Monday, February 16, 2015

Seven Questions Aboard

Floating on the water, some days when I have nothing to do but think (seriously), I wonder if others ponder how we "do things" aboard Aletheia. So, I've compiled a list of 7 questions that I often ask myself that I think people would want to ask/know whilst living aboard. If you have any off-the-wall, ridiculous questions, by all means, message us!

1) How do you go to the bathroom?
Our composting toilet
Besides Nate peeing overboard whilst sailing, we use the Nature's Head Dry Composting toilet. I have to say, I've always taken my toilet for granted, but this self-containing and waterless toilet takes little clean up and maintenance while leaving practically zero odors. We eliminate pumps, hoses, and a stinky holding tank that conventional marine heads need to operate. Everyone sits (yes, even boys). Liquid go forward, into a waterless, removeable tank that eliminates any foul odors. We empty every 3-4 days. To disinfect, we spray a vinegar/water mixture into the bowl.
Solids drop back through a trap door (sounds magical, huh?!) into a separate holding tank. A hand-cranked agitator rotates the solid waste with coconut husk. Instead of peet moss, which can attracts bugs, we pre-shred this coconut husk to absorb the solid waste – very similar to your veggie compost pile. It's OK...Everybody poops!

2) How do you clean dishes without a dishwasher?
Last item: rinsing Wyatt's bowl
Woe is me! I know not everyone needs a dishwasher to survive, but they are really nice! Depending on the amount of dishes and motivation of the first mate, we clean dishes 1-2 times per day. We start with the pre-rinse-Wyatt-cycle; heat fresh water in the teapot and pour into a rinse basin. If we cut/cook meat or eggs, I'll add a little bleach to the rinse bucket to kill off any bacteria left in the bowl or cutting board. Armed with a soapy sponge, I wash dishes with the salt water foot pump and rinse dishes, silverware, pots, etc in the rinse basin, placing everything on a drying rack overnight. It doesn't take too much time and it's rather satisfying to know I'm saving a ton of water!
Drying time
3) Where do you sleep?
Back in September, we built a trapezoid bed for the master v-berth suite. We can both stretch out and it works great. A 4" foam mattress, cut into 3 pieces, makes a HUGE difference on a small boat. It's comfortable and doesn't feel like camping. A trapezoid mattress pad and top sheet fit perfectly, thanks to Sunny! Wall lights make a great addition for reading before bed. 

Trapezoid mattress pad
Ready for bed!
4) How do you set your anchor? What is a snubber?
Once we find a permissible anchorage, we look for at least 6 feet of water at low tide with good holding (sand/mud is best, grass is ok, rocks are not cool). Nate steers from the cockpit, Jenn is up at the bow ready to drop the hook once Nate agrees that our depth finder has given us an accurate depth reading and says "OK, go for it!" I typically wear closed-toe shoes in case my feet were to get caught up in an anchor chain dropping a 45lb anchor into the water. We drive into the wind, come to a Californian stop and drop the anchor+chain until the anchor hooks the seafloor. Usually you can feel the boat catch when we have a good holding. In rougher conditions, to eliminate pulling the anchor chain (which is not stretchy), we use a snubber (which is stretchy). A rope, once given a responsibility on a boat, is no longer considered a rope, but becomes a "line" and gives itself a name (i.e. Snubber). The snubber is attached to the anchor chain itself, using a rolling hitch. Once the anchor is "set", the snubber pulls the weight of the anchor chain, but no longer stretching the chain. All good things. 
Aletheia's anchor and snubber
Snubber (white line) doing its job!
5) When weather ties you to the boat, how do you spend your time?

In windy, rough or cold conditions, we typically spend the day onboard. We may have wifi, but we also like to read magazines, books and listen to podcasts. Jenn likes to write in her vision journal while sipping coffee. Right now Jenn is reading Blue Shoes & Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith while Nate is reading Gipsy of the Horn by Henry Scott. I just finished The Happiness Project, a wonderful and highly recommended book I found at a free library in NYC. I'll use this as a guide for years to come! Most popular podcasts include: Cracked, Freakonomics and Planet Money.

