Picture of Gary (Ishipaco) Albers

"What we have here is an attempt to communicate…"

— a paraphrase from one of my
favorite movies,  Cool Hand Luke

About Me:  Allow me to introduce myself:  my name is Gary (Ishipaco) Albers, ex-skipper of the 34' Aloha sloop, S/V Ishi (recently deceased: December, 2009), home port of Avila Beach, California—and I'm also the cruiser who created and is maintaining this website.

I acquired the nickname "Ishipaco"  many years ago in Mexico.  My Mexican friends had no equivalent Spanish name for "Gary," and they had a hard time pronouncing it.  For quite awhile, they simply called me by our boat's name, "Ishi," which is a common custom among cruisers.  It was Felipe, then Mexican proprietor of Dos Felipes' Cantina in La Cruz, Banderas Bay, who one evening, after many cervezas, solemnly knighted me "Paco."  The name stuck, for want of a better one. Now even my grandchildren know me only as "Grampa Paco." Oddly enough, "Paco" is the Spanish, not the Mexican, nickname for "Francisco," or the English name, "Frank."  The Mexican equivalent is "Pancho."  I've never quite figured out what the relationship of either of those names is to "Gary."

For as long as I can remember, I've had a love affair with the sea. When I was beginning the seventh grade, my family moved to southern California. I took every opportunity I could to ride my bicycle ten miles to the beach. I combed the seashore and marveled at the rhythmic swells coming from the horizon. In high school I became a surfer. When it came time to consider college, I rejected Cal Tech and M.I.T. (which I later came to regret) and chose to attend UC Santa Barbara because it was located on the ocean, and it was reputed to have two female students for every male; you can guess where my priorities were at that time.

After a couple of years in college, I dropped out and joined the Coast Guard. Years later, after returning to college for a few years, I obtained my FCC license and worked as a marine electronics technician in Santa Barbara harbor. I also spent three years working for Oceaneering International, Inc., as a submersible pilot and electronics technician. My last real employment was at Santa Barbara City College, on a bluff overlooking the ocean, where I helped run the computer science lab and taught courses in computer programming, AutoCad and 3D Studio. I retired in 1995 to prepare our boat to go cruising.

Picture of Gary & Teri I became a full time boat liveaboard in 1978. I had decided several years before I actually moved onto a boat that I wanted to go cruising. But it wasn't all that easy. The financing, of course, was a major obstacle, as it is for most others with the same dream. I also realized I had a lot to learn before I'd feel competent to sail off the edge of the earth. As it turned out, I spent almost seventeen years living aboard, learning about seamanship and boats and sailing the Santa Barbara channel, before I finally managed to cut loose.

Late in 1995, my long-time significant other, Teri Damron, and I finally decided to take off. Since then, we've sailed over 60,000 nautical miles, ranging from San Francisco, California, to Ecuador, through the Panama Canal to Rio Dulce, Isla Mujeres, Florida, Bonaire, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other select parts of the Caribbean. We accumulated much of our mileage during ten round-trip voyages between mainland Mexico and our original home port in Santa Barbara, CA. We are now living in Shell Beach, CA, (since November, 2009), having finally retired from the cruising life. Unfortunately, the final nail was driven into the coffin of our residual hopes for returning to a cruising lifestyle when our beloved boat, S/V Ishi, was broken into many small pieces on the rocks near the CalPoly pier in Port San Luis. The cause was a failed mooring (purchased from the San Luis Port Authority in the fall of 2009) as a result of a severe winter storm.

By the way, during all those years of cruising, we never took on a drop of dockside water, except during brief stays in our home port. We've met all our potable water needs with our two PUR/Katadyn watermakers. Not depending on local water resources has long since become a point of pride, not to mention a great convenience.

The Katadyn Connection—and My Philosophy:  My association with the Katadyn watermaker people goes back to 1996. At that time, the company was known as Recovery Engineering, Inc. They were well known in the cruising community for their original Model 35 reverse osmosis watermaker. I've written a lengthy account of the way our association developed in my watermaker book included on this website, so I won't waste space here with redundant information. There are, however, a couple of important things you should know right up front.

First, I want to point out that Katadyn, Inc., is not just the latest morph of the original Recovery Engineering company that designed and manufactured PUR watermakers. Katadyn is a Swiss company with an outstanding reputation for manufacturing high-quality water purification products. They acquired the PUR watermaker division from Proctor & Gamble several years ago and greatly improved the products.

