One year of water making. Katadyn PowerSurvivor.

A year ago today, our Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E water maker was finally working. Since then it has produced almost all the water we use. I write “almost” as we are not averse to collecting rain water – mainly for washing and cleaning.

A year ago today, our Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E water maker was finally working. Since then it has produced almost all the water we use. I write “almost” as we are not averse to collecting rain water – mainly for washing and cleaning.

We spent a week away from the boat when we cycled in the Andes but other than that we have been living on board all year. In those 358 days we have produced nearly 4000 liters of water and have given away about 350 liters, so on average we use about ten liters a day. By pre-washing ourselves, our clothes and our dishes in salt water, we manage to live comfortably with that.

The system uses about 60 watts of electrical power and we run it only from wind and solar power. Unlike many of our neighbours, we never have to run our diesel motor or a petrol generator to produce electricity. The water maker is a good “energy puffer”; on days with too much power we can produce more water and on overcast, windless days, less.

The water quality has been good all year. We have regularly given the Seenomaden water and, after over twenty years at sea, they still say it is the best water they have tasted. We have a measuring device which always claimed our water had less than 300 parts per million (ppm) of salt in it. SY Mikado’s meter measured far less so we are not sure of the real value but our guess is an average of about 180 ppm.

Until now (touch wood) the system has run with no problems. We wash out and dry the two pre-filters every few days and occasionally lubricate the piston shafts as per the manual. We have seen black oily leaks from the piston shaft but they are irregular. We asked technical support for suggestions what it could be but received a standard “take it to a dealer” answer. Katadyn still do not appreciate how big the oceans are and how limited their dealer network is in the middle of the Pacific.

We bought a water maker to increase our freedom and that is exactly what it has done. If we want to stay a month on a dry coral reef, that is what we do. If it takes 54 days to cross an ocean, we still arrive with a full water tank. When the neighbours need water, no problem! We always have pure clean water and therefore a meal and a cup of coffee.

Technical bit. The PowerSurvivor has produced an average of 5.40 liters per hour during the last year. The flow rate is dependent on the battery voltage varying between 5.2 (under 12.8V) and 5.7 (above 14V). We have a pre-pump installed below the water line which can pump about 170 liters an hour through the pre-filters.

Anchor watch?

Recently we mentioned that the first nicht anchored off Fatu Hiva we sat outside on anchor watch. Gertrud sent us a message saying “What is anchor watch? If the anchor is holding? And what do you do if it isn’t?”

Traditionally while at sea you have your “watch” when you are on duty. On land you would talk about your shift. While at anchor the watch system continued. The person on watch ensured that the anchor held on the seabed and the vessel stayed where it should be. He also ensured that neighbouring vessels kept their distance.

Safely at anchor

Normally when we anchor we check that the anchor is holding by pulling back on it with full motor revs. In these warm waters we also swim over and look at it. After that we let an app on our phone “keep watch”.

Sometimes the anchor doesn’t hold when we dig it in because of rock, coral or seaweed (but with our Rocna anchor, that doesn’t happen often.) Then we have to lift it and try again. Once, in the Caribbean the anchor lost its grip after a day. That was strange and not something we want to happen while off cycling. Normally we ask the neighbours to keep an eye on Artemis and ensure she stays put.

As I write this squalls are blowing the boat from side to side but with the Rocna anchor dug in to sand and thirty meters of chain out, we are going to sleep well.

Safety lines can kill you.

We are now over 3000 kilometers away from the nearest continent – North America – and over 2000 kilometers from the nearest habitation – Easter Island. When the International Space Station passes overhead, the astronauts on board are our closest neighbours. We are “somewhat remote” and really don’t want anything bad to happen.

If we were to fall overboard, the one person remaining on board would need to stow the sails, start the engine and come back to look for our tiny head in between the swell. And calling for help is not an option out here. That is why we only leave the cockpit clipped in to a safety line.

Our lifejackets are clipped to strops and they are attached to jackstays that run from the cockpit to the bow. You can reach everything while firmly attached to the boat. Of course the lines jam and of course they are in the way but that is better than a last swim.

Safety lines – a death sentence for flying fish

Each day we find dead flying fish on deck who have landed on the boat and got stuck. Yesterday we found a really unlucky example. It had got its wing jammed under the jackstay and was therefore “safely” attached to the boat. A great place for us; a bad place for “Biggles”.

