Most of the water in our lives is safely outboard. The ocean, rain, rivers. We've gone to some lengths to keep it that way.
But some of it is invited aboard.
A reader asked about our system, and it turns out to be startlingly intricate... here I was thinking it simple! Here's a medley of ways and means we handle it.
An all-purpose bucket lives on deck. We like the 2 gallon size made from food grade plastic, white, with a rope painter. Its small size makes it easy to heft saltwater aboard for washing down decks, pre-rinsing dishes, latrine duty. If it's been raining hard, we use it to bail most of the dory before finishing with its smaller, dedicated scoop.
Also on deck (usually) are four, 5 gallon jerrycans, each of which holds about a weeks worth of fresh water, more or less. These were a score... British military surplus, they have 1/4" thick walls (tough as nails). We fill them two at a time, usually... we'll fill 'em all if heading into a flat area.
Fresh water in SE Alaska is plentiful, and mostly deliciously potable. We look for steep creeks running down directly from mountainsides, or small rivers with good flow. We avoid those with flat stretches below muskeg (acidic peat bogs common to the area), where water may have sat, stagnant and warm, before joining the stream. In late summer, the fish runs start coming in, and we'll avoid spawning streams until they clear of fish remains... usually November-ish.
Giardia (a protozoa infection) is always a risk. It can be carried and introduced by animals (a common name for it is beaver fever after high concentrations from waters contained by beaver dams), including humans, and almost any surface water is susceptible.
Official advice is to treat, filter or boil all untested water. Some argue that this is over-kill; that a healthy person's immune system resists small concentrations... the problem (goes the argument) occurs in high concentrations or when the immune system is depressed. We've followed this line of reasoning, based on scarcity of giardia victims in SE, and (I must confess) laziness. If you do boil water to sterilize, it's a minimum of three minutes at a roiling boil. Stir when cool to re-oxygenate.
If we're not satisfied with the look of things, we do have a Katydyn pump filter, and can collect it off our sails or by setting a collection tarp. Only ever resorted to this once or twice. Sails are easy (put 'em up with a one panel bight at the bottom, and catch the drip), but water so caught tastes of smoke.
Steep creeks are usually small and can be hard to spot. To find water, we'll often ghost along a steep shoreline, listening hard. The sound tells you a lot about volume, the bed (mossy creeks are quieter than those running over clean stone and sometimes even if there's a convenient pool to draw from.
One or both of us will row in - as near high tide as is practical - with jerrycans, a funnel and salad bowl (for a scoop)... if it checks out (clear brown water has tannin from the muskegs).
In winter, we chop through ice, as necessary. If the jerrycans are freezing up, we may hang them overboard, where the heatsink of the North Pacific keeps them fluid. We don't sleep with a fire, at night... if it's cold enough, we'll fill our coffee and teapot in the evening. Next morning's fire will thaw them out before boiling for breakfast.
Morning water involves ablutions (might include a 'spit-bath'), the aforementioned water pots - one for coffee, the other warming for the day's thermos. A cup's worth of rice/lentils (plus 2x water by volume), most days. Wash-up (once a day, if diligent).
We mix in saltwater, as much as possible, to stretch the fresh. Use it instead of dry salt if liquids are called for, half and half for potatoes, when we have 'em, a little less for spaghetti. All but the final rinse for dishes.
Saltwater is dipped from SLACKTIDE's side-flaps, which are handy to the galley. With a handled pot in hand, we can easily reach the water. The french press is sloshed clean overboard. Don't shake it out, and the residue is just right for coffee! A little salt water in coffee (don't over do it!) replaces the old country pinch o' salt... delicious!
After breakfast, we refill one pot for the day's water, which usually suffices for cold drink, cooking and brushin' teeth.
Some projects - laundry, spring cleaning, canning, wine making in berry season - all these take more fresh water. We'll sail right up a tidal river mouth and dry out in easy reach of all the water we need. Cleans the copper, too!
A water related thought: we keep weight down by carrying as much dried food as possible. Just add water! Since it's available all around us, we can defer the weight. Saves hundreds of pounds.
So those are the WaterWorks on S/V SLACKTIDE.
There are lots of other ways to go - holding tanks, dockside fill-ups, reverse osmosis, solar stills - it all depends on the use of your vessel, your cruising grounds and habits.
The watercourse way...