Having spent some 13 years on our two boats dealing with watermakers and watermaker problems I thought it would be easy peasy to organise a new watermaker for our island project. Should have listened to that voice in the back of my head that was chuckling away.Read more: Aqua-batics
Sadly our island does not have fresh water so up until now getting fresh water was quite an expedition. Although just around the corner, our local Mutiara (Pearl Farm) has a never-ending freshwater spring that allows us to rock up to their dock in our boat and fill our water containers from the continuously running hose.
Easy part done. Now return to the island and schlep, hump, or however you want to express it, some 500 litres of water in 20 litre containers across the beach up to the water tank and empty into same. To be fair, Hans and his dad do most of the collecting and schlepping while yours truly does the hefting into the tank.
Not only does it build stamina and character but gives you a wonderful incentive to not leave the tap running too long. So, bring on the watermaker.
It started out sounding rather easy. With a recommendation from our local expat we contacted a company in Bali that specialised in watermakers mainly for commercial use (that should have been our first warning sign) but also dealt with odd people, like us. When we contacted the Bali company we discussed at length our situation: remote island, middle of nowhere, solar providing battery charging, and yes we were running 220v single phase power and no Bunnings nearby, so everything we need to get the watermaker up and running needs to come with the unit.
When it finally arrived it was very solidly crated and as such we decided since it had to go on a fishing boat to transport to the island we would leave it packed. Our first mistake. When it did arrive at the island due to the size and weight it took all of the muscle the family could muster but we managed to get it ashore without christening it which I thought was pretty amazing.
It was a bit like Xmas unwrapping the new present – mind you, we needed a hammer and chisel not the standard scissors to achieve our objective. Upon first glance it looked the money and even came with a “how to assemble your watermaker for dummies” photo. I guess we should have paid the extra for the manual but never mind it’s reasonably straightforward, or so I thought.
Upon closer inspection we discovered that the great minds in Bali decided we needed a three-phase electric motor regardless of us not having three-phase power and me explaining our power setup at the initial discussions. Oh bugger – another WhatsApp session trying to sort out the issue. The attitude from Bali was it’s signed, sealed and delivered so it’s your problem and just buy a three-phase generator and you’ll be fine. After much to-ing and fro-ing and some online research we discovered we could use a 2.2Kw single phase electric motor and it would drive our unit. Of course nothing is so easy; yes, the motor will drive the unit but it’s bigger than the unit supplied and won’t fit in the frame. So out with the grinder and make a few changes. You gotta love island life!
With the new motor and some other adjustments it was time to decide where we’d get the water for the watermaker from. My initial thought was that we’d have to pull from the beach, and as such the Bali company threw in an additional pump and a sand filter. In talking with Hans I mentioned my thoughts and before my very eyes he very quickly dug a channel for piping to run to the beach. Efficient young lad. As I previously mentioned Bunnings is not just around the corner so after digging the channel it was off to Sorong to organise the pipe and fittings that would be needed. Upon return with a boatload of 2” and 1 1/2” pvc pipe (yes they use imperial for some things and metric for others, great for us old guys that still revert occasionally).
So – channel dug, pipe laid (not yet glued thank god) and Hans just happens to mention that it won’t work. Okay, why won’t it work? Hans points out that the weather we get on our shoreline is very exposed and the hard pipe will just break in heavy swells which, although not regular, come often enough to cause problems. It’s about this time I remember that I really should ask more questions first, because the local culture is to say “yes” to any request, however crazy it seems. So upon revisiting the problem and asking more questions I am advised that most villages dig wells. Now the obvious thing would be to simply buy soft pipe to run into the water and problem solved but, we’re in Indonesia and soft pipe the size we need is not readily available. So Hans can you fill in the channel? No boss, I only dig them. Right, so I guess I’ll fill in the channel and why don’t you start on the well.
The great frustration with Version 1 was the time, the cajoling, the swearing (not much just a bit) (Editors note; actually quite a lot), and the bloody hard work of getting it to the point of being able to be turned on.
Instead, we were thwarted by the mighty hand of Thor who brought us the great storm/ earthquake combo and the ensuing fire which, in one hot flash, dissolved our beloved watermaker into a molten mess. Bugger, down but not out!
Enter Version 2, a slightly more flexible model as it comes in components and can be mounted in varying positions and locations. However, in honour of our fallen first unit we are able to reclaim the old watermaker frame (at least not all was lost but, in all, a bloody expensive frame) which made it easier to build. A big thank you goes out to Matt and Sid on the catamaran “Insouciant” for the great job of transporting the new components to us. Without their generosity it would have been very difficult to achieve.
As it turned out assembling the unit was not too difficult albeit the odd trip to Sorong to source some of the additional components required. When purchasing the unit from watermakers.com.au the rated output for the configuration was 240 LPH so we were somewhat excited at the prospect of getting it fired up and running.
As always with these types of projects there is a small amount of anxiety when the switch is thrown for the first time and this was no different. I wish I had videoed the initial run as after the switch was thrown there was a little dampening of the spirits, as the unit had more leaks than a kitchen colander. Bugger! We have an expression we learned when we spent time in NZ, “do it twice and get it right”. Damn, where did I put the pink thread seal tape?
After a number of leak-tracking exercises, I can now happily report that the new watermaker is living up to its specifications and producing 250 LPH – more than enough for us to wave goodbye for the time being to the Mutiara and enjoy our hard-won aqua independence.
One hour of watermaking every other day means we can now afford to extend that thirty-second shower. Di is doing a happy dance and you know what they say – happy wife, happy life. Pass me another glass of cold water, please.