Aquarian Rite & the Struggles with Reverse Osmosis

AquariusLearning that reverse osmosis (RO) systems require a regular “feeding,”  every three to five days, whereby freshwater must either be made or flushed through the system, we would wait nearly a year after installing it before we would commission the unit into service.

Read the blog post titled, RO 101 and see the video to learn more about the RO process itself.

Cruise RO Water and Power, the purveyor of the RO system we selected for Kandu, is owned and operated by dollar-conscious, easily accessible cruisers. They’ve assembled their robust AC solution using off-the-shelf parts and supplies, not the more expensive (either way, it’s expensive) proprietary solutions common within the marine desalinator marketplace. If the cruiser includes the cost of a new gas-powered Honda generator, with the SM-30 model, she winds up with a Cruise RO system that has built-in redundancy and makes four times as much water for the same price as more popular options–30 gallons an hour, “Beast!” as thirteen-year-old Bryce is fond of saying.  Cruise RO achieves this by configuring dual 40″ long membrane filters, a size much bigger than the typical compact stand-alone units offer.  If one membrane fails, the operator can by-pass it and still get 20 gal/hr from the remaining membrane.  For boats lacking space, and they all do, this may not be an option.  But for those that do, a full tank of gas (0.95 gal) in a Honda EU2000i is suppose to produce about 150 gal. of water: a fair trade we feel for stinking up the environment. Additionally, Rich and Charlie of Cruise RO, the guys who run it, speak in laymen terms, a service I very much depended on to install and commission our unit.

To commission the unit, I wondered about the quality of seawater I could safely process.  I considered anchoring off Santa Cruz Island where the seawater is much cleaner than in the marina where Kandu is moored.  Oil can ruin an RO membrane and I would occasionally notice the sheen of oil in the marina’s surface.  After discussing my concerns with Rich and with other cruisers with extensive marine RO water-making experience, I was assured that the marina’s water would not be a problem.  They had all successfully made water under far worse conditions, explaining that because oil floats and Kandu’s seawater is drawn several feet below the surface, I wouldn’t have a problem–“It is what it’s for,” was the expression I heard time and again.

The commissioning process is clearly laid out in the user manual with color pictures and all.  Even though it’s simple, I was nervous. I didn’t want to make a misstep that would cost a lot of time and money to rectify.  Plus with all the first-time noises, it was a little nerve-racking.  So after reading and re-reading the commissioning process (as technician in the post production world from where I came, I learned early on that the difference between a technician and an end-user is that the technician read the user manual), I called Rich to make sure he’d be available in case I needed his help.  With him at the ready, I proceeded with the commissioning process.  Under the din of noise generated by the two pumps and the excess brine water pouring into the cockpit drain, I checked all the plumbing and electrical, all the pumps, all the filters, opened and closed the necessary valves, bled the air out of the system, pressed on and off the pumps’ power switches, and carefully turned up the high-pressure knob as bubbles percolated for the first time within the flow meter.  I felt every bit like Dr. Frankenstein, bringing my monster to life.

Once commissioned and with Rich’s phoned thumbs-up, I was ready to make water.

Here’s a video of my first water-making experience:

As the first trickles of water poured from the sample spigot and into the sink, I got excited. Using the total dissolved solids (TDS) meter provided, I collected in a clear plastic cup some of the “product” water to measure the parts per million (ppm) of salt and solids in solution. The water coming from the desalinator started off salty but soon came fresh. Less than 500 ppm is considered acceptable quality drinking water, less than 300 ppm is considered normal tap water, and less then 100 is considered soft.  When the meter reads <500, you’re suppose to switch the water over to the boat’s tanks as it won’t be long before it’s producing water <300ppm. But being that it was the first time making water, I wanted to taste it. In no time, the meter read 114, so I tossed it and eagerly poured more of the clear manmade life-sustaining nectar into the cup . . . and cautiously tasted it. “Wow,” it was hands down the best tasting water I’d ever had. Like Tom Hanks in “Cast-away” after making fire for the first time, I thumped my chest, proclaiming, “I MADE water! I made that!” It felt especially apropos considering I’m an Aquarian, a water bearer bearing water. “I, Aquarian skipper of Kandu, bring you water!” It wasn’t long before I was able to pour a taste for Leslie and the boys.  All gave a thumbs-up. Making water for the first time, although nerve racking at first, ended up very gratifying.

Thanks again to Rich and Charlie of Cruise RO Water and Power.

One thought on “Aquarian Rite & the Struggles with Reverse Osmosis”

  1. All is well just sending Warm Seasons Greetings to you all. Have a great trip. Tyler and I will be following your progress as you go!! Miss you all!

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