Lots of good stuff....different firmly held points of view, well substantiated. Here's mine: it's based on 19 years living aboard
a 33 foot monohull
cruising), and 14 years living aboard
a 45 foot cat (including full time chartering, marinas
and some cruising). No matter how you cut it, fresh water is better for the boat, whether it's frequent (often daily) rinses outside, flushing
toilets, cleaning gear
dishes. Most of the "salt in the air" is actually salt on the hands and feet! I have lots of gear
that has lasted for years and years because we rinse salt off hands and feet, as well as the gear.
The real question is not whether fresh water is better, but whether it is worth it to go all fresh water. It takes a watermaker
and the energy to run it and considerable water storage
. It was a struggle on the 33 foot monohull
, but a success, nonetheless, thanks to liberal use of a garden sprayer for almost everything, often including dishes. (How many people use these, anymore? They are still a great piece of kit.) The water maker was a Power
Survivor 35, eventually upgraded to a PUR 40. And, I got to know just about every inch of it. But, I did not have to spend time lugging jerry jugs of water, in the Sea of Cortez
, and the boat remained pristine. Rain water was not an option, needless to say, and I had a lot of solar panels
On the cat, it's a no-brainer. I have a far more efficient Spectra watermaker, lots of panels
, and a generator
. The boat stays spotless and the stainless needs polishing about once a year, period. NO rust stains, no corrosion
, and no clammy upholstery. It's easy to tell the difference between a salt/fresh water boat and a 100% fresh water one. Of course, running charters, I have an additional incentive to keep the boat pristine, but also additional challenges, as well. However, it's my considered opinion that it's just as much time/money maintaining boats and gear that get lots of salt water on them as it is to wash and rinse everything in fresh water. My water system has two pumps (one a back-up), and a manual one as well. I got rid of the salt water deck
pump after carefully analyzing how much water it then took to rinse stuff off, or the cost of not doing so. When you get onboard my boat, you rinse your feet. If you have been in the water, you rinse off before you get off the swim platform. After a hard upwind beat, I rinse off the decks. My boat is 19 years old, but always gets compliments on her condition and how she looks and smells.
Let me re-iterate that this is my own experience, starting with buckets of salt water used for lots of things and concluding with fresh water everywhere. But, on a smaller boat, or with no watermaker, you may have a different answer.
I smile when I tell my guests the water maker is really for the boat and its gear, and not people, but I am only half joking!