Shipping a Water Maker

Water Maker Shipping Boxes


Before you install a water maker aboard your cruising boat, we first have to get it to you in one piece, which is where our custom made shipping boxes some into play.  David and Amy’s 30 gallon per hour water maker made it safely to Texas and you can see some of the unpacking photos on their Blog entitled Chasing Stars.They are in the process of outfitting their new  Helia 44 Cat made by Fountaine Pajot in La Rochelle, France.


The water maker ships in 4 boxes anywhere in the continental US for $285 using UPS Ground and for International orders we use DHL.  DHL Shipping costs obviously vary based on Country but Australia and Europe for example are both about $700.  The most expensive shipping cost we have had so far was $1200 to Tahiti!  A pallet of 3 water makers by contract to the Philiphines cost $1200 and took 28 days via sea freight.
The box sizes and weights for a 30 gallon per hour water maker are:
Box 1 Pump and Motor 25″x15″x14″ 54lbs
Box 2 RO Pressure Vessel Assembly 47″x13″x11 33lbs
Box 3 Prefilters, Boost pump, and all Misc hoses and fittings 18″x12″x16″ 33lbs
Box 4: Remote Panel 14″x10″x10″ 5lbs
Optional Box 5: Consumable Cruising Kit 14″x10″x10″ 14lbs


I’m knocking on my wooden desk aboard SV THIRD DAY when I type this, but so far we have shipped hundres of water makers without having one “lost in the mail”!

Water Maker Safe TDS Levels

Question: What is the safe Water Maker TDS Levels for drinking water?
Answer: 500ppm (parts per million)
Now for some details: First, TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids and when dealing with sea water RO, the TDS level is mainly composed of sodium and chloride ions.  A new RO membrane should start producing 100-150PPM water and then slowly climb until it reaches 500ppm and it’s time for a new membrane.  While out cruising I would constantly meet cruisers that didn’t have a TDS meter to check their water and were relying on how it tastes.  After their plants started dying and their cat wouldn’t drink the water, one of our friends bought a TDS meter and found out that they were drinking 1500 ppm water….yikes.  Don’t rely on the taste test becuase the TDS can start hurting your kidneys before you can “taste” the salt and at $25 for a good TDS meter, it’s a must have on a cruising boat.

Facts About Marine Water Maker RO Membranes

Marine Water Makers have a reputation of being expensive to maintain.  That can be true for water makers that insist on using proprietary consumable parts such as RO Membranes.  However, an off the shelf 40″ long by 2.5″ diameter RO Membrane made by Dow Chemical costs $187 and is the gold standard for quality and salt rejection the world over.  Unfortunately, rather than using this industry standard membrane to help keep future operational and maintenance costs down, some water maker companies have “special size” RO membranes made which can only be bought from the Company for $699.  Other water maker companies don’t go as far to have special size membranes made to lock you in, rather they simply say that their membranes are “special, super, high rejection, or magic” and then charge $499 for the same $187 membrane.  In your water maker shopping process, be sure to ask about the brand and replacement cost of the RO Membrane.  If they won’t tell you, run.  If they blow smoke at you and try to call it “special” to justify the $500 cost, run.


There are two great videos on our website that show how RO Membranes work and how they are made.

Custom 60GPH Water Maker in Genoa Bay Marina BC Canada


How large a water maker do you need?

For most cruising boats our most popular selling water maker is the 30 gallon per hour unit, but the Genoa Bay Marina in BC Canada needed a larger unit. To save on shipping costs, we sold them the 3 major components (Pump/Motor, Pressure Vessels/Membrane Assembly, and the Remote Panel) and then worked with them to design and build the water maker using locally available parts. If only cruising boats had this type of room for the installation 90% of the difficulty in installing a water maker would vanish.

Saving Water Maker RO Membranes

There are a couple of things that can foul or kill an RO membrane in a marine water maker; oxidants like chlorine, biological growth, or oils.  Linda sent me a panicked email after discovering they had somehow sucked oil into their water maker and were looking for help.  This story had a happy ending with their two membranes being saved after some serious cleaning and replacing of oil coated parts.  It also goes to show that just because you suck some oils into your water maker doesn’t mean you have to automatically toss the membrane out.


—–Original Message—–
From: Linda
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2014 8:47 AM
To: Rich with Cruise RO Water
Subject: Re: Membrane Failure


Hallelujah!!!!  The system is back online and working.  After rinsing with about 50-60 gallons of soapy water, we used the acid cleaner and the neutralizer.  Then we ran salt water through it for an hour.  We ended up having to replace all the hoses (not the high pressure ones).
But now the PPMs are right around 200 from BOTH membranes.  We ran it yesterday afternoon for around 2-3 hours and it’s doing fine.


Thank you for all your help, support and encouragement!  You are the best team we could have asked for and I will tell anyone who asks just that.  We’re be leaving for Ensenada Saturday for a slow bash up the outside.  Rich, if you’re ever in Ensenada stop by and we’ll treat you to our favorite fish tacos.


Linda & Frank
M/V Discovery

Water Maker Complaint Email

The names and email addresses of the innocent have been redacted, but this was one client “complaint” email that we were happy to receive.


—–Original Message—–
From: [30 GPH Water Maker Client]
Sent: Saturday, December 21, 2013 4:34 PM
Subject: Damn you Rich


Yesterday we bought a small pressure washer for the boat because, as [my wife] put it, “since we can make enough water now, we can use it to keep the boat clean all the time” (by “we” she means “me”, of course).


Now she is slowly slipping in comments about washing machines.
This is your fault, and is something you should make perfectly clear on your website regarding your high output water makers.


Thanks for making more work for me!
[30 GPH Water Maker Client]

Merry Christmas from Cruise RO Water Makers

From the Crew of SV THIRD DAY at anchor in Morro Bay, California all decked out in LED lights.

