Water Maker Update

Our Schenker Watermaker has been running perfectly for the last 4 months (touch wood). The unit is making 30 litres an hour at a water temperature of 23 degreec C.  I’m changing the pre filter every 4 days and cleaning it with sea water rinsing in freshwater then hanging it out to dry in the sun for four days. This way two filters last around two months.

The total cost per year for filters is around £60 plus cleaning chemicals and pickling chemicals this brings the total service cost to around £100 per year.

More news on the watermaker in due course.

Update on Watermaker issue

Have now been using the watermaker for a week or so and (touch wood) no problems. It’s running very well with no noise or screaching at all.

The machine is making 31.5 litres an hour with a water temperature of 19 degrees C.

Wach this space 🙂

Investigation Results

We had the following email from Jim McDonald early in October giving the details of his investigation:

“Just a short note to update you on your watermaker. I ran the machine for 10 hours and whilst it was working fine, producing good quality water, There was a squeeking noise from one side of the cycle.
I put both SC1 & SC2 Chemicals through the machine for 30 mins each and whilst it lessened it a bit, it was still there. I spoke with the Schenker factory who said that whilst it was not a common occurance, it has been known that machines can be noisy at times with the noise often disappearing. They said this would cause no harm to the machine. They stated how important it is that the prefilter is changed regularly and that every possibility must be made to ensure that no dirt is allowed to enter the watermaker.

I stripped down the machine and could find no debris inside although there was fouling to one of the pistons.

There were also some very small scratches on both the top and bottom rods. This would suggest that at some time some debris has passed through the watermaker. They were not deep enough to damage the machine. I also found that there were some marks on two of the seats on the non return valves. Whilst Im not sure that they would cause a problem, I have changed them. All the major o rings on both the top and bottom parts of the ERS have been changed as well.

I am now running the machine for a further 10 hours after which I will pickle it and leave it ready for collection. The noise has now gone and the machine is working normally.”

So this has hopefully solved the problem allthough the root cause has still not been found. The water goes through a 50 micron pre filter and then through a 5 micron sediment filter before it enters the machine. We change the filter every four days and wash it through and let it dry in the sun. Another washed filter takes its place. Once a month a new filter is added to the rotation. I am convinced that no debry can enter the sustem through the water and I am sure a 4 micron piece will not dammage the system as otherwise Schenker would have a smaller filter element.

We will put the Watermaker to use again next Spring. So we will see how it fairs.

Charts, GPS and Plotters

Our initial setup was paper charts with a Yeoman Plotter and a Garmin 128 GPS with external antenna. This really worked well, the Yeoman plotter was easy to use. Just clip a chart onto the plotter surface (like a very large mouse mat) align the chart on the mat and off you go. Move the Yeoman ‘mouse’ anywhere on the chart and it will give you a bearing and a range to that point, it will also give you a time to go to that point which I have found very useful.  In these days of chart plotters and PC navigation it may seem out of date but any novice or visitor on board can be shown how to plot a position on the chart in minutes. The mouse has four red lights within its plotting bezel and you move the mouse around until they go out and thats where you are on the world.  Easy.

The only thing is that charts are expensive and take up a lot of room but there we are you need them and thats that. Our GPS is the Garmin 128 and we have never had any problems with it for the last seven years.

Current upgraded DC System

After much serious reading and research from books, Internet (I recommend Victrons “Energy Unlimited”) and cruising people we met on our travels we decided to have the following setup:

  1. Four 90W Phaesun Solar panels
  2. Blue Sky MPPT Regulator
  3. Six 225AH Trojan deep cycle 6V Batteries
  4. Victron 2500W /120 amp Multi Plus Inverter / Charger
  5. Victron 3.6 KW Isolation Transformer
  6. Upgraded DC Busbar system
  7. Upgraded DC wiring
  8. Dedicated Windlass/Bow thruster Battery

After reading Victrons online book “Energy Unlimited” it became clear that their way of looking at a DC charging system was carefully thought through. Allowing for some “Sales” talk I believe the concept of making the batteries the heart of a small scale energy system is based on sound logic.

