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Thread: "Watermakers"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

This started out as a 'group buy' discussion but I realized I really didn't have enough info to make a purchase just yet.

So, I'm looking for advice and opinions on watermakers. I'm currently leaning towards a Ventura made by Spectra. Low energy consumption, 12 VDC operation and modular construction are high on my list of 'wants' and the Ventura seems to fill all of these. But I've also heard good things about the Small Wonder and No Frills units built by Village Marine Tec. A thread I read somewhere said that the Spectra units used standard sized filtration cartridges while Village Marine had their own proprietary catridges which were an odd size making them more expensive and harder to find. Another guy somehow managed to buy only the pumps from Spectra and put his own system together. I'd love to save a buck but I also want something dependable that I can get serviced if I run into anything beyond my abilities.

So. Recommendations? Advice? Opinions?

BTW, this is going on a W28 so space is a big issue.


Steve & Vanessa

I'm beginning to do my research also. A watermaker is one of the last pieces of equipment I need to make ol' "Nereus" truly self-sufficient. I'm not familiar with the Village Marine Tec stuff and have only heard of the Spectra units. I am familiar with the usual Katadyn(PUR) systems. The RHO units are too big, too power hungry, too expensive and put out more water than I need.

This is a great topic for me. Have you found out anything further?

Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

Hi Steve & Vanessa,

I ultimately bought the Spectra Ventura. My primary reasons were low amp draw/gallon made and the fact that it was modular and the parts could be spread out. This was very important in my little 28 footer. I've finished the installation but haven't started it up yet because, once I do, I need to use it often unless I want to go through the pickling process.

I had a bit of a hassle making the purchase. The dealer tried to pass off a previously-installed unit as "New". It was pretty obvious when it arrived in a duct-taped, rebuilt cardboard box that originally held a Raritan toilet that something was amiss. The various cracks, scratches, nicks, etc. told me that this unit was not new. The dealer kept insisting that it was. I got the factory involved and they made it right. Said they'd work it out with the dealer but that I didn't need to be caught in the middle. So, kudos to the guys at Spectra in San Rafael.

Good luck to you. It was one of my scarier purchases because it was so expensive. You pay that much you want to be sure you're getting something really good and it's really hard to know ahead of time. But the Spectra and the Village Marine Tec units almost always seem to get good reviews.


Norm Rhines

Some comments from a water maker user

1.) Bigger is better (OK mostly) here is why: the first 1.0 gal goes overboard because it is the startup liquid (May have higher salt and?) this is standard for all systems so if you make 120 gal/day = 12min of wasted time and power At say 18amps/hr, but on a 720gal/day = 2min of wasted power at 45 amps/hr.

2.) how much water do you use? I use 0.5 to 5gal max / person/ day = 20 gal max or 40 gal max every other day = one tank. So if I can fill that tank in 1.3Hr at 720/hr but it will take just over 8.3hr with the 120/hr see the issue. Running the smaller system each day makes the times even longer (startup / shutdown would add to 20 min. to the times or 9 hrs of power and inspection.

3.)using solar to make water is real iffy I have 320Watts of panel and I can make up to 20 amps for 1 to 3 hr but more common I make 15amps for 2 hr and 5 amp for the other 8 so the water maker is a power pig even at 15amps. I can spare 30Amp hr /day and serve my other need, but this does not work well because of the startup and shutdown water losses. If I add a wind generator this issue may go away. Power is your guide to sizing your operation more solar and wind = smaller system less solar and wind = larger system and running the motor for 1 hr every other day = about 10 gal of dinosaur / month and a hope that some is used to move the boat some where.

4.) Maintenance is a pain also, once started you need to run it every other day weather you need water or not, at least until you pickle it (more water usage for this process). Also you are operating a water plant = you should be checking it every 15 min. not bad during 1 or 2 hr operation but for 8 hr it is a pain. also expect to be at the controls during the full startup and at the shut down.

Lastly FYI never get small or large air bubbles onto the membrane as it tears it up.

Good luck and congratulations on becoming a water treatment plant operator.

Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder


I just retired after 32 years as a water (and wastewater) treatment plant operator. Or apparently, I only thought I retired . Of course we didn't have anything as high tech as RO, just plain ol' chemicals and mixed media filters.

Anyway, interesting comments from someone who's actually using one of these beasts.


Jim Focha and Julie Gwin

We?ve had our Spectra Catalina 300 for three years and have been cruising Mexico full time for two years and it?s a blessing. Here as in many parts of the world the water is questionable and even the locals drink bottled water. We make all our water including showering. We have a single pass propane hot water heater and take nightly hot showers. We?ve showered on the boat for fifteen years with no ill effects but soon it will be hot enough we will want cold cockpit showers. We have solar showers but haven?t even taken them out of the bag.

Our Cat. 300 uses 15 amps/hr @ 12.5 gallons per hour although production is a little higher in the warmer water. We run everything on 210 watts of solar panels and have NEVER started our engine to charge the batteries. This includes the refrigeration, flat screen for movies, Ham, stereo, computer, lighting etc. Our batteries are fully charged by noon and then on water maker days we run it 2/3 hrs. in the after noon. By the end of the day our batteries are fully charged again. Size depends a lot on your style and were you cruise. If it?s to big energy consumption will be excessive and you won?t be able to run it enough. To small and you will run it all the time.

