Water maker won’t run

Our water maker was installed in Isola – not a factory option but one of our own additions – it is a big machine with high capacity.  We want to use water the same as we do at home and we consume about 100 litres a day at least, without washing the boat or doing the washing.

The installation in Isola seemed to be fine – the machine ran on the way to the customs pontoon in the sea trial – and we made water.  However, this was on a completely flat sea with nothing else running on the generator.

The machine sat idle all the while we were commissioning in Umag – it had been “pickled” (a process of running a preservation process which is necessary when the machine is not used for a period of time).  Just before leaving, we put the machine back into commission in the marina and things ran fine but when we started it after a couple of days on the way to fill the forward tank, the water maker would not start.  It kept giving a constant low pressure error and cutting out – we thought it was because we were moving and the sea water intake was getting air inside with the waves.  On anchor in Medulin we tried again as now we’re laying still in flat water!  However, it constantly did the same – we did manage to make some water, but as soon as the pre-filter was slightly used we got low pressure error again.  We spent the whole day on anchor in Duga Luka on 29th July trying to get it to start but again with no luck.  Making water is turning out to be a very painful exercise!

By the time we got to Rab, there had been various conversations between Ed and Village Marine.  We dismantled the whole supply side plumbing system – re-routing all the 20psi low pressure hoses delivering sea water to the water maker, trying to straighten the run and avoid kinks and turns as much as possible, running through the aft cabin where the intake and pre-filter is located  and the aft cubby hole to the water maker in the lazarette.  At this stage, Ed started talking constantly with Andy at Parker Marine in the UK and the US manufacturer in Seattle – they were both extremely helpful and worked continually with us to resolve the problem, but we still had low pressure issues.  Eventually, the conclusion was that the low pressure pump was not strong enough to deliver enough water to the machine – the setup in a sailboat is quite different to the boats the machine is designed for.  The specification requires that the pump, the pre-filter and the hoselines feeding the machine need to be under the water line of the boat at all times – in a large motor yacht, with a V-shaped hull this is not a problem, however in a sailyacht which has a rounded hull and which heels over, this is very difficult.  If the sea water intake comes out of the water at any time, or the pump and filters come above the water line, then the problems we are experiencing will happen.

Parker Marine sent a new pump out to us in Croatia from the USA to Marina Dalmacija in Zadar – where we planned to make our next maintenance stop.  Ed installed the new pump under their direction but this didn’t solve the problem!  The bigger pump sent from the USA was a 60hz pump which consumed massive amounts of power but still didn’t deliver enough water because it was running slower at 50hz under European electrical specifications!  The power consumption was almost the maximum output of the genset, we were seeing bubbles of air inside the intake gauges and were not producing water anywhere close to the specifications of the machine.  In addition, the new water pump would not automatically shut off – the control board on the water maker couldn’t cope with the power demand and it still cut out when underway heeling – or quickly turning.

We lived with this for the remainder of the 2013 season and constantly monitored what happened – and continually had to restart the water maker or only make water when we were stationary.  Andy from Parker Marine came out to Lefkas at the end of the season to investigate and played with it himself for hours – sitting still on the marina berth, it ran fine and we could not demonstrate the problem!  He dismantled it and re-installed everything – it worked and he couldn’t locate the issue.  Fortunately for us, two hours before he left Lefkas, the water maker went into the same error mode and he could not get it to work again, no matter what he tried.  He talked to Italy to the Parker Marine R&D Centre and decided to remove the unit from the boat and send it over to them so they could keep it over the winter and bench test it.  They found nothing wrong with the machine and the conclusion was that the pump was still not right.

To be continued ….. !


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