Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Installing a Composting Toilet on a Sailboat: For Dummies Like Me

As I alluded to on Monday, we took the plunge, and bought and installed our first composting toilet on our cruising sailboat, Tulum 5.  

Why did we make the decision to buy, install and use a composting toilet on our cruising sailboat?  

We’ve been thinking through changing out our toilets since buying the boat, for a variety of reasons.  Like other cruisers and boaters, I was concerned about the fact the our brand of toilets needed valuable power to run and smelled MUCH better when we were running fresh water through them (we have two).  We do have an option on Tulum to run salt through them, but fresh water smells better.  I was also concerned because although we have a 3-way valve on the boat; if we’re ever in a port we have to get our tanks pumped (at a cost of course).  Here in our Marina, this involves either moving the boat every week (we have two girls and two adults living on the boat full-time) or getting both our tanks cleaned once a week by a service.  We opted for option #2, which involves a $ cost…of course.  A composting toilet involves nearly no electricity (small amount for the vent fan but it’s not needed if you rig the right passive vent), involves no water at all, has few moving parts and is easy to dump and restart when needed.  Most major brands of composting heads are Coast Guard legal (meaning they’re just fine on boats) and…..best of all….there’s little to no smell.  Smells from our toilet, lines and holding tank have been an issue.  Although the holding tank looks fairly new and in good shape, it often wafts an unspeakable odor.  We’ve checked the vents, tightened the hoses, put in the right tank deodorant and done what the experts tell us to defray the smells, to no avail.  I’m not that penitent  about this decision to move on from a traditional boat head to the reality of a composting system.  Lastly, the Airhead Composting Head sits higher than the tiny toilets on our boat.  I love sitting down and not eating my knees when I’m sitting…and I’m a pretty short guy.  Lastly, why did we choose an Airhead over other brands?  I researched the other brands online for several weeks, but I liked the gentlemen I talked to on the phone with Airhead when I called.  He answered all my dumb questions and was thorough with me in all the details.  He knew his stuff and was proud of the product.  That’s who I wanted to buy from and we did. 

What about the install, doesn’t it take a lot of work and expense to get that done?  

Nope, the install wasn’t that bad.  I’m no mechanical, construction or electrical guru (at all) and I knocked it out in less than half a day.  But….this was after the minor electrical work was performed by Cedillo Marine (619-496-4116) to get minor power to the out vent fan (or you can use a passive vent) which took less than an hour.  Honestly, this is an install most folks on boats should be able to do themselves and Airhead provided good directions with decent pictures.  If I can do this….you can do this. (more…)

Great Dane on a Boat- First YouTube Appearance

Good morning, it’s been another long week (and without Jinxing us), we may have finally crossed the line into spring here, thankfully.  With better weather more work on the boat starts and we’re able to get back out to dog beach on Coronado Island.  Quincy has been working on her stress level since her long kennel stay (while we had the boat out of the water) and had a restful afternoon yesterday on the boat, take a look: (more…)

Saturday Sailboat Musings

I’m up early Saturday morning as usual because Quincy the Dog needed to go out, and when a Great Dane won’t let you sleep, there’s no ways of it you can avoid taking her for her walk. I used to just be able to open a glass door from my room at home and kick her out into the backyard, but here I’ve got to walk her and will continue to do so until November. When November comes, we’ll have to start taking her to shore 2-3 times a day for her walk and runs whenever we’re sitting in a harbor. It was a long week but I’m not sure why. I was in my 3rd class in a series at TRLMI, called Marine Electrical Systems. The course runs from 6pm to 9pm and after a day of work, it often turned into long days. I’m glad I took it, but there was alot of theory and equations. My days are filled with working on the boat and doing boat related projects, which I love to do + picking up and dropping off kids and dog. This week I was able to tour and photograph a 41′ Formosa Yankee Clipper built in 1980 in Taiwan. She was very similar to the boat I grew up on and brought back lots of memories. She’s on Sailboat Listings and will soon be available through a broker, but I’ll bring that to you in a separate story Mon or Weds. I also needed to get the Check Stays down from Tulum’s masts (so I could get them to the rigger for updating), so I rigged up my pulley’s and went up the mast for some adventure. Tulum’s Main Mast is 65′, so the second spreader is well off the ground:

Tulum’s Main with the check stay already taken off. It goes to the 2nd spreader on this main mast and to the top of the mizzen mast.

Here’s the connection at the second spreader that you have to manipulate to get the wire Check Stays off:

Shackles that have to be undone mechanically and by hand, with seizing wire that must be cut beforehand.
Tulum 5, from the second spreader.
And two Check Stays, off the mast and into the Riggers.

