Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

in Clipper Tales / Life at Sea / Sailing the World
clipper race rainbow

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.


Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where

Nor any drop to drink.

— The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)


We know something is seriously wrong when James, our engineer, jumps up from his bunk, claws his way into the salon and starts tearing cushions off the settee.

Just yesterday James assured us that the thirty-four buckets of water we emptied from the bilge were not a problem because he’d already fixed the blown hose on the watermaker. So we breathed a sigh of relief and cracked jokes about the salt water enemas we’d have to give each other to survive if our watermaker ever broke.

But that was yesterday. There is no joking around with James now. He isn’t smiling or offering reassurances that the water maker – our lifeline — is going to be okay. Instead, he’s muttering to himself as he rummages through his tool box and glares at our Spectra watermaker, practically sweating.

There are many things on board CV21 Henri Lloyd that we can live without until we get to Rio, which is still 1800 miles away. For instance, the primary winch that broke on the way to Brest and never got fixed in time for the race start. Or the boat hook we lost overboard. Or the running back stay cleats that were never installed. Or even the spinnaker halyards that stripped on the in-mast rigging.

But a watermaker is just not one of those things. We simply cannot live without water. And we can’t survive until Rio on the one 290-liter tank of water we have left.

Which is why, with excessive use of silicone, duct tape and industrial glue, James and crew are trying desperately to save our cracked and failing water maker. Even though we all know deep down the crack in the housing is irreparable.

So, once it’s confirmed that our water maker is well and truly dead, strict water rations are put into place – the crew is limited to one and a half liters per person per day. Which doesn’t sound that bad, but in the Tropics on the Equator with no wind, it takes about three liters a day just to stay mildly hydrated.

But I am okay with the water rations for the first few days. Okay, maybe the first day. Scrap that. It takes the first horrific caffeine-free night watch to realize what it actually means to do night watches without coffee. NO COFFEE. I furiously dig up my Clipper contract to see if depriving me of coffee is a violation of my rights.

Not to mention, my poor crew are now forced to meet the decaffeinated version of me – migraines, grumpiness and an uncanny ability to fall asleep whilst standing up on grinder duty. In essence, decaffeinated Tasha is a terrible night sailor.

Which is why I am incredibly grateful for two things:

1)    The Skipper’s decision to suspend racing and motor thirty miles back into the Doldrums to get a water transfer from Team OneDLL, whose water maker is one of the few in the fleet that are still working.

2)    The monsoon rainstorm that results in collecting an additional four days’ water rations beyond what we get from OneDLL. Which means we can go back to drinking tea and coffee until Rio. THANK HEAVENS! Literally.

When we practiced transfers between boats during my Level 3 Clipper Race Training, I never imagined we would actually use it. Much like doing man overboard drills, I really hoped I would never have to use this skill in real life.

henri lloyd onedll water transfer clipper race

We weren’t looking to raft up in the Atlantic, but hey…

But sure enough, we find ourselves throwing our heaving line onto OneDLL’s deck so they can send jugs of water over to us on the other end of the line. Which is a cumbersome process that takes us about an hour for the water transfer and seven and a half hours in total for us to motor to OneDLL, receive the water on board, and motor back to where we started.

onedll water maker clipper race

Jo, putting our training to good use collecting water.

The only worry about doing the transfer is that we are in the first place position at the time, and we are taking a risk by motoring back into the Doldrums to pick up water. But we also don’t really have a choice.

So, when the skies open up and deliver another four days of water to us via our boom cover turned upside down to collect rain pouring off our mainsail, I try not to think along the lines that we could have done without the water transfer after all.

henri lloyd boom cover water collection clipper race

Turning a branded boom cover into a rain gutter – pioneering spirit, indeed.


“ALL HANDS ON DECK!” someone yells, getting everyone up to collect water in their personal mugs since we’ve run out of receptacles to collect water in.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a monsoon suddenly rains down on a crew of twenty parched, overheated sailors who’ve been counting the minutes until their next 500 milliliter water ration, I can tell you.

Shrieks of delight reverberate below deck as crew leap from their bunks and run up on deck with wild looks in their eyes, some holding cups and others clutching their dirty laundry. Most of the crew stand with their mouths open to the sky while bending down to scoop water from the floor onto their faces. Some grab bottles of shampoo and start scrubbing their hair and armpits while others just sit on deck in the rain, out of the way, laughing at the mayhem. The engineers turn every sheet of vinyl on board into gutters and funnels that run into every pot, pan and bowl available while shouting down to the galley to send up more.

In essence, the rain creates a mass hysteria comparable to that of a pub throwing free beer at its patrons. Meanwhile, I’m in the galley, digging the Nescafe out of the cupboard while rainwater boils in the kettle.

Let’s just say, when I signed up for the Clipper Race, I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of food deprivation, sleep deprivation and even water rations on board. But I never prepared myself for the possibility that I would have to give up my coffee.

So, as I throw my third heaping scoop of Nescafe into my mug, I am grinning. Sanity has been restored and all is right with the world on Henri Lloyd.


The Clipper Round the World Race

Tasha and Ryan are competing in Legs 1 and 3 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which started September 1st, 2013 in London, UK. Tasha is competing on CV21 (the Henri Lloyd boat) with Skipper Eric Holden and Ryan is competing on CV28 (the PSP Logistics boat) with Skipper Chris Hollis. You can read more about the crew and the boats here at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew

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