In our opinion, a watermaker is one of the most vital pieces of equipment needed on board when cruising. It is therefore crucial to pick the right one when considering adding a watermaker to your yacht.
When we bought Lady Roslyn, we were fortunate in that the previous owners had already installed, tested and used a watermaker - an AquaBase Eco Range 65 litre per hour ESW automatic model made by SLCE Watermakers in France. Having very little experience with watermakers prior to buying Lady Roslyn, Catherine & I could only judge whether the one already on-board was a good based on 2 criteria - did it work reliably and was it well made.
Our first big test of the watermaker came in June and July of this year. We set off from northern Italy with 5 people on board heading south for 3 weeks of sailing in Croatia. Having spent 6 weeks sailing on 3 different charter trips in Croatia in the years prior to buying Lady Roslyn, we knew that water could be scarce on some islands and finding somewhere to fill the yacht's water tank was not always easy. The luxury of being able to make our own water and not having an itinerary dictated by water stops was to be a highlight of this trip for us.
The unit had been "pickled" for the winter to preserve the membrane and after flushing it, we began producing beautiful, clear, unsalty drinking water.
Fresh water showers working - Check.
Ice machine producing lots of lovely cold fresh ice - Check.
Washing machine able to wash linen and towels - Check
After 9 days of sailing south to Trogir, we were scheduled to drop off one crew member and collect another 6 family members, making a total of 10 adults on board Lady Roslyn for 2 weeks.
One day before arriving in Trogir and BOOM (well not actually BOOM because there was no sound), the watermaker stopped working. This was not good !
I tried everything I could think of.....
Read the manual front to back - Check - no help
Changed the pre-filter - Check - no help
Opened and shut the flush valve - Check - no help
Scratched head - Check - no help
Took really, really good look at the construction of the watermaker for the first time - Check - no help.
However, I can now confirm that this piece of equipment is beautifully made. It is machined from solid blocks of stainless steel with precision aluminium tubes. An impressively constructed piece of machinery but right then, useless, as it wouldn't work.
Email the factory - Check - It's July. It's Europe. Everyone goes on holiday in July don't they?
But no, there in my Inbox only a few minutes after sending the email is a reply from Mr Guillaume Boissel from the after sales service department at SLCE Caudan in France, the manufacturers of the AquaBase watermakers.
By this time, I have sweat running down my back, not only from spending a long time in the port engine bay where the watermaker is located and it is over 30 degrees C outside, but also from the thought of being a new skipper on this catamaran with all that it entails. We have family coming on-board Lady Roslyn for the first time and now I have the added twist of having to tell them they have to ration the water and that we will have to find water stops along the way.
I like to fix things and I saw this as an opportunity to get to know how the watermaker was constructed and how it worked. I didn't realise then just how well I would get to know it over the next 2 weeks.
Guillaume, from the factory, asked in his first email what the serial number of our watermaker was and after sending him the details, he informed us that there were two small parts, which had been subcontracted to a third party during manufacture and which had been made from a sub-standard grade of stainless steel. He immediately couriered the 2 correct replacement parts to us and they were waiting on the quayside for us when we arrived the next day in Trogir.
Fantastic. We were going to make water again. Oh, but first I had to take the watermaker apart to get to the parts which needed changing. It all started out simply with emails back and forth between Guillaume and me. Over the next days I sent him pictures as I progressed and he sent me emails back with instructions like
"You will find attached the exploded view of the ES. You need to check the tightening of the screws with a torque wrench and put some thread locker on the screw V12"
"You need to remove the cylinder 166. If you return the unit, you will see a seat to put a large screwdriver. Use it to remove the first centimeter, then you can remove the cylinder by hand. After, you must translate the piston to the outside. After, on the second document, remove the 4 screws V17. With a little screw driver you will be able to remove the reverse gear subset (use the little hole)"
Half the time I had no idea what he was talking about but I persevered. By now there were more pieces off the watermaker than were on it and I was hot, frustrated and could not find a way to go further to get inside the watermaker to replace one of the parts.
And this, folks, is the real part of this story. I willingly attempted to fix the watermaker so that we could sail in Croatia without having to find places to top-up our water tanks. When that was no longer possible and I told Guillaume that I could go no further and that SLCE needed to assist in the repair, he immediately agreed that I could remove the watermaker and send it back to France (at their cost), that they would repair and test the unit completely and send it back to the boat in Italy (at their cost).
This I did on the day we left Italy to fly home after after completing our trip to Croatia.
Catherine & I have just returned from 12 days at the boat and upon arrival at the marina, I found a big wooden crate containing the newly refurbished (actually it looks like new) watermaker waiting for us. Not only had the unit been fully repaired but for a very small additional cost, Guillaume and SLCE had agreed to upgrade us from a 65 litre per hour unit to a 105 litre per hour unit. They included all parts that needed changing in the crate and after less than an hour of re-attaching the unit to its mounting plate, the water pipes to their respective couplings and the electrical connections to their points, we were back in business.
We have had a few small issues on Lady Roslyn which have needed attention from the suppliers who installed them. So far, brand AquaBase, company SLCE and staff member Mr. Guillaume Boissel have stood out head and shoulders above the rest in terms of:
a) bothering to reply
b) looking after their customer
c) standing by their product
d) immediately admitting that the issue had stemmed from an issue during manufacture
e) going out of their way to resolve the issue satisfactorily
We are very impressed.
As I started this blog so I end it.... In our opinion, a watermaker is one of the most vital pieces of equipment needed on board when cruising. It is therefore crucial to pick the right one when considering adding a watermaker to your yacht.
Anyone considering buying a watermaker should look no further than AquaBase. Their units are beautifully made. They really do work well. When a problem arises you know the factory is there to back you up.
It's all about the Base, 'bout the Base, 'bout the AQUABASE.