Boat Gear & Outfitting | Outfitting a Boat for Cruising

Cruise RO Watermaker Review

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While in the planning process of outfitting a blue water catamaran, we knew that it would be a multi-step process.  One of the most important steps that we took was to install a reverse osmosis watermaker.  We picked a Cruise RO watermaker, and five years later, we are still incredibly glad we have it.

Why Did We Pick a Cruise RO Watermaker?

I first mentioned Cruise RO watermakers back in March 2014 after we got back from the Miami Boat Show.  Amy and I both liked the fact that the watermakers are high output models, use non-proprietary parts and are more straightforward and simple than other watermakers.  This means they are less likely to break, and are easier to fix!  The one downside to these watermakers is that they take a lot of power.  Cruise RO suggests a portable Honda generator to power the watermaker.  However, our onboard diesel generator is quite large (12kW), and we will use it on a fairly regular basis to charge up our batteries, we will be able to make water at the same time.

Cruise RO has a huge positive reputation with cruisers, and one that we’ve been able to experience or witness first hand.  Rich shipped us a new membrane to Australia and he shipped a new membrane to our friends on Slow Flight when they were in the Maldives.  Both these experiences were prompt and expedient.  Plus, you’ll read later about how helpful Rich is over the phone!

Purchase at Southwest International Boat

It took a little while after Miami for us to make up our minds, but we were fortunate in that Rich, one of the owners of Cruise RO and lured by the promise of great Texas BBQ, came to the Southwest International Boat Show this year so we were able to meet up with him at the show, get one more demonstration of the unit, and place our order for a 30 gallon/hour model.  The 30 GPH model allows us to have a very plentiful supply of fresh water, which means we don’t have to constantly limit ourselves to “Navy Showers“, we have lots of fresh drinking water, and are able to use freshwater washdowns on the boat, which go a long way to keeping her clean and beautiful.

The Unboxing

2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - Boxes

The watermaker came in 5 large boxes.  The first (and heaviest!) box housed the high-pressure pump and motor assembly.  The boat is set up with a US-based power system, so we chose to go for the 115 VAC/60hz pump motor.

2014.05.30 - Pump and motor assembly
2014.05.30 - WattSaver - Pump and motor assembly specs

The next big box had the RO Pressure Vessel Assembly.  This is where the magic happens.  Two Dow membranes are used to hit the 30 gallon-per-hour water making capacity.  If something happens to one of the membranes, we can re-plumb the system and use the other to still make 20 GPH.  This actually happened in Australia, so I replumbed the membranes and ran with just one.  It still worked a treat, although slower.

2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - RO Pressure Vessel in box
2014.05.30 - Reverse Osmosis Pressure Vessel

The third box contained the bulk of the whole system.  This includes the 12V Self Priming Boost Pump, Pre-filter Assembly with 20- and 5-micron Prefilters, and the Valve and Cleaning Assembly.  In addition, there were also the Installations, Operations and Maintenance Manual, tubing, and connector fittings.

2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - Pump, Filters, Hoses and Misc in Box
2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - Pump, Filters, Hoses and Misc

The fourth box contained the optional Remote Panel that includes a flow meter, pressure gauge, selector valve, and switches for both pumps.  This will be very helpful in providing smooth operation of the system, plus verification that the system is working properly.

2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - Remote Panel in box
2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - Remote Panel

The last box included what Cruise RO deems the “Cruising Consumable Kit“.  This kit will provide us with a year’s supply of filters, pickling reagent, and high-pressure pump crankcase oil.

2014.05.30 - Cruise RO - Cruising Consumable Kit

I was very impressed and pleased with how securely everything was packed and shipped.  There was no damage to anything and I just re-taped the boxes up to ship them to the boat.

Spares and Tools for our Cruise RO Watermaker

Here is what we keep onboard Starry Horizons for spares.

Installation of our Watermaker

Since we were crossing the Atlantic ourselves, we wanted the watermaker to be installed right away.  We eventually realized it might be outside of our scope of abilities that early in our cruising life, so while Uchimata was doing a bunch of other projects for us, we had them install the watermaker.

On the first pass, the watermaker wasn’t working correctly.  Thankfully – and this is something Cruise RO is really known for – Rich, the owner, was easy to get a hold of in a video call, and he was able to troubleshoot with our French installer from thousands of miles away!  Amazing!  The issue was that our installer had wired it for 220V when it needed to be wired for 115V.

Cruise RO Pre-Filters
Cruise RO Control Panel + Pump + Membranes

After crossing the Atlantic, we installed a scoop over the water intake for the watermaker to prevent air from coming in.  That’s worked very well since then.

Modifications We’ve Made

In 2019 we re-wired the watermaker to run off of the inverter, which means we can now run the watermaker off of the alternators if our generator stopped working.

Another modification we would suggest is swapping out your filter housing. The filter housing that comes with the system is Imperial, as are your filters. If you are planning to cruise in international waters, I’d recommend switching to a Metric housing unit that will filter metric filters.

Issues with our Cruise RO Watermaker

We’ve had issues three times with our boost pump.  This pump is not Cruise RO proprietary parts, which means that we have a much higher chance of finding a replacement anywhere in the world.  Our boost pump is a Jabsco Bilge Pump 31705-0092, and we keep a spare in stock as well as a rebuild kit.

What is Our Water Quality Like?

When we use our water tester, it typically runs around 200-250 ppm.  The operation manual says below 500 ppm is acceptable for drinking water.

When we were planning our move aboard, Amy was very concerned about the taste of the water.  She doesn’t like bottled water and sometimes doesn’t like the taste of tap water either.  Thankfully, we both breathed a sigh of relief because the water coming out of our watermaker is delicious!

How Easy is it to Run the Cruise RO Watermaker?

Very easy.  I’m the one who usually starts up our watermaker, but using the manual, Amy is comfortable following the steps for start-up and shut-down, so she can run the watermaker herself, too.

Video: Making Water

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11 Comments

  1. A watermaker is a huge help isn’t it. I have the same type of parts sourced for my build. Thank goodness with the 1hp motor, pumps, tubing, pressure vessels, etc…the bill only came to $2100. Thank goodness prices have been coming down on some of the parts…now I sourced most myself, but it runs great. Yours has the over pressure valve(the brass piece on the hp pump) I think that protects your membranes on the high pressure pump. I still haven’t found one of those yet.

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