06: Cruising: The Caribbean


Back home in Montrose our local water supplier, Chipeta Water District, charges each home $23 a month for 10,000 gallons of water. We flush our toilets, stand under our hot showers, run our baths and dishwashers and water our grass all without a second thought.

So that’s 10,000 gallons of water per household each month (to start).

Free Range holds 160 gallons of water. It sits in two stainless steel tanks under the floorboards. And to a lot of boats, that’s a LOT of water storage. Either way you cut it, the name of our game is WATER CONSERVATION.

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One of our water tanks.


Sink full of dishes? Turn on the faucet and let the water run as you wash and rinse, right?

Only if you have 10,000 gallons to burn, my friend.

And you don’t. Because you live on a boat. And water either:

a) costs money
b) is hard to come by / get to
c) both

So, no, you do not just turn on the faucet and let it run.

First, you prep your dirty dishes – drizzle a little Dawn and “dry scrub” your dishes. Done? Okay, now it’s time for a little foot pump action.

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The foot pump!


Press the lever down with your foot and hold it down. This pressurizes the water lines and gives you a solid 3-4 seconds of water with which to scrub your dishes as quickly and efficiently as possible. Now, position the silverware over the soapy cereal bowls in order to receive maximum water coverage…ready? Okay, raise your foot off the pump and get ready for the 4 second burst of water – rinse, rinse rinse!! If your hands are quick enough and you stay focused, that’s all the water you need. With this technique, you’ve used only one cup of water.

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Water from the foot pump comes out of this little guy, to the right of our kitchen faucet.
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Our kitchen sink – faucet with PUR water filter. To the right, the handy-dandy faucet powered by the foot pump!



Feeling as dirty as the dishes your just washed? Well, you should – you haven’t showered since last Thursday.

So, it’s shower time. How do you shower using minimal water? I’m sure every sailor has their own technique; here’s how I do it:

Firstly, timing is important: to increase your water temperature options from one (cold) to two (cold, hot), shower after the engine has been recently run (Note: you live on a sailboat so that means your engine doesn’t run all that often but since you don’t take showers all that often, you should be okay).

Okay, turn the shower head on to minimal flow – just enough to get wet and hair wet – then, water off. Now, lather shampoo and soap up. Water back on to minimal flow and rinse. And NO, once you are clean, you may not stand under the water “just because” – that’s precious freshwater draining out into the sea!


So, what we DON’T skimp on is our drinking water. Every day we fill up our Nalgenes and old club soda and tonic water plastic bottles (the water is run through a PUR water filter) and store them in the fridge. We drink a lot of water every day so it’s important to really skimp on the showers and dishes. Priorities, people.

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Our drinking water containers.


So…back in Montrose, we went through 10,000 gallons (or more) a month. On Free Range, we make our 160 gallons last between one and two months.



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