Last Updated by Daniel Wade, October 1, 2021
With the right Watermaker, the ocean becomes an almost immeasurable supply of fresh and clean drinking water to keep you hydrated during your offshore sailing adventures.
Many sailors do spend a lot of their time and money on various parts of the sailboat including the sails, engine, electronics, and generators especially when preparing for long-distance voyages.
While there's absolutely nothing wrong with this, they often overlook one crucial part of general human survival: having an ample supply of fresh drinking water.
Whether you have freshwater drinking tanks on your sailboat or planning to cruise in areas where you can easily access clean drinking water, the hassle involved in having to come to the dock to fill the water tanks can be quite overwhelming.
This is exactly why you need to find the best watermakers for sailboats.
Like many other nautical technologies, watermakers have significantly advanced in the last few decades to become very efficient and more reliable. They're no longer a luxury on your sailboat but a necessity. Better still, watermakers have become relatively affordable and are meant to keep you hydrated as you explore areas that do not have clean and fresh drinking water.
In this article, we'll take a look at how watermaker systems work, highlight their benefits, and highlight the best sailboat watermakers on the market right now. At the end of this read, you should be able to choose the best watermaker for your sailboat.
Benefits of Having a Watermaker on Your Sailboat
The freedom and security that come with having full water tanks on your sailboat are of immense importance, especially if you're cruising in an area where fresh drinking water is hard to come by and quite expensive when you do. As such, having a watermaker aboard your sailboat is no longer a luxury like it used to be in the past. With a steady supply of fresh and clean water, your life on the sailboat will be a lot better. This is because you'll have enough clean water to drink, cook, wash, and shower, which is beneficial if you want to enjoy your sailing adventures.
Honestly speaking, many sailors do not actually need a watermaker. Well, if you're planning to sail just near the shores, then there's a chance that you can easily access fresh and clean water by the dock. But this can be limiting if you've been dreaming of going off the grid and sailing to some exotic and unknown places in the world.
With that in mind, a watermaker makes a lot of sense to most sailors. You won't have to worry about having to carry aboard gallons of freshwater for cooking and drinking during your voyage. You won't have to treat freshwater as a precious commodity that must last until you can refill at the next port. With a watermaker, you can simply go ocean crossing without worrying about running out of water.
A watermaker allows you to have a steady supply of fresh and clean water to keep everybody well-hydrated and healthy. You can clean the water anytime you feel like and all you have to do is replace the filter once in a while and you'll be good to go. In essence, a watermaker is probably one of the most important equipment to have aboard your sailboat, so installing it is of great importance if you're a serious sailor.
The Basics of Modern Marine Watermakers
Modern marine watermakers essentially follow the principle of reverse-osmosis to produce pure, drinking water from seawater. During this process and through very high pressure, seawater is forced through a semipermeable membrane that only allows freshwater molecules to pass through it but not salt, bacteria, or any other organic material. The newly made pure, drinking water is then piped to the sailboat's water tanks while the leftover (brine) is discharged overboard.
Even though marine watermakers may differ in the type of pump that's employed and how it is driven, this is one of the most important features in every watermaker. In most cases, water can be electrically pumped or powered directly off the boat's engine. If you have an AC generator or alternator on your boat, it would make much sense to use the AC output to drive the watermaker directly. You can also choose the DC-powered models if you rely on renewable energy from solar or wind. Alternatively, you can still go for AC-powered watermakers but you'll have to buy an inverter.
All in all, DC-powered watermakers are more efficient since they integrate a power-saving energy recovery system (ERS). You must, however, keep in mind that your energy consumption levels might be quite high if you're sailing in colder and saltier areas. This is because the water purification process might be a bit slower in such areas. As such, you should consider investing in a more high-powered watermaker system if you will be sailing in colder and saltier areas than if you're planning to sail more in warm and less salty areas.
As far as an engine-driven watermaker is concerned, you should mount the high-pressure pump on the engine so that it can be belt-driven using an automatic clutch. An engine-driven watermaker should be your first option if you want large quantities of fresh drinking water. This is more productive than AC or DC-powered watermakers. Even with a relatively small engine, this setup has an automatic regulator that constantly pumps the water. With that in mind, engine-driven watermakers are ideal if you want to reduce your energy consumption. To put it into perspective, an engine-driven watermaker can lower energy consumption by an enormous 80%, especially when compared with conventional AC or DC-powered watermaker systems.
How to Choose the Best Watermaker for Your Sailboat
There are many factors to consider when looking for the best watermakers for your sailboat. Here are the most important things to consider.
Your Freshwater Needs
One of the most important things to consider before spending your money on a watermaker is your freshwater needs. What quantity would be enough to keep you going on your sailing adventure? While the quantity might differ from one sailor to the other or from one boat to the other, you should consider the number of gallons that a particular watermaker can produce per day. This will help you in choosing the ideal watermaker; a model that will ensure that you never run out of water. Do not underestimate your water needs, especially if you're planning to sail with your children or if you're planning to stay on the boat for an extended period of time.
