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Byrne McLeod

    The only example I know of the provision for collecting rainwater in a sailing ship is from Irving Johnson’s ‘The Peking Battles Cape Horn’, 1932, reprint 1995 The National Maritime Historical Society, New York. p 97:

    A regular doldrum downpour started in, and we hurriedly swept off the midships deck, set buckets under the pipes that let the water run to the lower decks, and as fast as the buckets filled carried them to a couple of big steel tanks, one on the fore deck, and one on the after deck. Those held our water for washing.

    Our big deck tanks had only a two inch hole in the top, and through that we had to get the water by dangling down a little can on a string. This sort of water conservation is the limit of inconvenience, and thereby, I suppose, achieves its purposes. Naturally, we sailors unexpectedly found a half bucket of the water drawn up through that little hole sufficient to wash a great quantity of clothes. P 104.

    It surprises me that the eighteenth century Navy, which fitted amongst other things wind scoops and pumps, apparently made no effort to catch rain water.

    AMG McL


    In my reading of 18th century logs I never found a mention of collecting rain water at sea. In the West Indies there were constant references to having to go this island or that for ‘watering’, and Archibald Kennedy gave a detailed description of the island he discovered off the Portuguese coast where the spring of sweet water ran down to the beach. As the penalties for running out of water were so profound, it seems short-sighted of the Admiralty to leave it to the personal initiative of captains like Thomas Pasley who caught rainwater at sea.