Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Compost Toilet three month update.

I couldn't wait until tomorrow, I just had to change the bucket today such is my enthusiasm. ;D

I didn't actually change buckets but just tipped the full one into and empty one and retained a bit at the bottom to start off the next batch, as it were.

Two people for three months and shall we do a "guess the weight" competition? No, I will put you out of your misery, I can hear you all tittering into you tea. Just under 8 kg which is no weight at all really.

I have said before, there is only a slight whiff and that is one of horse manure and not really offensive. No nasty niffs like when you tread in dog poo. I must say that it is really dry and as such has not composted to a great extent. What must be done now is to cover the poo with a couple of inches of soil and moisten the contents. Leave the lid open slightly and leave for six months. It may need the odd watering I suppose, we'll see. I will make mine rat proof just in case and see how we get on.

For more information on the subject of Humanure try these.

the last can be read/downloaded chapter by chapter on line.

I am a very happy bunny. I haven't had to do anything to the toilet for three whole months. What joy, no smell, no fuss, no hassle, and Mrs B is happy too. [image]

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Quick update on the Compost Toilet.

Week ten and all is well.  It still baffles me how the ever larger bucket of poo can remain free of aroma.  Spring is here and there has been the odd time when the wind has dropped enough for the rotorcowl to stop rotating.  This has enabled me to access the end of the vent pipe and apply the nose.  Those familiar with horses will recognise the smell, the tangy perfume of the heap, not unpleasant and not overpowering and certainly not a sewage smellIt soon carries away on the air and after a couple of feet it is almost gone.

Inside remains sweet, the 20 litre bucket is a little over half full.  We have not made any effort to use other facilities so it looks like lasting at least three months, perhaps more.  This means that as yet there has been no opportunity to explore the next phase, that of finishing the composting.  Cleaning remains easy, using a wipe and paper towels to polish off.  The scale blocks in the front section have almost dissolved.  I use two at a time and so far seem to be lasting about a month.  A quick swill with water a paper towel brings things clean and shiny and perhaps is not really necesary but keeps Mrs B happy.

The fresh water is still lasting much longer (20%), no smell, warm and comfortable and no chemicals into the environment, brilliant all round.  Should have done it years ago.  It's the first time in years that I haven't had to think about toilets, sewage tanks or portapotties.  What joy. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Playing with solar update.

Well I have managed to mount the panels.  The last few weeks have shown that you can get a helpful amount of energy from the panels.  The array is 160 watts of amorphous silicone stuff which gives an output of around 6amps peak.  We have regularly been getting between 4 and 5 so not so bad.  

I finished the MK1 solar mount yesterday and wired it in and turned it for the morning sun. I used the cut down wooden mast with a topmast like fitting to take the mount. Rather tall it is, I might have to have it a bit lower but we'll see. It is not discreet, the panels are about the size of a full sheet of ply and wave about 12 feet in the air.

It swivels so that I can point it south, it tilts so that I can adjust it for the time of year. 14 degrees in December to 62 degrees in June. On the other hand 38 degrees gives a pretty good summer - winter average.



We hit thirty knots last night and I was up and outside in the wee hours. The wind noise woke me, certainly different from normal. it moans round the panels. The mount is a facsimile of an American design that (kindly) put their engineering drawings on the net. They say it is good for 90mph. I have done a fair copy, even using the same (T60) type of ally. I did go down a size on the steel tube but I increased the thickness to compensate. The weight and windage is certainly no more than you would get from a sail so although it frets me it is no more than a steadying sail really. If the whole lot comes crashing down I'll let you know! ;D

I would like it to be a bit lower ideally but it's up now and I have lots of other things to do before sailing off this year.

Now to finish the solar hot water so I can have so time off for good behaviour!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Compost toilet update.

Six weeks, every time I go visit the loo - I laugh. ;D

I am pretty hysterical about the whole affair. Yep, I know it's weird but I am. No smell, no emptying disgusting stinking porta-potties or emptying holding tanks. Both of which smell, and badly too. Still fine, Mrs B still happy, me happy, why didn't I do this many years ago.

I know it's still early days but it's still ok and no plague even with a bigger bucket of poo. The furry stuff keeps growing and the poo oxidized and turns black, still no sawdust needed and still smells of nothing. The liquid side is fine too, the pineapple chunk has worn out, nearly, so I ordered 3Kg from Ebay. I spritz round with the water spray bottle every day and every couple of days I use an AB wipe from Dettol round the seat and bowl and finish off with a paper towel to dry. Sweet. How happy am I. [image]

I did provoke the pile with a stick to see what would happen and the beast reacted by smelling of an equine dung heap. Strong but not bad, but I am well used to horses, sadly.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Playing with Solar

Well I always wanted to get some power from the wind and sun.

I have been experimenting with a large wind turbine but it was not tenable on the boat despite running an electric fire when windy.

Mrs B just would not wear the ear defenders for some reason. ???

It is waiting to be re erected on land. I have planted the pole (behind wheelhouse) but you know what it's like.


I happened across some solar panels from Maplin, cheap they were and I sold the 12v regulators on ebay. I know the amorphous aren't as good as polys but I'm experimenting.

