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Independant shower water in hot sunny environments

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What is the issue?
Water is a scarce resource on bluewater cruising vessels that do not have the benefit of a watermaker. Most people have reservations about using the main tank's drinking reserve for personal showers. But if that is acceptable, warming can also be a challenge.

Why address this?
There is nothing more pleasant and refreshing than a warm shower at the end of a hot day in the tropics.

How to address this?
Carry a black jerry can or two for additional shower water and use the container(s) to create solar showers. You can easily adapt the lid to attach a shower rose and vent pipe.

There are many low-cost solar shower options available. But we found them flimsy in boating environments and easily burst. The water also ran out of them far too slowly and, because of their limited capacity, far too quickly. We turned to using two of our reserve diesel carrying containers for the role and they provided an excellent solution.

We got rid of the bulk of the diesel smell by baking them in the sun, and after using washing detergent a few times leaving them out to bake again in the sun. Then slosh a large bottle of Coke around inside each and leave them to rest overnight, and finally after one last rinse any residual diesel smell was removed. That was our improvised approach and you are of course better to start off with clean cans.

Jerry can solar shower
Photo: Michael Harpur

For best solar warming the jerry can must to be black. A black object looks black because it absorbs all the wavelengths in white light and reflects none. So all of the light is absorbed and gets converted into heat in a black can. To aid circulation of the solar heating of water, drop the longest widest copper pipe you can fit through the filler cap so that it lies diagonally across the length of the drum. Then add two tightly sealed hose attachments to a lid which can be used for all the cans. One for a longish hose pipe with the shower rose that should have the pipe continuing through to the bottom of the drum inside, the other for the vent pipe that stops on the lid. The lines we ran around the can, as illustrated, only made it easier to handle the jerry can and lash it down on the deck when at sea.

All we had to do with a full container was hoist it high when it was nice and hot. We did this over our cockpit on a halyard attached to the handle of the drum that was brought through and attached to a snap-block on the topping lift. Once raised, all that had to be done was to kick off the syphon by blowing into the vent pipe. This pressed water out of the drum and into the shower hose creating the syphon for the shower to continue. We prefer this approach over giving the shower pipe a priming suck, then quickly attaching the shower rose once the water was coming, to avoid getting a mouth full of some uncertain water.

With this system and locations where fresh-water was freely available, but perhaps a little suspect for drinking such as community taps or on rivers, we happily filled up our cans for showering when ashore. We then left them in the dinghy in the sun and dropped them back on the sunny side of the deck for a final baste in the sun for a joyous cockpit shower. It is absolutely ideal when used with water catchment systems Experience to capture the last of the early run-off water for showering.

Once we got this system going we kept the drums for this purpose. However, if the jerries were required again for diesel storage on exceptionally long passages, this would not be an issue provided there were sufficient lids to seal them. All that is required is that they be left to dry in the sun for a day or two, until they are bone dry, and they would be ready to tank diesel again.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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