Do you have enough space on your vessel to accommodate the type of watermaker you're looking to buy? While most watermakers are designed to fit in the smallest of space, you should consider the actual size of the watermaker and find out whether you have enough space on your vessel to fix it.
Watermakers can run on electricity, renewable energy such as wind and solar (if you have them on your vessel), or both. When looking for the perfect watermaker, you should consider how to power it and whether or not the watermaker has low-energy consumption, which is definitely a great feature. Again, there are also engine-driven watermakers, so it's important to know exactly what you're going for.
Watermakers have a reputation for being difficult to maintain. Fortunately, the equipment and components have improved in the last few years so you should go for a model that's easy to maintain. You should use the watermaker in water bodies that look good, You should avoid using the watermaker in dirty harbors as you may have to change the filters every so often or even damage your watermaker altogether.
Best Watermakers for Sailboats
Let's take a look at the best watermakers available on the market right now.
The Ultra Whisper
Engineered by limited electrical options that can run on either DC or AC, THE Ultra Whisper by Sea Recovery is one of the best watermakers currently available on the market. In addition to being very quiet, this watermaker features an automatic operation that requires very minimal operator adjustment.
This watermaker is ideal for small powerboats and sailboats since it can serve as an efficient water supply. This model boasts about a 75% reduction in power consumption, especially when compared to other models.
Smooth and quiet water production
Can produce up to 2,280 liters per day
Ideal for small boats
It is energy efficient
It might not be perfect for large boats
If you want a watermaker model that can produce 60 liters per hour flawlessly and with no maintenance apart from changing the filters, look no further than the Echotec Watermaker. This model is designed for ultra-reliable performance and easy customer installation.
This watermaker is made from high-quality components that can withstand the continuous harsh marine environment, making it one of the most durable watermakers on the market. This is essentially a series of modular watermakers ranging from 12-volt to 24-volt DC-powered models. They bring forth energy efficiency, a computerized energy recovery system, and ultimate reliability to ensure that you never run out of fresh drinking water while out there on the sea.
Comes with a very low speed
Not ideal for large boats
Spectra Katadyn PowerSurvivor
As a compact and energy-efficient watermaker, the Spectra Katadyn PowerSurvivor is arguably the most affordable watermaker currently available on the market. We are talking about a model that only requires 4 amps to desalinate water for your sailboat. It can produce 1.5 gallons of fresh drinking water per hour, which is an excellent return for a watermaker of its size.
It is also one of the most portable watermakers around. You can choose to either install it permanently or temporarily in case you want to take it somewhere else. This portability is also essential if you're looking for a space-saving model that can fit in the smallest of compartments. Its simple but rugged design is essential in ensuring that it can perform at its best even in harsh marine conditions. In terms of its power capabilities, this is the only model on the market that will convert to a hand-operated system or manual power if there's a power shortage.
Portable and lightweight
Rugged design to withstand harsh marine environments
Efficient and reliable
Can revert to manual power if there's a power shortage
Perfect for off-grid sailing
Gasoline or diesel can easily damage the semi-permeable membrane
Village Marine - Little Wonder Series
Whether you're looking for a watermaker for your small sailboat or looking for a watermaker that can efficiently serve those huge yachts, the Village Marine Little Wonder Series provides everything. This model is meant for experienced sailors who are looking for various capacity options. This watermaker weighs just about 69 pounds but can produce nearly 180 gallons of fresh drinking water each day.
Designed with a low RPM high-pressure pump, this model remains one of the most efficient and economical watermakers on the market. That's not all; this watermaker is designed with corrosion-resistant features and is one of the most serviceable watermakers in the game. It is reliable, quiet, and portable; all factors that make a watermaker great.
Easy to operate
Efficient and reliable
Easy to maintain
Quiet and versatile
It doesn't have automatic adjustment controls
Ventura 150 Watermaker
This is one of the most versatile watermakers on the market. It can use both electricity and renewable energy. This model is engineered to be lightweight and energy-efficient and its compact and modular design makes it a great option if you're looking for a watermaker that's easy to use and install in confined spaces.
The Ventura 150 watermaker is highly efficient as it can produce over 6 gallons of water an hour, which makes it quite perfect for small vessels. This sailboat watermaker features a controller that allows you to operate and monitor the device remotely. It also has the auto store button that will automatically flash the system after every five days.
This watermaker is quiet and surprisingly compact despite its ability to produce about 150 gallons of water per day. It also gives you the option of going for the automated manual or manual model.
Can use both electricity and renewable energy power
It is smooth and quiet
It is compact and lightweight
The manual model has analog controls
To this end, it's easy to see that having an ideal watermaker aboard your vessel is one of the first crucial steps towards being self-sufficient and sustainable. With a watermaker, you'll be able to access fresh drinking water at all times when sailing even in far-flung places. Most of these models are well-constructed and incorporate some of the best technologies that make them efficient, reliable, and easy to install, use, and maintain.
So when it comes to choosing the best watermaker for your sailboat, it may all come down to what is ideal for you in terms of energy consumption, efficiency, the quantity of water produced, among many other things. With an ideal watermaker, you can remain off the grid for as long as you want without ever worrying about running out of water and this is of great importance in enjoying your sailing adventures.