PowerSurvivor 35 Watermaker Install Part 1

When reading and thinking about cruising in the Pacific, one topic seems to come up over and over again: water. It is after all, one of the most important components to life.

Up until now, we have cruised here in the Puget Sound between the USA and Canada, two places where potable (and delicious) water comes free from the faucet. It’s something all of us take for granted, and probably the most important resource we have. When we are in the middle of the big blue sea, or in a remote island paradise, we can’t quite count on the faucet method. So what are our options?

It turns out there are three main options. People have been sailing the seas for thousands of years, and the tried and true method for water management is quite simple, big tanks and rain-catchers. We’ve heard from a few veteran cruisers that adding a bit of bleach to water tanks and bladders will keep the green things at bay. That remains the simplest method of capturing drinking water. The next option would be buying water from a trustworthy source. I’m not sure I want to trust our life and health to the water treatment systems that exist across the globe, so that leads us to the third option: Water desalination via reverse osmosis.

While we will try to capture rainwater along the way, my mind says something as important as water should have a redundant system. Enter digging at the Fisheries Supply swap meet at 5am in the rain, and our $200 PUR WaterSurvivor 35!

[Pajo was in Australia for work while Ava perused the swap meet and chatted up some salty folks. A transaction via FaceTime allowed Ava to use her Jersey charm to negotiate another good score, the Aries Wind Vane… more on that later].

With a bit of research, we discovered that although the PUR WaterSurvivor 35 is one of the original marine desalination systems, it is still in production by Katadyn who bought out PUR. Not only that, the system PUR designed has been used all around the world by all sorts of boats, and some systems are still in service to this day. Based on those facts, we will be installing our bargain watermaker aboard Cinderella.

Before digging into our old-new watermaker, I did my usual and scoured the forums to see what we really had. It turns out, a fellow by the name of Gary Albers has dissected these things forwards and backwards and published his knowledge on the World Wide Web for all of us to share. His website can be found here (thanks Gary!).

Our watermaker will run on 12v DC power, although we will have a hand pump option if things go sour.

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As you can see in the photo above, she is in some rough shape. What happens to things in rough shape? I tear into them thinking I know better.

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The first thing I did was pull the motor off of the pump. I began with a screwdriver chipping away at the crusty paint and oxidation so I could actually see what I had.

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I immediately decided the motor had to come apart so that I could repaint everything. This thing will live in a marine environment, and I really don’t want everything to oxidize together.

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As you can see I chipped away all of the old paint to see what the aluminum looked like below. Fortunately, it is all salvageable. The next step was to look at the motor inerts. You can see the brushes extended out below, that took lots of work to get them unstuck. I am pretty certain that the last time this thing was switched on, noting happened. This is one of three things that can go wrong with an electric motor, but fortunately after a bit of sanding and working, the brushes spring back and forth, just as they are supposed to!

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The next step will be to sand and paint all of the components and reassemble the motor and gearbox assembly. After reading up on the gearbox there has not been a recorded failure, and the grease still looked to be in good shape. If I can help it, I will leave the gearbox alone and simply paint it.

I checked into the cost of a replacement membrane (I haven’t the slightest clue on its history) and it’s about $340. A new seal kit runs about $120, so all in all I should have a completely rebuilt 12v watermaker aboard for about $660. Not too bad considering a new one is in the $4000 range, YIKES!

I am going to be updating the galley layout in the coming months, so it’s the perfect time to look at possible mounting locations.

2 Replies to “PowerSurvivor 35 Watermaker Install Part 1”

    1. Hey Michael! Thanks for tuning in. Unfortunately, someone stole the high pressure pump/membrane assembly, so we won’t be writing a part 2. We are looking for a used 40E to connect to our drive assembly, but until we find one we are sailing sans watermaker.

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