Poached eggs, peach mango salsa, wilted spinach on corn tortilla
I also love to cook and bake when its gross outside. Also helps to warm up the cabin. I love finding recipes or deciding what to make based on onboard ingredients. It makes me feel productive, accomplished and happy with something yummy to share. My favorite things to bake: cast iron cornbread, quick breads and chocolate chip cookies. And my new favorite: No-oven skillet pizza!

Pizza dough has risen!

Perfectly cooked pizza. Great with a glass of Malbec!
Windy Day: Ingredients for Vanilla Lemon-soaked quick bread

6) How do you store food? What food items are on your shelves right now?
We have great amount of storage space under our butts! We store non-perishable food items under the port side settee pantry (pasta, sauce, almond milk, crackers, rice, canned beans/tuna/chicken, etc). Things we use on the daily get upgraded to our galley shelves (i.e. sriracha). For dry food items, I add bay leaves to keep out any weevils. 
On our shelves at the moment: granola, chia seeds, chocolate chips, sriracha, turkish-ground coffee, a variety of herbs and spices, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, flour/baking soda/cane sugar/brown sugar, pancake mix, dog treats, canned tuna/chicken, canned corn/garbanzo beans, mason jars full of red/black beans, freekeh, jasmine rice, molasses, and honey butter.

7) How does Wyatt go potty?
Besides peeing overboard whilst sailing, Wyatt uses his grass turf to pee and poop. I'm kidding about the peeing overboard, but wouldn't that be somethin?! After 3 days of pumping Wyatt full of water, not taking him off the boat, and treats abound, this smart dog figured out his new pee routine within our first week in Halifax! We keep his pad on port side, because our guests, including ourselves board from starboard. The washdown hose is also on port so this makes it MUCH easier to rinse where he pees. People are impressed when they see his grass pad and how he has learned to use it so well! Such a good boy! Here are also some pics of how Wyatt spends his time on & off the boat!

Decisions, Decisions!
Fountain of Youth!
Taylor Birch State Park

Party Hat. Silly vet visit 
Just one of many times we're cleaning dog hair
More sunning
Making friends
What'll it be?!
Love to all!
Jenn & Nate


  1. If you don't already listen you should try the podcast called the moth and this American life.

  2. Oh, my, I think Wyatt and Lexie (our dog) need to be friends! Your questions seems pretty spot on with what we get too...especially that last one, it's like another world wonder to people!

  3. Is there a test after this?? Haven't read your adventures in a while, glad you wrote and what you make looks yummy - Nate, I sure do miss your breakfasts - always nice to be served...much love, mama

  4. The composting toilet is a terrific idea while aboard, my biggest area of stress from when I had my boat was dealing with the holding tank and the pump-out and asking guests to use the marina head to avoid filling the holding tank. But a question; does the Coast Guard or harbor patrols or marinas give you stress about a composting toilet? And where do you empty it if you're on the hook? Do you have to row it to shore? Is it flushed or trashed or folded into flower beds?

  5. Hi Mike! Thanks for your question. We haven't had any issues/encounters with the CG or harbor patrols. We typically anchor exclusively so we don't interact with marinas either. No stress here; at least not in the US (so far). For solids, we empty the head and put solids in a dark plastic trash bag, bake in the sun and throw away. Since this head is waterless, there isn't really any contamination with liquids. It's good compost material. Every boat should have a composting head.

    From Nature Head website: The Nature’s Head composting toilet meets all “No Discharge” regulations and is a U.S Coast Guard Approved type III marine head.

  6. Golly, if I knew about composting heads back when, I would probably still have my boat. The stress of the plumbing, the holding tank, pump outs, regulations, compatible bacteria and all that were on my top 3 sources of stress.

    One more question about that then ... did you rip out the holding tank and use that area for storage?

  7. The previous owner changed from an old marine head to a composting head. The holding tank is removed (I think I know where it used to be, but I'm not sure).

    The solid waste would be great for flower beds, but we haven't been able to do that yet. The composting head bypasses all the USCG regulations for human waste; it's a much better solution. When we are way offshore we dump it overboard, otherwise we row it to shore to a trash can.