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Water, Water, Everywhere – but we need a drop to drink!

I think I can recall all the unlikely, hazardous and backbreaking ways we have filled our jerry jugs and our water tanks on Loreley.

The obvious thing to do was to build a water catcher. Our first design was the one that needed to be erected as rain squalls approached and it was soon rejected. We would end up soaked to the skin, with only about half a cup to show for it, before the squall had passed.

The final prototype was our cockpit awning – almost always up, “gutters” down the sides, and PVC flexible pipes to slip into the nearest jerry jug. As long as you remembered to clean off the bird droppings, it was clean and safe to drink.

In a remote village in Vanuatu, we hauled up buckets of water from the depths of the well, poured it into 20 gal jerry jugs, and staggered with them to the beach, then across the coral to the waiting rubber dinghy. Then they were ferried to Loreley, hauled up on deck to be poured into the tanks. PHEW! Loreley carries 200 gallons. It was a backbreaking task.

On Rangiroa, we spent weeks enjoying the diving and the company of hospitable and friendly Polynesians. A month with no rain had our water tanks at an all-time low. We asked a friend, Nanua, if we could use some of the island’s rain catchment, stored in underground tanks. The island chief deliberated on our case. This was serious business but eventually we were granted 50 gallons. Nanua told us of a mighty cyclone that swept across the low-lying atoll, destroying most of the buildings and, more importantly, all the water tanks, which were built above ground in those days. They survived on coconut water and what little rainwater each family could catch, as the wells were brackish and fit only for laundry and bathing.

In Phuket, cruisers had to anchor in a bay with a small waterfall tumbling down the rocky shore. We anchored the dinghies as near as we could. Then we climbed up the cliff face with a garden hose and funnel, which was jammed into place under the fall of water. The other end of the hose was placed in jerry jugs in the dinghy. This was the easiest and only cost free water source in Phuket.

From a steep hill above the lovely village of Charlottesville, on Tobago Island, a crystal clear spring of water gushes out of the rocks. I regularly joined the village folk who gathered there to wash, do laundry or fill bottles. I became addicted to this, the best water I
have ever tasted, and willingly slogged up the steep hill to fill small containers to carry back to Loreley. The bulk of our water came from a convenient tap near the Charlottesville jetty.

In the Chagos archipelago, the now exiled population, which once numbered 1,500, had dug wells into the solid coral strata of the islands. Cruisers soon found the well on Boddom Atoll, kept clean of debris and maintained by the overseeing British military personnel, who ran monthly tests on the water and confirmed that, in spite of the off-putting sulphurous smell, it was free of harmful microorganisms and rich in calcium – very healthy. It was not too often we had access to water that was tested in
any way.

Our way of insuring bug free water when it was from a dubious source was to toss a little bleach into it. We had two methods of treatment:

If the water was clear, we added about ½ teaspoon of bleach to each 5 gallons of water. If it was cloudy, we added one whole teaspoon. These days this drinking of chlorine is considered unwise – but we survived.

The horrible chlorine taste dissipates after a while and is worth putting up with, to know you will not suffer some water borne disease. I can’t help agreeing with those who like to “sterilize” their water with rum or scotch!

 

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