The use of saltwater on board


Aug 18, 2020
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I have read the ship had both tanks of fresh and saltwater on board. Even that the captain’s bathroom facilities had saltwater and the fresh variety.

It’s been postulated that a saltwater bath may have been thought to have health-giving qualities. Do we know this is the definite reason for it in bathrooms? Did saltwater have other uses onboard ship?
 

Doug Criner

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Saltwater would have been used primarily for toilets, hosing off decks, firefighting, and equipment cooling water - to conserve freshwater for bathing, cooking, drinking, etc. Saltwater would not have been popular for passenger bathing - it leaves your skin sticky-feeling unless rinsed off with fresh water. Not good for shaving! It doesn't lather up with soap. I assume the swimming pool had saltwater. Probably the scullery used freshwater. Freshwater is precious aboard ships - it is costly to make and there is a limited amount.
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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I can confirm what you said thru experiance. A couple of times I took salt water showers aboard my ship. Not the best but after 3 days working in the tropics I went and used our emergency salt water shower in the foward missile mag. It was better than nothing but not by much. I had a jug of fresh water to do the final rinse.
 
May 3, 2005
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In the U.S. Navy saltwater was used for cleaning .....swabbing the decks, et Al
The old RMS Queen Mary had hot and cold fresh and salt water for the bath tub.
They still had the faucet handles on Hotel Queen Mary but only fresh water was working.
I don't know about modern passenger liners ?
 

Arun Vajpey

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I have been on 23 diving liveaboard cruises between 7 and 11 days long and can confirm the statements above. They used sea water for flushing loos (and pointed out that we could happily flush several times without worry!), washing decks etc. They certainly provided fresh water for the bathrooms to shower and shave. Of course, drinking water came in the usual plastic bottles and they had plenty on board.
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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In the U.S. Navy saltwater was used for cleaning .....swabbing the decks, et Al
The old RMS Queen Mary had hot and cold fresh and salt water for the bath tub.
They still had the faucet handles on Hotel Queen Mary but only fresh water was working.
I don't know about modern passenger liners ?
I was looking at pics of her awhile back and remembered seeing those.
00989d0b097f12b6e73a191d8a6158fc--queen-mary-nautical.jpg
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Nice. You must have gotten to go on some really good dives. Did anybody in your family dive with you?
My wife joined me for trips to Mexico (Yucatan), Malta, Philippines and Sipadan. But she was not as much into diving as I was. I have been to lots of great places like Komodo. Raja Ampat, Soccoro, Truck Lagoon, Red Sea etc etc.
 
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Cool. You got to go to some really nice places. Most of my ocean diving was in Mexico also but in the Sea of Cortez. Always wanted to dive Truk. I'm envious. French Polynesia was another place I wanted to go but never made it.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Indonesia alone probably has close to 50% of the world's best dive sites, many not yet explored (Sumatra for example). Bali/Komodo and Raja Ampat were tremendous. Closer to the US, I loved Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos and Socorro. Went to Bonaire too; it was nice, but IMO rather tame compared to other places and a bit overhyped.

Two places I would have liked to go but did not are PNG (Kimbe Bay) and Galapagos. The wife and I plan to go to the latter on a land trip in a couple of years. (I am now retired from diving)
 
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So easy to veer off topic. So I'll just make one more commet on this. I have friends that like to travel a lot like me. They went to the Galapogos and said it was a really good trip. They enjoyed it a lot. So if you can make it I would say go for it. I'm sure you know this already but its one of those places you just can't go to anytime. They limit the amount of people and you have to book going there in advance. Thats not a bad thing in my opinion.
 

Arun Vajpey

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They went to the Galapogos and said it was a really good trip. They enjoyed it a lot. So if you can make it I would say go for it. I'm sure you know this already but its one of those places you just can't go to anytime. They limit the amount of people and you have to book going there in advance
I know. One of the reasons that I could not get to Galapagos during my diving days was that the liveaboard (the only way to dive there) had a 3 to 4 year waiting list. I always checked to see the best diving season for any destination before booking and unfortunately could not fit that into my work schedule.
I had actually booked a 10-day livebaord trip to Kimbe Bay in PNG and paid the deposit but cancelled it because I was not happy with the sort of email responses that I received from the liveaboard company. I demanded my despot back on the grounds that I was unhappy with the way the company treated potential customers and was successful. Later investigations showed the then Captain (2016) to be something of a martinet with an equally abrasive crew and i had done well to pull out. A Dutch couple, friends that I had made on the diving forums, summed up their Kimbe Bay liveaboard trip nicely - "Best diving and the worst trip that we have ever been on"
 

Stephen Carey

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I was looking at pics of her awhile back and remembered seeing those.
View attachment 49747
I have read the ship had both tanks of fresh and saltwater on board. Even that the captain’s bathroom facilities had saltwater and the fresh variety.