Next time up the mast, I’ll bring my track lube and my anti-corrosion spray for the metal parts, plus I’ll start the laborious task of getting mast steps back onto the mast. The frustrating part about this for me is that there’s tons of open mast step holes all over the mast (that’s how I’m getting water in the boat from the rain) and I finally found the mast step that matches those holes exactly. However, that specific mast step is priced at $20.65 per step, as opposed to the steps I can afford at $8.56 at the same store. Both steps are aluminum, but the more expensive one is also larger, meaning it would take fewer steps to get them up the mast. Very frustrating for me. So I let out a big sigh and bought a rivet gun. I’m gonna tackle that project myself and rivet the new steps on with holes I drill as much as I have to-

Ok, we’re changing up the website, we’ve turned on Patreon and I’ve started messing with my new video camera to try to start getting the editing and filming started. We’re gonna streamline our look a bit and try to professionalize the site a bit more. If you’re reading, keep it up. If you’re visiting, cool, thanks.

Thoughts on Hauling Out with Family

In getting ready to haul out our 51ft Sailboat for multiple upgrades, repairs and normal maintenance, I knew my wife would be in Japan the entire time and I still needed to maintain some semblance of a normal routine with my two young school aged girls. We looked very hard at hotels with kitchen near the boatyard and several Airbnb’s, but we would have paid over $1456 dollars total for 7 days. (the haulout turned into 11 days). This cost would have been on top of the food costs, haul out costs, subcontractor costs and every other costs. After talking to our friend and experience yacht broker from Yachtfinders/Windseakers, we just decided to stay on the boat while she was hauled out. This did present some challenges as we were not allowed to dump gray water (no dishes or our tank would fill up) and we didn’t coordinate our black water tank cleaning well, so we had to make sure it was cleaned while we were 16 feet up on the hard. We also had to adjust to the kids clearing the gap from boat to ladder and the boat vibrating in it’s scaffolding at night, but things went well. The boatyard had nice bathrooms and showers and seemed to go with the flow of having young children there in the late afternoons. However, the boatyard started work early, so we tried to be off the boat by 0700 and the kids often were back by 4pm.

If you haul your boat out and want to live on it (with or without kids) here’s some of the things you may experience:

Tulum 5, on the hard at Shelter Island Boatyard
We tried to position the ladder in several places close enough for the kids to get on the boat, but in the end, it worked but it was in the paint crew’s way.
Yep, there’s a pretty good distance between rain and ladder, I made sure our minds were in the game for this transition.
My 9-year old (Teragan’s) first time up the ladder. She wasn’t all that happy about this first time but took to it well and in the end, taught mom how to do it. (Yeah, it’s a long way down).
Your boat will probably have alot of scaffolding and bracing like ours. We got used to it and make it work.
Plan your haulout better than I did, so you DON’T have to get pumped in the middle of it. Hard to make this work with two little girls on the boat with tiny bladders. Just had to be done.

So in the end, if I can live on my cruising sailboat on the hard with two little kids while my wife is traveling on business, you can too. Note: Quincy the Great Dane was not with us, we kenneled her for this little adventure.

Still Hauled Out

I’m around but distracted because Tulum has been hauled out since late Tuesday but her bottom’s not even started yet.  The damn cold and wet weather patterns have not helped.  These Jan/Feb/Mar months have been the wettest and coldest I’ve ever experienced in San Diego.  In order to save approx $1400 dollars on hotel or Airbnb costs, we elected to stay on the boat and then yard happily obliged.  We have power and our crack poop pumper showed up at the yard with a 100 foot hose to clean us out,,,although the yard has very nice heads and a private shower.  Climbing the 16 feet to the boat via ladder has not stopped the girls but they have had to learn to slow down and allowed me to help them across the expanse from ladder to boat.  The yard starts early in the day and ends work early in the day, something we’ve gotten used to and have worked through.  I think we’ll go back in the water by this coming Thurs/Fri, just in time for Michelle to get back from her Japan trip and miss all the fun boat work in the yard projects.  I’m sure she’s jealous!

Here’s a shot of her hauled, more later this week-

Prepping for Haul-Out, Thoughts On My Own Projects

http://livefree2sailfast.com/2019/03/02/haul-out-and-yard-work-on-the-horizon-for-tulum-v

After I published the project list (above) I had discussed with the boatyard, I started thinking through everything I would work on while Tulum was out of the water.  This is in addition to getting the kids fed and to/from school every day (Quincy will be in the kennel and Michelle is on business in Japan for two weeks).  As I went down the list, it became longer and longer and there’s no way I’ll finish while she’s out of the water.  So I just decided to think through it during this post, knowing what tools and supplies are on the boat – while having to think through what I need to get out of the dockbox.  Here goes:

