How did Columbus supply his ship with drinking water?

Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World was full of challenges, and one of the most significant was the issue of drinking water. Columbus and his crew needed a steady supply of fresh water to sustain themselves on the long journey. So how did Columbus solve this problem?

Firstly, Columbus carried with him large barrels, known as casks, made of thick wood. These barrels were used to store fresh water that was gathered from rivers, brooks, and streams near the sea during the voyage. The crew also collected rainwater by placing sheets of sailcloth in the rigging, where rainwater collected and dripped down into a container.

However, during the voyage, the crew’s options were limited mostly because they could not store a considerable amount of freshwater since carrying too much weight could affect the ship’s sailing speed. Therefore, Columbus ordered his men to ration the amount of water used every day, ensuring that only a limited amount was used by every crew member.

When they came across windless days, a device called “the pilot boat” would be deployed. This secluded the front part of the ship by curtains to keep the waves from washing over the deck. It had two hoses that would bring seawater to copper pans. The pans would heat up under the sun, causing seawater to evaporate, leaving behind the salt. This left behind in the pans salty residue that could be washed out with rainwater, producing freshwater for drinking.

On occasions when the ship needed a more significant amount of freshwater, it was possible to obtain it from the lush vegetation islands they encountered on their journey. Columbus and his men spent a considerable time on some of the Caribbean islands, where they were able to replenish their water supplies from running water streams, springs, and underground caves.

Columbus solved the drinking water problem during his voyage by carrying barrels of fresh water, collecting rainwater, rationing the use of water, using evaporators, and taking advantage of natural freshwater reserves in islands. The journey to the New World was a daunting one, but with these methods, Columbus and his crew managed to create a sustainable supply of drinking water that kept them alive throughout their long voyage.

Have something to add or correct? Please let us know by clicking here.
* See disclaimer in the footer of the site for use of this content.

Related Questions


Latest Posts

Don't Miss

Our Newsletter

Get the latest boating tips, fishing resources and featured products in your email from!