Second—and most important in my mind—is the fact that I do not consider myself a "company rep." In my view, a company rep is typically a mouthpiece for what a company wants their customers to hear, and little more. By way of contrast, I consider myself an ex-cruising sailor who, for many years, used a piece of equipment on our boat that was very important to me. Like many world cruisers, I spent a lot of time far from any convenient technical support facilities, and far from a source of parts or technicians who could service that equipment. Someone once defined "cruising" as "the art of repairing equipment in exotic locations." That's pretty accurate. In the case of my watermakers, I wanted—I needed—to know the real facts about how they worked, how to troubleshoot them when they didn't work, and how to make them work again. This required straight answers from the manufacturer, not a "company line" intended to hide problems and protect the company's image.

Since day one, my association with Recovery Engineering, and later Katadyn, was that of a user of their product who demanded to be told the truth. If there was a problem, I needed to know what it was, in order to keep my equipment working as it should. To their credit, the people at Recovery Engineering (and subsequently Katadyn) recognized the value of such an unusual relationship with one of their customers. Over the years, they provided me with straight answers to my questions and worked hard to respond to and correct problems I discovered in the field.

A watermaker seminar in Zihuatanejo In the long run, my activities among cruisers who were actually using their products has been an invaluable source of feedback to the company engineers. Several important product improvements have been a direct result of my experiences using and servicing watermakers in the field, and listening to other cruisers.

For almost fourteen years, I gave seminars and helped cruisers with watermaker problems. I never charged money for my services, although I occasionally threatened to. For example, if someone contacted me with a problem and wanted me to fix their watermaker, my response was: "yes, I'll do that for free, if you are present while I work. If not, it'll cost you $75 an hour for my time, and be advised that, under those circumstances, I work slowly." No one ever elected to shell out hard cash instead of learning something about their equipment. My primary goal was (and still is) to educate users about their watermakers, so that avoidable problems are less likely to occur. Just as important, knowledge of their equipment makes it more likely they'll be able to solve problems on their own. Knowledgable users are also more capable of helping others down the road. This is a "trickle-down" approach that has really worked well over the years.

Finally, I want to mention that I deplore an attitude that seems to have become more common in recent years: cruisers charging money to help other cruisers. I think of the cruising community as my family. What goes around, comes around. On two occasions during our travels, our boat narrowly escaped disaster because a cruiser came to our rescue without first stopping to negotiate a fee for services. We've also helped others in similar situations and will continue to do so. I hope that, when all is said and done, I have given more help than I've received. I suspect this has something to do with the concept of "karma."

About This Website:  I first published a book about PUR watermakers in 1998. I'm delighted to know that it's been a much appreciated resource for owners of PUR/Katadyn watermakers ever since. I am also pleased to know that it has retained its relevance. Even today, there's little I would change in the original copy. However, at the time I wrote it, I had only about three years of experience with my watermakers. During the following decade, I learned much more, enough to make me agonize over the possible value of a new edition. I've included a copy of the original book on this website, accessible from a link on the navigation bar.

When Katadyn acquired the PUR watermaker business a few years ago, I was asked to write the new owner's manuals for the company. In doing so, I incorporated not only all of the most important information I had presented in my book, but also most of the valuable things I had learned during the intervening years. Since then, I've been less motivated to produce a new edition of my book. I simply didn't have enough more to say, beyond what I had already included in the manuals, to justify the effort.

Several years ago, as personal computers and CDs became common among cruisers, I decided to take advantage of the new technologies and produce a CD. Not only could I include a reproduction of my book and the Katadyn owner's manual, in addition to extra tips on installation, use, maintenance and troubleshooting, but I could also provide a video with hands-on demonstrations of the disassembly and reassembly of the watermaker. In addition to being able to include much more instructional material, a CD cost me only about 25¢ to produce, while my book alone sold for one hundred times that! I completed the CD in 2007, while sitting out hurricane season in Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

This website is the most recent morph of my CD. The advantage, of course, is that now anyone with an internet connection can have access to all of the information that was on my CD, without having to find one to copy. Finally, a website allows me to correct and update information immediately, while maintaining a channel of communication with cruisers who need help or advice. I hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, find it useful.

If you have any comments, suggestions or questions, you can contact me from the Ishipaco Website. Fair winds and happy cruising!

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 Gary (Ishipaco) Albers
Shell Beach CA
March, 2010