advantage in that we had unlimited salt water for doing things like pre-rinse of dishes, soap down for a bath and subsequent rinse in salt (with a final rinse in fresh) and - most importantly - the head (toilet) (at sea we could legally pump all waste overboard). But we never ran out of water. Later in our cruise (all in the 1980s) we had a reverse osmosis desalinator that ran off 12vdc (plus two solar panels and one wind generator I built with a hand-carved propeller) but we never did add pressure water.

 

A llot of water is wasted in the toilet. I am seriously considering a composting toilet. Reports indicate that you can go 3 weeks before disposing of the solid material (the liquid material is disposed of every 2 or 3 days; making a cactus happy).

 

And, having said all that, I don't plan to make the DW hand-pump fresh water but she does rinse dishes with water heated on the stove in a tea kettle. It takes one tea kettle of hot water to rinse the dinner dishes. Maybe with a cup for tea left over.

 

Oh... you might wonder how much diesel fuel we carred. 35 gallons of that. And we never ran out. The wind can be a wondeful thing. :D

 

WDR

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Three people for a month on 70 gallons, wow! I can see how some of the suggestions can translate from sailing to RV'ing, but caution should be used for #3--do NOT attempt in a crowded campground!

I assume if I am in a crowded campground I would have plenty of water! On the other hand if I am boondocking in the places we really like, #3 would work just fine. :)

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We collect all the water that comes out the faucet while waiting for the hot. In the kitchen it just goes into the Brita Pitcher. In the shower into a basin and then we use that for flushing. We have gotten so accustomed to not letting the water run that we do it even in a campground.

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We had some visitors to our sailboat on day. We were anchored in a small bay and met some folks on the beach (while the kids were playing after morning school). It was in the tropics and everyone was in tee-shirts and swimsuits or shorts. They wanted to see what a cruising yacht looked like so we ferried them - one at a time - in our dingy (8-foot dinghies don't carry a lot... we later got an inflatable sportboat and a 7-hp Yamaha) out to the boat and helped them get aboard (not an easy task when both the dinghy and the sailboat are moving around a little.

 

Once we were below in the salon chatting a rain squall came over us. As one person we jumped up, grabbed soap, and raced up the companionway for a free fresh water shower.

 

Our guests looked a little nonplussed until we explained how water worked on a sailboat. :D

 

WDR

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The "greenies" say we can save energy by peeing in the shower.

Our shower was a 1-gallon Sears garden sprayer (the kind you can pump up). We usually showered on deck if the weather was ok and if we were anchored in warm water (usually the case) we would wet down with fresh water, lather up, scrub and then jump into the salt water to rinse.

 

Then fresh water final rinse (before the salt water dried... which would leave salt on your skin) and sun dry.

 

I suspect when our son was a 1-year-old he peed in the shower; he peed everywhere else. :P

 

WDR

 

PS: Our son was born while we were cruising and was 2-1/2 when we came back. He was born in Guaymas, Sonora, MX and registered as a US citizen at the US consulate in Hermosillo, Son. He was born in a clinic ashore in (Pabellon Guadalupe) and was on the boat that evening and did not sleep ashore again until six months later in a friend's home in Tubac, AZ.

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Protocol on grey water disposal is mixed. Some boondocking areas, you can toss the dishwater on the ground. This is generally not permitted in forest service CGs and definitely not in National Park CGs. Like everything else, you have to be considerate: use biogdegradible soap and make sure that the waste food is scraped off the plates/pans into trash and not dumped on ground. Taking outdoor showers is usually permitted in boondocking areas (no one around anyway) but possibly not in NF and NP campground. Don't think you can dump grey water tanks but we have gotten permission to do such in Yucatan (into the flower garden please, the flowers are wilting)

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