Sunday, August 31, 2008

Water

Lake Michigan is a large lake. Most people, including U.S. citizens, don't understand that you can't see across it, that it takes the same time to travel between Chicago and New Buffalo, MI as it does to fly to London (8 hours), and that there is a lunar tide. Other facts:
Lake Michigan is approximately 300 miles long and averages 75 miles across, covering 22,300 square miles -- which is equal to the combined areas of the states of Maryland, Massachusetts and Delaware! It is 335 feet above Lake Ontario and 577 feet above sea level. The deepest point in the lake is 925 feet (282 meters).
While sailing on the Lake, one gets the feeling that it is very big and humans are very small--especially the humans residing in a small boat. Speakeasy is a very sea-worthy craft. Boats like it have sailed single-handed around the world. Still, even though one is comfortable with the way a boat was build and cognizant that it can withstand the rigors of sailing through highly variable wind and water, I can't help but feel that the Lake is so big and Speakeasy is so small.

Speakeasy was surrounded by fresh water, but also held potable water in two tanks--one forward and one aft. Beth and I monitored this water as carefully as we could. Speakeasy has no water gauge. Usually, the first sign that we were low on water was the spurting of water at the galley faucet. We were never in danger of running out of fresh water. We'd simply change water tanks and then fill both of them at our next port. Still, it gave me pause each time a tank went dry. Were we using too much water for dish washing, bathing, hygiene?

We knew most of the tips of water conservation aboard a small boat--to bath less often and use the Lake when possible and to wash dishes in sea water (fresh or salt) and rinse with fresh water. We didn't actually have to follow either of these rules. We usually bathed onshore at one of the harbor facilities and chose the convenience of washing dishes with fresh water from the water heater.

There is another tank aboard that holds refuse from the head--the holding tank. To conserve this resource, we tried to use onshore facilities as much as possible. Most of the contents of the holding tank is sea water, pumped into it when the head is flushed. We tried to do this as infrequently as possible even though we could make use of a pump-out station at every harbor we visited. Our number one head rule was that nothing that didn't go through you could go in the head. This rule leaves toilet paper out of the holding tank and in a small zip-lock bag. This rule is based on the saying that "there are no plumbers at sea."

Paying attention to water on a small boat as we did for a month leaves a lasting impression that affects us onshore. We use less water when washing dishes, turn the water off-and-on several times while showering, and flush less often than before. I remember that great-tasting salmon that Bob caught in the Lake and would not like to see its habitat ruined by my overuse if its natural environment.
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