Thursday, March 24, 2011

Water Purifier for Boating Safety

Of course you want to be safe on your boat, so you've got rope, life vests, emergency flares, a GPS. But did you think about a water purifier? Humans get dehydrated in a matter of hours. Dehydration can cause weakness, dizziness and disorientation. In a boating emergency these symptoms can be dangerous. Of course, severe dehydration can be life threatening by itself. A person will die in three days, on average, without water.
If you are planning a long boat voyage, you may want a water purifier so that you don't have to carry as much drinkable water. This is especially true if you are traveling with a large party.
If you are boating in fresh water, the water most probably contains the pathogens Giardia and Cryptosporidium, which can cause severe gastro-intestinal illness. If you are an ocean boater, sea water must have the salt removed before it is safe to drink.
Purifying Fresh Water
Water purifiers for fresh water can be found in camping stores, sporting goods shops, and boating supply stores. They are lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
A portable, pump filtration system will remove bacteria from your drinking water. There are pump filters that can be used for fresh, brackish, or salt water. Most water filters use a ceramic or polymer filter, along with a charcoal filter and sometimes a reverse osmosis filter, to remove the microscopic bacteria from water. These systems can be pricey, and it is worthwhile to get the most expensive one you can afford, because it is likely to work better and have more features.
Boiling is the best method of cleaning your drinking water. Boiling will kill all the pathogens in water, provided you boil the water at 212 degrees F for at least thirty minutes. The downside of boiling water is that many pleasure boats don't have a heat source or the large kettle necessary for this purification technique.
The old standby for making emergency drinking water is water purification tablets. These are usually iodine tablets, which can leave the water with a funny taste. But they are cheap and lightweight. There are improvements to the standard tablet which can improve the flavor. There are also chlorine tablets. Water purifying tablets usually take half an hour to four hours to kill the bacteria, but no special equipment is needed.

A new, high-tech solution for water purification is an ultra violet (UV) penlight. This battery operated gizmo uses UV light to kill microbes in about two minutes per liter. Patents are pending, but the UV penlight is getting good reviews. It is expensive, but cheaper than a filter system, and take into consideration that the batteries must be recharged periodically.
Salt Water Desalination
Salt water is not drinkable, and if you try drinking sea water in an emergency you will get very sick. Desalination means taking the salt out and leaving just the water, which you can drink. A portable desalination system is quite expensive, with the smaller units costing more. There are small desalination plants that can be installed on your boat if it is large enough.
A reverse osmosis pump is the best choice for emergency salt water purification. The water must be forced through the filter, which requires you to provide some force for pumping. There are battery operated units and hand operated units. The hand pumped reverse osmosis filters require about an hour of pumping to provide a gallon of drinkable water, but they are lighter weight and no consideration needs to be given to batteries or electrical sources.
If you have a way to boil water, you can buy or make a desalinating still. Fill a kettle that has a tight lid with sea water. Connect a coiled copper tube to the lid, and boil the seawater. The steam (condensation) will drip out of the copper tube as clean water to be collected in another container.
You should add one of these methods of water purification to your emergency gear for any boating trip. Water purifiers are light and affordable. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Steve Dolan is an avid outdoorsman and has owned several boats. Share his insights at Boats and Boating Supplies and check out more about boats at Luxury Boats and Yachts.
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