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Fresh water still a problem at sea

Jan 1, 2003

"Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink."

--"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Drinking water rotting in oaken casks may no longer be the problem it was for cruising vessels of the past, but not having enough fresh water onboard can still be a sailor's worst nightmare.

When the Canadian Navy supply vessel, HMCS Preserver (patrolling with American Naval vessels in the Arabian Sea) began to experience problems with her evaporators in November, things almost immediately started to go foul.

The provisioning vessel found herself in the decidedly embarrassing position of having to beg water from her consorts, HMCS Halifax, Charlottetown and Iroquois, all of which have more modern reverse-osmosis-based water purification systems.

The water crunch may not have been as bad as that related by the Ancient Mariner, but it did mean that the crew had to take shorter showers and be oh so careful about washing clothes. Possibly the worst thing about not having enough fresh water was the crew's suffering the indignity of having their victuals served to them on paper plates.


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