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Sailboat Tech 101

Fresh drinking water on a Sailboat 

Fresh drinking water is a precious resource on a sailboat. To have access to potable water on a sailboat, the common practice is to buy fresh drinking water in plastic bottles and bring them on board. Precisely what we did when we moved on board our sailboat ForTuna. We carried hundreds of bottles for long distances to fill up our bilge area with water bottles.

However, we quickly realised that this was not the way to continue. Both our backs and nature agreed on it. Finding a more sustainable and practical solution to have drinking water on board became a priority. We needed to find a way to drink the fresh water we store in our water tanks – whether filled up in the marina or produced with our water maker. And a solution we found. After testing the system for over two years, we are happy to share our solution for fresh drinking water on a sailboat without plastic bottles.

It’s a simple solution, easy to install and definitely cheaper and more eco-sustainable than buying drinking water in plastic bottles. We are talking about the Riva water filters for drinking water!

The water filters

Preparing the water tanks

Filter Installation

Riva filters and watermaker

Product Review

The fresh drinking water filters

Two pairs of fresh drinking water filters help us to have clean water on board. One filter pair comes into action while we fill the tanks, and another pair is installed beneath our sink to refilter the water right before we drink it. 

under sink installation
filling up tanks

We decided to use a filter set to fill up the tanks, to avoid any contamination in the tanks and have access to good quality water on all our taps. Very often, the water you get in marinas is treated with chlorine. Filtering the water immedealy allows you to avoid getting chlorine in your tanks and have smelly water on your boat.

The filter pair inline (installed as close to the sink as possible) makes sure that the water gets filtered one more time and guarantees that there are no eventual contaminations from the tank. 

Both filter pairs are composed by:

  • Riva Alva Life or Riva Multi, a 20 μm active carbon filter that takes care of both chlorine, smells, metals, pesticides, hormones and microplastics. 
  • Riva Alva, gets rid of all the Legionella, E-Coli, germs, bacteria, and microorganisms. 

If you are on a tight budget or never use water from shore but produce it with your watermaker, we would only install the pair below the sink. 

Preparing the water tanks

Before the water filters are installed, you must prepare the tanks and ensure all the pipes are clean. Various cleaning liquids or powders are available in every marine store, or you can use a vinegar-water mixture (do not use no soaps etc.). To be thorough, you start by emptying the water tanks (we have two 220 L tanks on board). If possible, open the water tanks to see if there is any dirt or chalk inside. (in our case, we have a big red lid – it turns heavily so we needed to use a rubber hammer and gently hit it). We found only white chalk flakes at the bottom of our tanks, which we easily removed by your hand or a small bowl. Don’t worry – chalk does not harm you or your body even when drinking from those tanks. 

Once the tanks are empty, you refill the tanks with water and add a few litres of white vinegar (or your chosen marine tank cleaning liquid). Make sure to fill the tanks completely – ideally include the overflow pipes – and then let the mixture rest for 12 hours (or what is indicated on your marine tank cleaning liquid). Now it’s time to empty the tanks and rinse all the pipes. The best way to do that is by using all water taps in rotation for about 30 min. Once the water-vinegar mixture is out of the tank, we recommend refilling and flushing tanks and pipes at least once with water only. If you already have your filter set on hand, use them to filter the water used to wash the tanks.

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Easy water filter installation 

Both fresh drinking water filters come in a handy package for sailboats with all the connectors needed for most sinks or for the hoses to fill the tanks from shore. All fittings and connectors came with the fresh drinking water filters and use up very little space below the water tap. We recommend installing the filter pair as close as possible to the water tap – and on the cold water tap – for best results! In our video you can see more details on the installation.

Riva drinking water filters and Watermakers

Recently we also installed a watermaker, which we would have never installed in the med but it is very necessary in the Caribbean as refilling stations and marinas are scarce. We have been able to test the system with it. If you have a water maker you can avoid to have the double system as you don’t need the fresh drinking water filters to filter the water before the tanks (the watermaker already does most of that for you). You will only need the two fresh drinking water filters beneath the sink. Even with the watermaker, the fresh drinking water filters do a great job of filtering the sweet water coming out of the watermaker, and we are now fully autonomous when it comes to fresh potable water on our sailboat and home ForTuna.

when you use a watermaker there is no need for the second filter pair

Product Review

After more than 2 years of using the fresh drinking water filters, we are still impressed with the performance. Water never tasted better and we feel safe and happy we don’t need to waste time and money to carry plastic bottles on board (or throwing them away again) The Riva drinking water filters helped us to cut down massively on our plastic consumption and the filters itself are sustainably produced and discharged (ps: they are organic so you can just horw them on the compost!). 

The filters should be changed every 6 months, however, we managed to used them up to 8 months. Once the water flow at your tap decreases, you know it’s time to change them. How quickly the filters clogged depends on the quality of the water you have access to. Since we use the filters in combination with our water maker, their lifetime has expanded. 

We hoped you like the blog post and found useful information for yourself. If you don’t want to miss out on our next blog subscribe now to our newsletter our follow @whensailing on most social media platforms

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By Salty Greta

My passion for travel and nature has led me to live on a Sailboat. From there I share my passion with all of you to inspire you to follow your dreams, whatever they might be.

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