Sunday, December 2, 2012

We're In a Bit of Hot Water (I wish!)

English: Drop of water falling into a glass of...

Our hot water heater died.  Fairly dramatically, as in “spewed water all over the cabin sole while the pump ran every few minutes” died.   This might be tolerable for a while in July.  But in chilly late November, hot water at home is one of those things we take for granted that I definitely did not want to do without.  So while Dan twisted himself into an impossible shape to climb into the locker and remove it, I got busy on the internet shopping for a replacement.  He was successful.  I wasn’t.

Just a couple of weeks ago I had given a talk to a group of retired environmental scientists about our life on the boat and the science tidbits we encountered while cruising, and at one point talked about average water use in the U.S. and how we had to be careful of our use aboard; how we could make 120 gallons of fresh water for cooking, drinking, and bathing last 3-4 weeks when the average land-based person in the U.S. uses 35 gal per person per day for this.  That extravagant water use led to some complications for us.

When our boat was built it was tightly designed, every square inch was used and nothing wasted.  That included the locker that housed the water heater.  In its day the heater was quite ingenious: it could be heated either by electricity when we’re plugged into the dock or the heat of the running engine when we’re underway.  It was also compact and … small, a bit less than 4 gallons. Apparently in the 30 years since the boat was built and everything else domestic in the U.S. was upsized, the minimum size for hot water tanks was upsized also.  The statistics from my talk earlier in the month were very much on my mind.  Seems no manufacturer thinks people can live comfortably without massive amounts of hot water.  (Funny, we’ve been doing it comfortably for years, guess I never noticed.) I found lots of 6 gallon options, and 10, 15 and bigger, but nothing small enough to fit without major carpentry and bulkhead removal.  We looked at instant-hot tankless options, but decided that wouldn’t work in our situation.  Finally, we found one in Europe that was made of all stainless steel, so hopefully wouldn’t need replacement again any time soon.  And more important, that assumed people could in fact be comfortable and live well while conserving water; it was small enough to fit our locker.  Not sure why this seemed meaningful to me, maybe disappointed that once again, Europe was ahead of us in things “green?”

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