Ein Handtuch – die Antwort auf alles

Hätte mir mal jemand erzählt, dass ein Handtuch sooo wichtig ist, ich hätte es nicht geglaubt, aber nach fast zwei Jahren auf See sieht es komplett anders aus😊. Also:

Wenn es nachts so warm ist, dass du selbst nackt ohne Decke schwitzt wie ein Dattelaffe,😓😓 leg ein Handtuch auf das Leintuch und der Schweiß wird aufgesaugt.😅

Wenn in den Fenstern bzw. In den Rinnen darunter dass Wasser steht, egal ob Schwitz- oder Salzwasser – stopf ein Handtuch in die Fuge.👍

Wenn es während der Nacht kühl wird und der Tau alles feucht macht, wickel dich in ein Handtuch und du bist trocken und warm.🤭🤭

Nicht zuletzt um dich nach dem Duschen oder nach dem Schwimmen abzutrocknen aber das ist ja allgemein bekannt 😀😀.

Du siehst also wie verschieden einsetzbar dieses “Wunder” ist😂😂.

Power generation upgrade

Warning! Technical article. Lots of data and numbers and not funny.

Last year we wrote about our regenerative electricity production and about our Aquair towed generator which we use as a second wind generator. As long as the wind blew everything was working perfectly but when it stopped (as in Columbia) then we realized that our batteries were no longer working properly and the solar was under-dimensioned especially with our water maker now running. There were even a few days that we had to run the engine and that is awful.

So, while in Panama, we rebuilt and rewired things again.

The HRDi controller from Marlec regulates the power from the wind generator and can optionally work as a controller for 160 Watts of solar panels. It works but lacks an absorption phase during the charging which is not good for the batteries. Additionally only 12V modules can be connected which is not enough to allow the MPPT (max. power point tracking) to function efficiently early and late in the day or when the sky is overcast. We bought a Victron Energy SmartSolar 30/100 which has a three phase charging algorithm and can deal with a higher voltage. Really nice is the Bluetooth connection which allows us to see the actual and historical data on the smartphone.

the blue line in this screenshot from our data logger on 5. Feb. shows the controller working perfectly. Bulk, absorption and float. (All times are UTC and we are UTC+5 so sunrise is about twelve.)

We doubled our solar power by buying two new 80 Watt panels from a Chinese electrical store. With four panels rated at a total of 320 Watts, we could connect two strings of two panels and thus double the voltage available to the controller.  All four panels are mounted and wired above the cockpit and nicely hidden from below by the bikini sun cover.

Our batteries were sourced by Ardfern Yacht Center two years ago and, according to the manufacturer, were unsuited for use in a regenerative energy system. They were not deep cycle batteries and were not helped by the few times we ran them nearly empty. The lack of an absorption charge phase in the controller also shortened their life. We bought three deep cycle marine batteries – two for the services and one just to start the engine – manufactured by East Penn. They have a great document that describes which charging voltages to use and a competent and quick customer support who actually answer emails and wrote that we should use a float voltage of 13.8V and absorption of 14.7V.

Information_SignThe batteries are Deka DC31DT Marine Master manufactured by East Penn. Their data sheet for regenerative systems is online here. Gabriel Schneck is their great customer support person who helped us.

In Panama the system worked well despite us being anchored facing north and thus with shadow on the panels. Sailing south to Ecuador we produced 1400Wh of solar power one day and the next day – with absolutely no sun – 360Wh but our average after 33 days is about 700Wh. Each wind generator produces an average per day of about 200Wh and when on passage the towed generator produces between 150 and 800Wh depending on our speed.

Screenshot from Android App. Per Bluetooth we can see what is happening in the system. In real time and as a daily summary.

The first month suggests that we are now self sufficient in electricity and therefore also water production. Another piece of freedom.


The perfect cruiser’s dinghy packs up really small and can be stowed away for passages. At the same time it should be stable in use and capable of carrying people and cargo safely and relatively dryly.

Our inflatable Avon fulfils the first specification perfectly. It takes a little time to install the wooden slat floor and rowing seat then blow it up and just as long to reverse the process but it stows in the aft locker. Unfortunately it fails on the safe and dry requirement. If we use it to go up wind against waves of any size, the only suitable apparel is bathing clothes and everything we take needs to be extremely well packed. More than once it turned over in the wind and once set the outboard under water. When we visit another boat, we need to remove the motor and hang it on their boat if we want to relax.

