Learnings, Tips & Tricks: Fresh Water


By Rich

Step 1: Make sure you fill the tanks all the way. I’m only partially kidding. Sabre’s documentation on the care and feeding of this boat is excellent, but one has to read the documentation to benefit from it. Last year rather than reading & following Sabre’s documented procedure, we were filling the water tanks the same way I remember the family boat being filled as a child:

  1. Open deck filling fitting
  2. Insert hose
  3. Run hose until tank overflows out the filler
  4. Stop filling
  5. Replace deck fitting
  6. Repeat for other tank
  7. Crack open Miller Light and enjoy

Perusing the Sabre documentation this winter, I realized that – gasp – not everything we saw our parents do when we were children was actually correct (plus, Miller Light – really?). Rather than the “overflow” method, Sabre recommends that the tanks always be filled with the inspection port opened with an observer down below. There are two key reasons for this. First, it turns out that filling a water tank without opening the inspection port allows a column of water to form in the fill tube. This in turn builds pressure in the tank (a surprising amount, it turns out) that will allow the top of the tank to deform sufficiently to produce a leak at the inspection port. This water can then rot out interior furnishings around the tank (in our case the leak would rot out the settee face, which thankfully has not occurred).

The second reason to avoid the ‘overflow’ method is even more elementary: filling the tanks with the inspection port opened is the only way to get the tank completely full. Our tanks conform to the contours of the hull and are half-V shaped in cross section. That means that the last inch of water one adds accounts for many times the amount of water that the first inch of water in the tank accounts for. Based on what I observe while filling with the inspection point open, I believe that water would begin to back up through the fill tube long before the tank is actually full were the inspection port left closed. That means that our disappointing fresh water supplies last year may have been as much about under-filling our tanks as it was about over consumption (blush). While it’s certainly true that it’s a hassle to move all of the cushions from each settee each time the tanks need to be filled, this method is less of a hassle than running in to the dock more often to fill tanks.

insp port

This year we’re running in to fill up with water far less often than last year. Here are some additional tips & tricks we’ve picked up so far for conserving and improving the quality of our fresh water:

  • We made sure the insides our tanks were nice and clean by removing and thoroughly cleaning them last winter.
  • I use this inline water filter on the end of our hose whenever we fill up. Such filters are readily available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.


  • We were sure to change the water filter element in the on-board water filter system at the start of the season (duh – right? This might sound obvious but the condition of the filter we removed suggested it wasn’t – at least to Seb’s prior owners. I-C-K.).
  • We have a dedicated water tank fill hose to make sure we aren’t filling our fresh water tanks with hose that has become contaminated with dirt or soap while being used for other activities. The collapsable variety are easy to handle and compact to stow.
  • To conserve water, use us the manual foot pumps at each sink almost exclusively and only used pressurized water when we want to use hot water or when doing so is preferable for the task at hand (ie washing dishes).

We’re sure there is a lot more learning to do, but to date these tips have served us well and we’ve seen a big improvement in fresh water capacity relative to last year.

2 thoughts on “Learnings, Tips & Tricks: Fresh Water

  1. Good tip on the filling. Guess I need to change my habits. On my old boat I had a foot pump that used seawater and I used that to do dishes, rinsing with fresh. Works pretty well, except the smell if you don’t give it a few pumps every day. That boat had only 27 gallons which I could stretch into 3 weeks if needed. 120 gallons now feels absolutely luxurious. All about perspective.

    1. I love the idea of the sea water pump for rinsing and when we transition to longer distance cruising we’ll likely add one.
      No doubt that dishes take the most water after showering and hand loads of laundry!

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