To start with an exact figure for amp hours per day usage was needed. This was calculated in Excel (download the file here and modify to suit) initially the solar panel output was a guess but after one year use it is now based on actual output figures. The new system looked something like this:

(download larger image)

New DC System

My thinking was that in the summer months from say May to September enough days with sunshine were available to support all loads as last year (2007) we always had amps to spare. In other words even though we used the washing machine once a day (powered by the inverter), run the watermaker for three hours per day and run all other consumers the batteries were charged by 3:00pm. The exception to this was when there was a cloudy day or indeed if we had rain.  On these days it was necessary to run the new suitcase petrol generator (much quieter) for an hour to top up the batteries via the 120 amp battery charger in the Victron.

DC System 1st four years

Spray’s first DC system consisted of three 110 AH ‘leisure’ batteries giving 330 AH total and one 110 AH engine start battery. The alternator on the engine was a 55A ‘normal’ car type which came with the engine. I figure one and a half hours of engine run per day would re charge the batteries. With one day per week in a Marina to top up water and do washing and maintenance.  When I designed the system it was based on a total AH consumption of 60 AH per 24 hours. This was based on adding up all the consumers such as light bulbs, fridge and so on. At the time the only other charging source was a battery charger which was run off an 5kw petrol generator.  Below is a rough sketch of the system.

This all worked well all the way to the Med as we had to use Marinas in Portugal and in Spain. Once we got to the Balearic’s everything changed. Marinas were very expensive in the summer months. In some places like Ibiza and Majorca up to €60 per night. So this meant using the petrol generator a lot. Not so good in quiet anchorages as other boats had to put up with the noise.

In 2003 our three ‘leisure’ batteries would not hold the charge so we replaced them at a cost of €300 to three more ‘leisure’ type batteries as this was the only thing available on Menorca. They looked more like car batteries than our previous ‘leisure’ ones. We needed to have a serious re-think

We decided as we were going to have a refit in 2005 as the paint system failed (another story see the Paint System Categories) we would upgrade the whole charging system integrating solar panels, inverter battery charger to run a washing machine and a watermaker.  This also meant changing battery banks as 330 AH was not sufficient to support all these new loads.

Watermaker Aug 07 to Jul 08

The replacement Modular 30 arrived late July 07 and I fitted it under the bunk in the “utility” room as this would place the unit totally under water.  Previous location was above the waterline but only by about 400mm. The Schenker user manual suggest placing it below the waterline but it also said the pump would be fine to about 1 meter above.  The unit was started and it was run for three hours on average per day until Noveember 5th when we decided to winter in a Marina.

The unit was still not completely free of air but did not cut out as the other one did. It was making a screeching sound which sounded like air in the system  Jim suggested that this was indeed air and it would sort itself out in due course.  It did not do so up to the date we moved into the Marina.

Through the winter (Nov 5th to March 6th) we flushed the unit through with its in built flush system to stop any growth and smell building up over the winter. The unit was started again in March and run for 3 hours again per day. This is where the problems started again. The noise got worse and the unit started to run at a higher pressure just like the Smart 30. Again the blame went to the “air in the system” but all my attempts to remove this “air” did not work.

The unit still made water, around 26 litres on average per hour but it kept cutting out, resetting itself and was I must admit not very reliable. In May 08 the water started to taste salty so I emailed Jim McDonald again to get some advice. He suggested to leave the unit running for 10 minutes before switching it to tank. Well I thought this was a bit much, when it was running well it only needed 2 minutes and the water was fine. Anyway emails went back and for but no solution was found. Eventually with the noise getting worse and the cutting out happening more and more I had had enough. I removed the unit and checked every single hose connection. Nothing.  I then removed the pump unit and found a leak in the accumulator. This was clearly a manufacturers fault as the seal in the accumulator was not fitted correctly.