  • Using the templates I have, cut and install the new sound/heat barriers in the bilge spaces under the galley floors.
  • Install new heat/sound barrier in the engine room.
  • Take off heat shield material on engine exhaust piping and install new heat shield and heat shield tape.
  • Find out where the lower coolant drain is- drain and change engine coolant.
  • Find out where the engine thermostat is- change it (make sure you buy extra thermostats).
  • Drain and Change Engine Oil.
  • Figure out how to get into the space and change the impeller (take existing impeller kit and buy two more prior to changing it).
  • Change the primary Fuel Filter (canister)- at the boatyard we’re right next to a large Marine store- get extra canisters.
  • Change the primary Oil Filter (canister)- at the boatyard we’re next to a large Marine Store- get extra canisters.
  • Pick up Main Sheet (getting a new one made) and reattach to the main.  Take off the mizzen Main Sheet and have a new one made.
  • Install new speakers in the cockpit, stern boxes and main salon.  Run the wires and install Amp and Stereo Face.

Should be an interesting haul-out, as most of the week looks like we’re going to get rain.  This means I can’t do the deck sealing and I can’t start the varnish nightmare, so I’ll focus on the projects above.  Should keep me busy.  It I get through even half the list, I’ll be impressed.

 

Pulled Pork using Big Green Egg – 1st Use of the BGE on our Sailboat

As I write this, I’m overcome by how far we’ve come as a family since last Presidents Day Weekend.  Here’s the link to my post past year (but the pics are missing for some reason): http://livefree2sailfast.com/2018/02/19/two-boats-in-1-weekendwhat-the-hell/.  Presidents Day Weekend last year we closed on Tulum 5 and bought our dinghy in the same weekend.  So, this is actually our one year anniversary of owning our boat.  Yeah!

I posted about getting a Big Green Egg for my birthday: http://livefree2sailfast.com/2019/01/12/your-introduction-to-my-green-egg-cooking-experience/.  I’ve been having a mount built for the boat that will hold the Big Green Egg securely and safely for cooking on the boat.  (more…)

Quincy’s Corner- 190217

Quincy the Boat Dog lives on our Aleutian 51 Sailboat while we prep to go cruising.  She keeps this Sunday corner of my blog to pass on her Great Dane Wisdom.  Read on for today’s Wisdom:  (more…)

Sporadic posts but life continues-

Gotta apologize, as the posts have been a bit sporadic these last couple weeks as life has been busy but we keep going.  Hotwife had a hip operation so it’s been a week of having the kids on the boat with her elsewhere; then when she as able to get back on the boat on crutches I needed to take her to appointments for most of the next week.  So I missed my usual writing schedule and missed some of the work I needed to do around the boat as well.  With hotwife back on the boat, things have settled down a bit.  Take a look at Quincy, she won’t even move now when crutches go over her:  But it’s been a productive couple of weeks regardless.  Hotwife and Pirate Kate attended the Women’s Sailing Convention last weekend, I was able to determine the cause of my broken bilge pump and I’m getting it changed out with a new one, I finished my Small Boat Diesel Engine Course and we’ve set solid dates in March to haul Tulum 5 out of the water for a bunch of repairs and upgrades.

We’re looking to do the following while T-5 is hauled out:  three coats of bottom paint, drop and inspect the rudder and it’s bearings, have a dripless seal installed on our shaft, have a freshwater foot pump installed in our front head, have a saltwater foot pump installed in the galley, have the gray water flow changed from our 50-gallon (below the water line) tank to direct overboard and possibly remove the tank, unfreeze all the throughhull handles and fiberglass over throughhulls we don’t use and clean and paint the main bilge.  But this also gives me strict deadlines to get the washer/dryer taken out and if I’m going to put in a composting head…I’d like to get it done before the haul out.

So we have a bit to do.

We’re a family who got a good deal on a great boat and now have to dedicate the time to fix systems and give her the TLC needed to prep her for cruising.  We’re doing just that.  We’ll start our YouTube Channel in June and post every one of our complete free video travel logs on this blog.  We’ll also continue to post with mongo lots of pictures as we go along. If you want to read it all and share in the action, please think about following us and continue to follow us as we go.

Quincy’s Corner- 100203- Rock and Roll Great Dane

A storm on the dock is nothing like a storm at sea.  Sometimes it may actually be worse than a storm at anchor or on the ocean because you’re tied to a dock and can’t move naturally, so a sailboat’s motion changes and gets jerked around quite a bit.  Interesting motion when you’re living on the boat with two small kids and a Great Dane onboard, with rain and high winds predicted, but really high winds not expected.  Here in Southern California, storms are generally pretty mellow and although they can dump some good rain, they’re usually predictable.  Yesterday’s weather pattern wasn’t that usual So Cal storm.  The wind clocked around to come from the South and increased to 30-40 mile an hour gusts with heavy rain coming in on top of the wind.   (more…)