Have a Merry Christmas!


Water Maker Installation on a Catalina 400 Sailboat

The following was sent in by Tim, the owner of SV Magic a Catalina 400 Sailboat after returning from their first season of cruising the Bahamas.  Not every client sends such a detailed water maker installation write-up to us.  So when this one came in we had to share it!


In the spring of 2012, in preparation for extended trips to the Bahamas from the Chesapeake Bay, we decided to add a watermaker to our inventory. After an exhaustive search, we decided on the 110-volt SM20 by Cruise RO Water Maker.  This decision was based on several factors:

•    Modular design. I could put the components basically where I had the most space and where it was most convenient. The Catalina 400 doesn’t have a lot of excess storage space and it was important I use wasted space whenever possible:

•    High output (20 gph) using a Honda 2000i to power the high-pressure pump. Since we already had the generator that saved us money.
•    Price. This unit was almost ½ the price of almost every other system I found and had a higher output than any.
•    Customer support. I had no idea how much I would wind up relying on these guys during the design and installation of my system. Even though Rich was on his boat in Mexico, I never had to wait more than a couple hours for a response to either an e-mail or phone question.
•    Easy of operation. While not as automatic as other systems, the instructions were very clear and it was quickly apparent it would be easy to operate.


Once we made the decision to buy the system, my biggest priority was to find locations on the boat where the watermaker would take up the least amount of usable storage space. That space wound up being one of our huge aft cockpit lockers. I was able to put all components of the system in this locker except the saltwater intake and associated lines.

I wanted to place the relatively heavy high pressure pump relatively low and near the centerline and since the bottom of this locker is curved, had to construct a shelf that provided a flat mounting surface but also fit the contours of the hull. The photo at left shows the platform, which is tucked up under an overhang in the aft cockpit locker, painted and glassed to the hull structure itself. This was unused space before. If you look closely you can see a separate plate directly under the pump. Between that and the platform is a piece of rubber that I included to reduce vibration noise. The pump was already relatively quiet, but the rubber shock-absorber did help.

I found space for mounting the Valving/ Cleaning Assembly, Boost Pump and dual Pre-Filter assembly along a transom locker wall that intrudes into the aft cockpit locker. Minor modifications to how the assemblies were put together were made to reduce water line runs. Rich Boren at Cruise RO was extremely helpful here, helping ensure these mods would work for our application. Note: In the photo the valve assembly has been reversed. The line leading in from the left is the freshwater flush that comes from a connection in the cockpit shower. The second photo shows where saltwater flows into the valving assembly and then to the boost pump. Barely visible at the bottom right of the photo (around a corner) is the dual filter assembly. While sailing the boat, all these assemblies are covered and protected by a line bag that hangs from the top opening of the locker.

After leaving the dual pre-filter assembly, saltwater then goes to the high-pressure pump which (in my case), is AC powered. At anchor, I accomplish that by running my Honda generator, plugging it into the shore power receptacle and then plugging the AC pump into the 110-volt receptacle shown in the lower photograph.  Two major components still needed to be installed, the membrane (where the magic happens!) and the Remote Panel. In my case, the membrane fit nicely (if snugly) right against the forward bulkhead of the cockpit locker and can be seen in the photo to the left. This blue “tube-like” membrane runs athwartship and is well protected. Note: Slipping slightly larger reinforced water lines over the watermaker plastic lines in strategic spots protected them from chafing. The people at Cruise RO were extremely helpful here in helping me locate potential weak spots.

The last major component, the Remote Panel may have provided me the most head scratching of the install. I kept moving that unit around and checking both fit and utility until I found a location where it was both accessible and secure. I wound up hanging the panel directly below a couple of shore power circuit breaker plates at the outboard side (port) of the locker which allowed fairly good viewing, was protected from the elements and made water line runs pretty easy. To ensure “stiffness” I attached the panel to a couple aluminum bars that I then used to attach to the circuit breaker plates. The piece of aluminum seen at the bottom right of the photo stiffened the bottom of the panel nicely. Note:  At the bottom of the Remote Panel are two rocker switches, one for the boost pump, and the other for the high-pressure pump. You will note just above the boost pump switch (left), I installed a 15-amp circuit breaker. I think it is a nifty location.

The only remaining installation challenge was how to plumb saltwater to the watermaker and discharge the brine. I tapped off one of my head intake lines to bring seawater to the system and all brine discharge lines were connected to existing cockpit deck drain lines.


During our 6 months in the Bahamas, I had absolutely no problems as all with the watermaker. We did continue to take “Navy” showers and otherwise conserve our fresh water, but I only found it necessary to make water every 3-4 days for about 1 ½-2 hours at a time. I only plumbed the RO water into my aft tank (to avoid a long water line run to a bow tank) and we used it almost exclusively. We had enough water that I even allowed myself to give the boat an occasional freshwater bath!


Bottom line is that I couldn’t have been happier with our Cruise RO SM20 watermaker. Yes, it did fall into the “want” list rather than the “need” one, but I viewed it as a quality of life benefit. While other cruisers stood in long lines waiting for questionable island water, we pretty much made as much as we needed! My hats off to Rich and Charlie of Cruise RO Water!

Seattle Boat Show Water Maker Overview



Seattle Boat Show Water Maker Overview Video


This short water maker overview was filmed while in our booth at the Seattle Boat Show in 2012.



Maple Leaf 48 Watermaker Installation

The best water maker installations are those that take up the least amount of valable storage space.  The Cruise RO Water Maker dealer in La Paz, B.C.S. Mexico installed this 20 gallon per hour water maker under the seat on a Maple Leaf 48, SV Away She Goes.