The irony of living on a sailboat is that we are forever surrounded by water, yet struggle to find water to drink.
In our four weeks between Desolation Sound and the Broughton Archipelago, we visited four marinas to fill our tanks: one had only lake water, one had spring water, one had sketchy brown water, and one had no water at all. Tap water is suddenly a luxury to us.
In April, my husband Robert and I left our home in Williams Lake to move aboard a 34-foot sailboat we’ve named For Good. Our mission — Sailing for Good — is to find stories of hope for the Earth in our tiny home on the big blue.
It’s “easy” so to speak to be a conservationist on a sailboat — because you simply have no choice — and this is especially true for water conservation.
Our boat has an 80-litre water tank, four additional 20-litre jugs to double our supply, and a separate eight-litre supply of drinking water.
We usually anchor for 6-7 days at a time, but always arrive at our next provisioning stop with one day’s supply of water left in reserve. You can never play it too safe out here when you’re at the mercy of wind speed, wave height, and tidal flow.
If you’re doing the math, this gives us 168 litres over eight days: 21 litres per day, or 10.5 litres each. According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 the average Canadian used 251 litres of water per day, so we’re surviving on just four per cent of the 2011 national average.
Admittedly, we get two critical water “cheats” on the boat: we save most of our laundry for marina facilities, and we have a seawater intake for flushing our little pump toilet.
Our supply is, however, needed for drinking, making coffee (critical to the integrity of our marriage), cooking, washing dishes, showering, brushing teeth, washing hands, the occasional bucket of laundry, and general cleanup around the boat.
Our golden rule is that if the water is running, there’s a better way to do it, like turning off the tap while brushing teeth, washing produce in a bowl, or rinsing dishes in a small basin.
We’re able to shower each day by using the “navy shower” method, shutting the water off to lather, wash hair, and shave.
Using a spray bottle, I can wash my face with just a couple tablespoons of water, a washcloth, and a facial cleansing bar — it’s zero waste too!
Finally, whenever it makes sense, we reuse our grey water, usually to wash our cockpit area.
Living aboard has shown us how truly precious — and worthy of protection — our freshwater resources are.
Conservation Tip of the Month: Consider switching to a mineral-based sunscreen. New studies suggest that traditional sunscreen is harmful for the ocean, especially coral reefs. It was a no-brainer for us on the sailboat, but even landlubbers are washing these harmful chemicals down shower drains and into the waterways.