A change of routine.

Getting intimate with the insides.

22nd March 2023

Georgetown, Grand Cayman

We all have our little morning routines to start our days. The typical person will roll out of bed, complete their morning ablutions, put on the kettle for a brew and then start their day. We also follow this routine but recently there has been a significant change. After abluting, having a brew, we then remove the watermaker, take it to bits, and examine its inner workings. All in an effort for it to start producing water again.

Our watermaker after 3 years of faithful service and after producing many 1000’s of litres of water has simply stopped producing water. After conversations with experts across the globe the consensus was that the vane pump had worn and needed replacing. With the help of Sailfish Marine in the UK, Ecosistems in the USA and Scotts Marine in Cayman a pump magically arrived on Ruffian and we started on this easy fix.

In no time the old pump was retired and the new pump fitted. Pipes were reconnected and with our expectations high, power was applied to the motor. As it whirred away the pressure gauges on the watermaker remained resolutely low, the output remained dry and our spirits were crushed. This was not going to be an easy fix and the watermaker was going to require some serious internal surgery.

After many more emails, WhatsApps, phone calls and texts spanning the globe we manged to get our hands on the technical workshop manual. With the manuals pictures and easy explanations, we had high confidence that the fix was not far away. We successfully completed step 1, but step 2 mentioned a special tool and a workshop vice neither of which were on Ruffian.

After a scenic tour of machine shops in Grand Cayman we found one who was up for the challenge. After using a lathe, a pillar drill, a welder and an angle grinder (none of which we can fit on Ruffian) we’d fashioned the ‘special tool’ and into the big vice slipped the pumps and the membrane. With a whole heap of grunting the tool was deployed and we were now into the inner workings of the watermaker.

Back on Ruffian we gingerly followed the manual, which had yet more mentions of special tools, and examined the unseen innards. Rods were cleaned, pistons lubricated, O-rings re-seated and we checked the sliders sprung and smooth surfaces were resmoothed. Once again we reassembled the watermaker and with our expectations high they crashed to new lows when the pressures remained low and the output dry.

Day after day we tried new things. We disassemble the unit, smoothed sliders, checked the operation, reassembled and our spirits were crushed. We removed every O-ring, covered them in Vaseline, reassembled and once again our spirits were crushed. Exhausting our options, it was back to our international support network for their expertise, advice and yet more expense.

We now apparently needed an O-ring kit* and a global search for one started. North America was out, none were to be found in the UK, the whole of the eastern Caribbean proved to be a blank, searching a warehouse in Barcelona a kit was located and a first-class ticket purchased for it to fly across the globe.

With all watermaker avenues exhausted our morning routine changed. Now instead of exploring the inner workings of the magic machine we could explore the island. Bicycles took us to undiscovered beaches, where we were met fascinating locals and the hinterland could be travelled where barren trails led us to blue water.

Although we have a change of routine it’s only temporary and as soon as the O-rings finish their trip across the globe, we’re going to back onto abluting, removing the watermaker, taking it to bits, and examining its inner workings. If they make a seal, then pressures will the rise and sweet fresh water should start too flow. We are however ready for more disappointment.

* Had we known that such a thing existed we would have made sure we had 2 in stock, just waiting in the bilges just for this situation.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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