Posted by: oldsalt1942 | May 22, 2009

Shantyboat Tech #1 by Ken Hulme

Ken Hulme stumbled across my first blog which deals with my plans for retirement in the Republic of Panama. I also write about houseboats/shantyboats there as well, another subject Ken enjoys. I invited Ken to contribute to this blog. Here is his first article:

Shantyboat Tech – Part 1


Ken Hulme

The great thing about getting off-the-grid and on-the-hook in this New Millennium, is that we have some great Hi/Low Tech products to make our lives afloat more pleasant with minimal cost and effort.

  1. Today we don’t have to use oil lamps or drink straight out of the polluted river for example.

Let There Be Light

One of the great inventions of the late 20th century is the powerful white Light Emitting Diode or LED.  Not a ‘light bulb in the Thomas Edison sense, these simple devices are completely changing how boat and RV builders think about interior lighting.  For one thing you no longer need to wire a structure for electricity.  Each light source is self contained and uses easy to find rechargeable AA, C and D batteries.

When coupled with a simple, inexpensive solar-powered battery charger, the modern shantyboater can have nearly limitless electricity for lights and other low-power applications.

If that’s too much hassle, there are hand-cranked LED flashlights for reading while snuggled in your hammock.  I even have a hand-cranked combination flashlight, AM/FM Radio and emergency siren, purchased for under $20 that stays in my hurricane kit (I currently live in Florida).  Unlike early hand-crank radios and other devices, the modern ones give you significant listening or lighting time for the time spent cranking.  At the very least it’s an inexpensive backup system that takes up only the space of an ordinary flashlight.

Cool Clear Water

If you’re going to shantyboat in a marine environment, you need a source of fresh water for drinking and cooking.  If you live on nominally ‘fresh’ water, you still need some sort of filter system to get rid of e coli, giardia, and assorted crap from the water before you drink it. Contrary to popular belief, boiling water, or purification tablets don’t do the whole job.  Unless you want to spend your shantyboat life with a constant case of Montezuma’s Revenge, get a real, reliable, water purifier.

Katadyn, MSR, Pur and a number of other companies make backpacker and camper water purifiers that use ceramic filter, which range from $29 to $150 depending on output volume, degree of filtration and filter life span.  These are perfect for the shantyboater as they take up little space, use no electricity, and easily produce the gallon or more per day which experts suggest we need to consume to maintain health and life.  They work like a bicycle pump with two hoses` attached.  Put one hose in the unclean water, another in a clean water container and push-pull a pump handle!

If the local water is murky (Mississippi, Ohio, Amazon, Nile, etc.), let it set in a bucket for a few hours or a day so the mud settles out.  Then run your purifier.  You’ll save money on filters that way.

Of course, if you’re rich, you can drop $6-800 for an solar-electrically-powered tabletop reverse osmosis unit that produces 10 gallons a day of water.  But that same $6-800 will pay for a dozen years worth of filters for an MSR or Katadyn purifier.

Desalinators are a bit more expensive – in the $200+ range, but if you’re in a maritime area with erratic rainfall (the coast of Baja or Peru for example) where you can’t depend on filling up a 20 gallon container with rainwater every week, a desalinator is just what you need.  Sea water goes in one end, and by pumping a handle you force the brine through a reverse osmosis filter system which strips away the salt as well as all the other nasties.

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