This I fixed and the unit was reconnected but no, the same faults where still there. I then took the watermaker unit out again and with the help of the supplied ERS (Energy Recovery System) maintenance booklet, I took the ERS apart. Well, no wonder it was making a noise and no wonder it was working above pressure. Two of the 12 ‘O’ rings where broken. Now surely Schenker should have recognised the symptoms but they did not. The unit was slowly but surely breaking the ‘O’ rings over the previous months and eventually it got so bad that it would not run properly at all.

I replaced the rings and refitted the unit.  It ran perfectly. 32 litres of water per hour at 5.6 bar. Perfect. I advised Jim of this and we agreed that I returned the unit for testing to the UK when we visited our family and friends in August.  Arriving at Schenkers in Weston Super Mare we explained again to Jim all the symptoms the unit was showing using photos and eve video. He said he would check with Schenker in Italy to see if any other units had ever had the same fault. Also he seemed to recall a unit he sold prior to ours having a similar ‘o’ ring fault.

We agreed that he would run the unit constantly for a Month while we were here and see how it fared. We left the unit with him so watch this space.

Watermaker June 07 to July 07

After two months navigating through the French Canal system we popped out in Port St Louise Du Rhone. After fitting the mast we motored out to the anchorage and with a water temperature of 17 degrees centigrade we started the watermaker. The Smart 30 made 25 litres of water per hour so we were very happy.

The water quality was excelent, very tasty sweet and cool.  The unit still had a bit of air in it which was difficult to remove but it seemed to be working fine.

The unit was in use from 6 June 2007 but only intermitantly as we were on our way to Greece via Corsica, Italy and Sicily and we managed to fill up at the odd Marina or two on the way as anchoring was not always possible.  We arrived in Greece on the 3rd July 2007 and the unit was then used every day for three hours.

Here the problems started. The trapped air was imposibble to get out and it started working at an increased pressure. Normaly it should run at around 6 bar but it was going up to 8 bar and sometimes higher (9 bar) it would then cut out as the pressure switch is set to around 8.5 bar. I spent many hours in our “utility” room trying to sort it out.

I had to admit defeat and contacted Jim McDonald from Schenker in the UK. He was very helpfull sending me a new upper valve unit which he thought was faulty. But alas it was not. The unit kept on cutting out. I was not very happy. £3500 and it did not work.  Jim suggested I upgraded the unit to a Modular 30 unit this had two membranes instead of the one on the Smart 30 and he has never had an owner who has had a problem with this unit. I was sceptical but agreed.  The whole thing cost me £680 more but Jim did pay for the delivery of the unit.


Initially I thought that we did not need a watermaker and we managed without one for the first 5 years of our cruising life. However, we could only stay in an anchorage or bay for a limited number of days as we were governed by our internal water tanks which hold 350 litres each. They have lasted us 4 weeks but we had to be carefull of how much we used and eventually we had to leave to fill up with water.

Yes you can get water in the Med but in the western Med it always ment going into a marina.  This I thought was not going to be a problem. Well it turned out to be a financial problem. Marina costs were soaring.  In our pilot book prices were €12 to €14 a night, well it was more like €30 a night. Sometimes they would let you fill up water for around €7 per fill but not often.

So after our 2005 refit we decuded to invest in a watermakeer. Our friends Rowan and Roly have had a Seafresh Watermaker for many years but it needed a generator to run it so I went looking for a 12volt version. Not to many of these around. An Italien Company made the Schenker Smart 30. The sales info said it produced 30 litres of water an hour using 8 amps at 12volt. It sounded ideal. We bought one costing £3500. Now we can stay in a cala for as long as we liked water no longer a problem.  I fitted it in September 2006 ready for the trip back through the canals in November.

The weather was realy bad in late 2007 and we did not get away until 20th December, then only as far as Falmouth. Our initial idea was to get into the canals and winter somewhere near Paris but it was not possible so we cut our losses and wintered in Falmouth.

We had to leave the Marina on the 31th March as the price rose from £230 per month to £640 on the 1st April so we went up river and tied to a pontoon. Here we tested the Smart 30 but it peoduced very little water. I think the reason was the water temperature which was only 8 degrees celcius. The user manual stated the 30 litre production is at 25 digrees centigrade. Oh well never mind we wait until we arrive in the Med.