Maintenance isn?t much of an issue compared to lugging 5 gallon water bottles to the boat especially when it?s hotter than hell. We go 2-3 weeks before cleaning the filters. We could go longer but I don?t like to go pass one bar on the filter graph. Air is a problem but only in large quantities. Even more so in the 300 as it has a magnetic coupled primary pump that can come apart if it gets a lot of air. We have had a small air leak since installation. I haven?t gotten around to finding the leak in the module it?s in. But it?s on the list when we get to Santa Rosilia next month. We only pickle when we are going to leave the boat for more than a month and have only done that once. For less than a month we let the 5 day auto flush take care of it.

I know water makers especially Spectra are expensive but for the health and comfort they provide they are well worth it. I wouldn?t want to cruise without one.

Dave Kall

Where do you put 210 watts of panels on a 32?

Jim Focha and Julie Gwin

We have a wind generator pole and a Garhauer radar pole mounted on the stern. Each has a solar mount by Swendsens marine in Alameda Ca. Each bar rotates around the pole @ 270 deg. and the panels rotate on the bar allowing the panels to be adjusted to the sun. These two panels are 35 watt each and remain permantly mounted. There are two 70 watt panels mounted on the boom gallows the same way. These we only put out when running the water maker or when we are at an anchorage for more than a few days. The 35 watt panels handle the boats needs when not running the water maker.

I?d post a picture if I could, but can?t seem to get it to work. It took awhile to respond as we just got back to La Paz.

Norm Rhines

If you want to see the 320Watts (4 x 80 watt panels) mounted. look to http://www.imagine.ws/Graphics/norms32.JPG
two are on top of the dodger and one each side of the custom stern rail = all 4 are out in the picture.

I see the Spectra does help on the power pig issue. as my /gal is about 2.5 - 3.0 Amps. I have not thought about the temp. but This is a good Idea, as I could set my system up to run through a black hose on deck = higher feed temps and better water production? what is your conductivity reading, after setting 5 days?

Jim Focha and Julie Gwin

We almost never let the water maker go 5 days, usually 2-3 between uses. But in March we had to go home and leave the water maker on 5 day flush for three weeks. When we got back we started it up and got an initial 240 PPM and went down to 180 after about 45 Min., the sea temp was in the mid 60?s. The last couple of months up in the Sea of Cortez the water temp have been in the mid 70?s. Initial start up is at 290 PPM and after 45 minutes is down to 240. This is normal operation as higher temperatures mean higher output and also higher PPM. The World Health Organization says anything less than 1000 PPM is acceptable and Spectra use 750 as acceptable and 500 as excellent.

Our friends on a HC 38 are going to replace their 80-E this year with a Spectra because they use 8 amps for 3-4 GPH. This is only one of several changes they?re doing. Their boat uses over 100 amps day and he?s tired of running the Honda generator.

Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Is anybody interested in the Katydn type emergency water makers where you pump hard for a gallon or two on an emergency basis?
Tbat's what I would like to have.

Norm Rhines


Is it that you are intereted in purchasing one?
Or that you have one for sale?


Yes I have an old pur 35 hand pump as you noted above: (still wrapped up in it original Pkg.) it would most likly need to be checked out, as it is old 2001. I originaly had in mind putting it in a ditch bag, but the whole life raft thing is not my cup of tea.

Don Montgomery and Lana Nelson


Are you selling it???


Gary and Charlotte Burton

Do you plan to go down with the ship Norm?

Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Hi Norm,
I suppose I am interested in buying an emergency type. How much does the PUR pump in theory? What would you take for it? Would you be willing to refund the purchase price if the pump did not work after testing for say a week? Is that even really an option. I mean, do the same rules apply that once you use it you need to keep using it at least every other day once it is placed in service? That's not good for emergency pump testing. I suppose that may be why yours is still in the bag?
Bottom line, I think I would like to purchase one, but am in no hurry.

Norm Rhines

Randy From your comments:

My recommendation is to look on Ebay. Your requirements are just not for me. You have the operation issue down though. (Once you start it you want to keep using it and cleaning it) then you can pickle it for awhile. So I have not started it, not used it, and not even unpacked it.

Don: Yes currently they go for 1800.00 to 1900.00 new I could sell it for 50% off list + shipping. (for this you should check your local RO guy and find what it would cost to replace the membrain, as it is 8 years old. Opps I just looked on the box and it said mfg on 4/1995 wow the store had it for 6years before selling it to me ugh!) It could test ok, but? I have not tested it, as it is still in the original package.
serial #7711.
model = survivor 35
If you want I can send pictures. and could unwrap to make sure the pump is working.

Garry: after doing a bigger storm (20feet+ breaking waves with 45Kt+ winds. so maybe it would take 40'+waves 75kt+ wind to require the life raft?(With the current life raft options, I feel they are a joke, unless you are single handing without stuff. ) it is a physics issue, Mass times velocity = pile of mush developed from a pile of people, although a sharp exposed broken bone would pop the life raft and get you back to the drown option. i.e. I would rather drown rather than die from impalement from one of the other crew. In calmer water I would use the inflatable dink, and yes the life raft would also work well for this.

OK: if the life raft folks made ones with people pockets (TO completely!! lash people down) they could be a good thing. I just have not seen this as an option.

All of the above is in my opinion (I make no recommendations, as I am just stating my views)


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