Our Avon dinghy fully stocked

In the Caribbean the Avon was ripped directly next to a seam. Four attempts by us to repair it all failed and when we found an expert in Panama, he could only solve the problem by lifting part of the seam and glueing under it. His repair worked but we needed a more reliable tender.

The selection of small dinghys in Panama is not huge but with the help of Sheila (an American lady rebuliding her boat at Port Linton) we bought an AB dinghy with a fiberglass bottom. This is safe and stable but impossible to stow any where but between the mast and inner forestay. Sailing is, of course, a series of compromises so we have now developed a way of doing that. Once we have the AB dinghy in the water she is great fun. We bought her just before Annalena and Daniel arrived and “test drove” extensively in the San Blas Islands. In the Las Perlas archipeligo we completely filled her with water when a breaker swamped us just off the beach but, even full of water and sand, she can be rowed home.

With the dinghy, we received a free dinghy chap (a material cover to protect the dinghy from sun and rubbing). It was for a different size and type of dinghy and had no holes for the carrying handles or anything but did come with a bag of “blue bits” to sew as protection around any holes. Luckily we have a Heidi on board and she and her sewing machine can do anything. After hours and days of hard work, perspiration and many many broken needles, we had a cover that fitted and a matching bag to stow items while in transit.

Another sailor told us he had been quoted one thousand US dollars for such a dinghy chap and Heidi now says she fully understands why they cost so much. She doesn’t plan a production series.

Water maker. Katadyn 40E

A boat is freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want. With Artemis full of food and a fair wind, we can travel far away from civilisation and visit otherwise unreachable places. But you need water. Until now we have filled our tank where ever we have found a supply and, in the worst case, bought bottles. But the logistics detract from the enjoyment and, as we head out in to the Pacific, good drinking water will become a scarce commodity.

So we have invested in a small Katadyn 40E water maker. This magic device takes fifty liters from the surrounding sea and five ampere hours of electricity with which, through the miracle of reverse osmosis, it produces five liters of drinkable fresh water. We use about ten liters a day so in two hours we can produce all we need for that day.

This is one of the smallest devices used on boats but it has the advantage that we can power it from wind and solar power. It also fits nicely in our “bathroom” which is now the “water works”. We bought this model as every one wrote that it “just works”. Andi Blenk installed one this year and his positive feedback convinced us to invest.

Unfortunately our system didn’t “just work” as it had been incorrectly assembled in the factory. We needed many emails, lots of tests, much frustration and hundreds of extra dollars before we tasted our first fresh water but now it works and it was worth it.

We use a pre-pump to take sea water from the ocean and pass it through a sieve and two pre-filters. The standard system uses one filter but this way we can run it in silty anchorages. The filtered water enters the Katadyn and is then compressed and forced through a membrane which removes most of the salt leaving less than 200 parts per million which is far less than we can taste.

Produced and cooled with solar and wind power.

Another piece of freedom!

In the bowels of the boat

Boats have marine toilets. They look a lot like the toilets you are used to on land but work a little differently. You don’t just press a button and empty a days drinking water down the drain. Instead you pump a lever which sucks sea water out of the ocean and uses that to wash everything clean. At the same time the pump empties the contents out of the bowl. There is a switch with which you decide if you would like to empty straight in to the ocean – the preferred solution out at sea – or in to a holding tank on-board – when in a harbour or a bay. The contents of the tank can later be pumped out once you are back out in the middle of nowhere.

Artemis plumbing – with blockages

A great system that is flexible and reliable – until it breaks. The first indication we had that something was amiss was when it became harder to work the pump to empty the bowl. Shortly thereafter the pump to empty the tank began to sound as if it was working harder and then stopped working.

I was pretty sure the problem was a blockage in the outlet pipes as this is a “standard” problem on most boats that occurs every couple of years. I disconnected the outlet from the tank pump and was rewarded with a spume of dirty looking slurry. After that is was “just” a case of bending myself in to the hot, tiny space in front of the toilet, dismantling all the other pipes, beating them on the dock to break the calcium build up, washing them through and re-assembling. Really important was to assure that absolutely everything was very tight as most of the piping is below sea level and a break could lead to a sunken boat. Four hours later, and with Heidi’s help to feed hoses through tight spaces, everything was working again.

Once I had showered off the sweat and the all pervading smell of slurry, I was happy that everything was working. I drew a plan of the system so I would know how everything works next time and searched the Internet for some way to avoid the problem. Unfortunately the expert opinion seems to be that it is just a part of boat ownership so learn to like it.