It’s been postulated that a saltwater bath may have been thought to have health-giving qualities. Do we know this is the definite reason for it in bathrooms? Did saltwater have other uses onboard ship?
I've never travelled on transatlantic ships, but travelled to the Far East on troopships as a kid with my parents. Saltwater baths were indeed the norm owing to the perennial shortage of freshwater on ships then and even now at times. The hot SW bath was invigorating and you had a special soap that would lather in salt water. The steward left a large pitcher of warm fresh water to tip over yourself and wash off the salt - easily enough for the small boy I then was!

Seawater flushing toilets were the norm right up to the 70s (I went to sea in the late 60s, and all the ships I was on then were saltwater flush) when freshwater flushing became the norm owing to the fitting of sewage treatment plant under MARPOL regulations.
The flush valves (Solway) on SW service always gave trouble, and many toilets were stained by the constant dribble of seawater from them - we never had enough spares... where they eventually broke down altogether we would fit a hand tap. With FW of course, the Solway valves stayed shiny.

On my company's fleet of product tankers built in Holland (8 of them), fresh water was always a problem owing to so many steam leaks in the engineroom coupled with substandard evaporators, such that we were often on freshwater rationing for weeks at a time - and we didn't have saltwater baths or showers fitted...
 
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Mark D

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From what I've read, most of the Titanic's bathing facilities were indeed salt water baths, not fresh water. All of the shared crew and passenger bathing facilities used salt water. The only fresh water bathing available were the shower fixtures that were in the private bathrooms of the First Class staterooms (which I think numbered around 30 total). And I would presume there would be such in the Captain's private bathroom as well.

As noted above, special soap is required for salt water bathing, as normal soap will not lather up in it. While it's true that salt water will leave a residue on the skin, we have to keep in mind that hygiene standards of the age were very different, given the relative novelty of indoor plumbing fixtures. A mere generation earlier, even the wealthiest of passengers would likely not have had running water or even electricity on a transatlantic crossing. One anecdote I've read about the period is that when the ultra-posh Savoy Hotel in London was being built in the late 1880s, the builder remarked to the owner something to the effect of, "are you expecting your guests to be amphibious??" when one in three guest rooms had a bathroom!

So even if most passengers only had access to salt water bathing, it was still a relative luxury for ocean travel.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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we have to keep in mind that hygiene standards of the age were very different, given the relative novelty of indoor plumbing fixtures.
I find it difficult to even think about it :eek:. Let alone salt water, I feel that any kind of bath does not really clean. Yes, it might be relaxing on the muscles, but I always have this forced knowledge that I am sitting in my own dirty water. I confess that my last bath was over 20 years ago - I am a strict shower man myself. Twice a day.
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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Interesting comments. Salt water showers are better than nothing if that's all you got. Been there, done that. But it wasn't only different times also different cultures on how often they bathed. I'll leave it at that. Arun I agree with you about the showers vrs baths. Its showers for me but maybe 2 or 3 times a year I have to jump in the bath. Broke my back in 2 spots and when I overdo it I have to do the lobster routine and heat soak the kinks out. They are good for that. But as for Titanic and the big liners of her time..the facilities were so much better than just a few years before. If you read about the conditions passengers had in the 1800's in was like holy cow! As in pretty terrible.
 

Arun Vajpey

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If you read about the conditions passengers had in the 1800's in was like holy cow! As in pretty terrible
I'll take your word for it; I don't really want to know how 'hygienic' conditions were back then.

I am more than a bit paranoid about personal hygiene. Whenever I watch films with people camping outdoors, marooned on islands and such, I think about how they avoid bad breath and 'clean themselves'. I can and have 'roughed it' for other things but when it comes to personal hygiene...........:eek:
 
Nov 14, 2005
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I'll take your word for it; I don't really want to know how 'hygienic' conditions were back then.

I am more than a bit paranoid about personal hygiene. Whenever I watch films with people camping outdoors, marooned on islands and such, I think about how they avoid bad breath and 'clean themselves'. I can and have 'roughed it' for other things but when it comes to personal hygiene...........:eek:
Well if one has to be paranoid about something I would say thats a good subject to apply it to. I was surfing some articles about Roman history a while back. One them made the point how the roman military stressed good hygiene among their troops. They didn't know why it worked just that it worked in cutting down on battlefield infections. Often when they established outposts like on Hadrian's Wall they would immediatley get busy making bath houses for the troops. Sadly when the romans left much of europe didn't follow their lead. Sorry to digress. Just some interesting trivia I ran across about hygiene in the old times.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Sorry to digress. Just some interesting trivia I ran across about hygiene in the old times
I am sure the bosses won't mind as this is a relatively lightweight thread.

When I was a kid, I used to think that God made 2 mistakes during creation of the world. First, it should have been so that it only rained at night (so that sports during the day are not disrupted) and second, humans should have been able to dispose of all body waste through 'number one' rather than be burdened with the additional and messy 'number two'. :D
 
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