Hätte mir jemand vor einem Jahr erzählt, dass Elektrizität spannend und interessant ist!!! da hätte ich ihn ausgelacht und jetzt schreib ich sogar einen Blog darüber.

Alle Elektrizität die uns an Bord zu Verfügung steht, wird aus Wind, Sonne oder Wasser gewonnen – außer wenn der Motor läuft, der lädt die Batterien ebenfalls. Als wir in Ardfern gestartet sind, hatten wir eine kleine Solarpanele und einen älteren Windgenerator, in England bei Neills Schwester haben wir dann zwei neue 80 Watt Solarpanelen und einen neuen Windgenerator gekauft, der über ein Steuergerät mit den Batterien verbunden ist und jetzt kannst du genau sehen, wieviel Ampere die Sonne und der Wind produzieren. Ich bin regelrecht zu einem “Srom Junkie” geworden, denn oft sitzt ich da und bin einfach neugierig, was gerade passiert, dann geh ich runter und schau auf die Anzeige. Ihr könnt euch kaum vorstellen, wieviel Unterschied es macht, wenn du die Solarpanele immer nach der Sonne ausrichtest, plötzlich springt die Anzeige von 3 oder 4 Amp. Leistung auf 6 oder 7 und das bedeutet, dass du deutlich mehr Strom produzierst und dass bedeutet wiederum, dass du sogar den Kühlschrank einschalten kannst, denn der alleine braucht schon 3 Amp, um zu kühlen. Wir haben auch einen Wassergenerator an Bord, der beim Segeln hinterm Boot hergezogen wird und den wir auch wenn wir vor Anker sind zu einem 2. Windgenerator umbauen können. Nachdem wir hier auf Aruba einen neuen Kühlschrank eingebaut haben, der natürlich viel weniger Strom benötigt haben wir uns auch noch einen Wassermacher gekauft. Mit der Energie, die wir vom Kühlschrank sparen, können wir – rechnerisch, wie es dann in Wirklichkeit aussieht werden wir sehen – zwischen 5 – 10 Liter Trinkwasser pro Tag machen. Und falls wir irgendwann all unsere bestellten Sachen bekommen und endlich nach Kolumbien weiter segeln werde ich euch mehr darüber berichten können.

Ich hab mir wirklich nie Gedanken über Strom gemacht, denn daheim wenn es dunkel ist machst du das Licht an, schaltest die Waschmaschine ein, wenn du dran denkst aber nicht wenn du genügend Energie hast – verrückt. Jetzt bin ich so alt geworden ohne jegliches Gefühl für Elektrizität und jetzt lerne ich jeden Tag neue Sichtweisen und Perspektiven kennen – ich bin neugierig, wie sich das auf mein “Stromverhalten” nach einem Leben auf dem Boot auswirkt.

Chat ein holländischer Architekt, der sich mit seiner Familie auch auf Weltumsegelungstour befindet, hat uns erzählt, dass er vor seiner Reise Niedrig Energiehäuser designt hat, doch wenn er zurück kommt, wird er Häuser planen, die Energie produzieren. Ich bin gespannt, ob es Menschen gibt, die diese Mehrkosten tatsächlich investieren um langfristig etwas für sich und die Umwelt zu tun.

Jetzt haben wir uns auch noch eine Nähmaschine gekauft um einen Sonnenschutz zu nähen und verschiedene kleine Projekte hab ich mittlerweile schon geschafft, wie z.B. eine Werkzeugrolle und einen Sonnenschutz für unseren Tiller.

Bosch power tools

“I wish I had a set of tools like Heidi and Neill!”

How often have we heard this from tradesman that we have had on board? They work on boats all day but arrive with a motley assortment of tools and when they need “something special” they need to go back to the workshop to find it. Or – they borrow ours 🙂

Before we left we bought a set of Bosch power tools and they have definitely been one of our best investments.

Bosch power tools

We charge the two 12 Volt batteries up using the excess power that we generate with wind and sun and most of the time they are plugged in to the torch and vacuum cleaner both of which get used all the time. Vacuuming up dirt is so much better than redistributing it with a brush and a good torch is vital for looking in to the dark corners or searching for Artemis in the night with the dinghy.

We also have two drills, one of which can also be used as a power screw driver, and a reciprocating tool which we can use to saw woods, plastics or metal and use as a sander. Very useful when maintaining a boat with so much wood work.

After sixteen months of use, the power tools are still paying for themselves every day and hopefully will continue to impress tradesman all over the world.