I got the 4 (12v) panels in two strings through a maximum power point tracker regulator (
photonicuniverse) to get the best out of them. The MPPT does magic and things and has leds and lcd screens.  It basically means that it makes the most out of the least from the available energy.

The contraption on the left of the roof is for the solar tubes for heating the water.  The rollers have just arrived to get the turntable turning.  Gosh some things take an awful long time.  I have enough projects on the go to last another lifetime never mind what's left of this one.  Hey ho. 


Good day for free power, wind and sun. The solar panels are kicking up 100w which is around 4AHr at 24v or 8 at12v. Wicked.

Found a good site that explains the best angles for the different times of the year and how to make the most of it.

I will try to make my attachment frame adjustable as you can nearly double your output with correctly aligned panels.


Well the panels have been well and truly insolated and have proved to be effective. I unplug the mains lead and run on the sun when it's out.

I would like to make a mount for the panels now and I reckon the best place would be to hang them off the mizzen (back) mast. I want to be able to turn them south wherever we are and, ideally, to tilt them depending on the season, up or down to catch the sun better.  Think of them as a solar sail.  Now there's a thought......

Much research later and a pole mount is what's needed. This one is from Unirac but you get the idea.


I will replace the wooden mast with a steel tube and the mount will be able to rotate on the top of the tube. A stay with adjustment holes in it will allow for vertical adjustment. To cut down on weight I got some T6 1/4" ally angle from the Aluminium Warehouse. Not a bad price, good delivery for something 5 metres long too.

This is a 4 panel mount and I hope mine will be something like it.


This is actually a Lorentz 600 Tracker and moves to stay in line with the sun. It's around 700 golden coins but you have to be a long way from the coast for the guarantee.

I reckon the all up weight of the mount not including the pole will be around 80Kg.  Add the wind loading of a couple of square metres and the lurch factor (when the boat rolls) and it will have to be pretty strong.

Now where's m' welder?


I bought and ex hire Kemppi 1500 master tig from Holland when I started the barge and it's still going strong. Does stick too of course. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Compost update.

Well we are still here, health is good, no rats, more importantly - no smell.  

I still can't quite believe it but there you have it, a bucket of poo and it doesn't smell.  I don't just mean the fan is taking the smell away to the outside either.  A nose test on a windless day says there are no niffs coming out of the  vent pipe.  If one sticks ones head as close the the bucket as possible there is still no noticeable smell.  Remember, we are not using a covering medium on this one.  It would fill up too quickly and that might be a problem in the future.

It's been four weeks now and the 20 litre bucket is not even up to the quarter full mark which is good news.  The Humaure handbook suggest that the average person creates 36Kg of poo per year.  Assuming 1Kg = 1 litre for arguments sake that means give or take that the two of us will fill 4 x 20 litre buckets.  I haven't checked yet but I assume that the 36Kg is a wet weight and that 70% of the weight of poo is water.  So with the drying and hopefully composting breakdown we may even have less to deal with, we'll see.

I have spoken to a family who are using the posh Separett Villa.  This toilet hides the bucket with a sliding panel and the weight on the toilet seat swings open the cover.  It also turns the bucket slightly to stop poo mountains  building up.  I have had to turn the bucket manually, it probably needs doing once a week.  I suppose one could use a poo stick but I suspect that disturbing the monster might cause a stink.  If we go to the dog poo in the street scenario, it's not until you tread in it that it starts to smell.

Cleaning is done with a wet wipe and polished off with a paper towel.  The blue plastic of the separator is getting water marks on it so I guess I will use some white vinegar to polish those off.  I give the wee bowl a spritz up a couple of times a day with some water in an old spray bottle.  Half a litre lasts a week.  We have always used a bin for the toilet paper.  It gets emptied when necessary and is burnt hot on the stove.  No smells from the wee side of things either.  Remember that the wee pipe is connected to the sink/shower sump and can either go overboard or into the grey water holding tank.  The sump tank does need cleaning once a month to stop the soap scum building up on the electronic level sensor.  Just a scrub with an old washing up nylon brush.

So far so good, happy bunnies all round but interestingly, not one of our frequent quests has ever asked to use the new toilet!  I'm also getting a reputation for talking poo but that's probably always been true.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Compost Toilet on a Boat, never!

Yes, well, this post is a little out of sinc but I am so excited that I just had to share this with you.  Toilets on boats are always troublesome in one way or another.  Many places do not allow you to use sea toilets that simply pump over the side.  Holding tanks are fine but try finding somewhere to pump them out.  Few and far between in many places.  I remember a time in the Netherlands when it became worryingly imperative to pump out and the pump station was broken!  So on the barge I went for a 600 litre black tank that would last me 6 to 8 weeks, yeah, right.  A fine Vetus macerator 24volt toilet unit was fitted.  Scale build up was an issure and I have had to clean it twice due to virtually blocked pipes.  Bearing in mind that it was only comissioned in September 2006.  Anyway we muddled through despite poor flush characheristics which meant using far more water than it was supposed to.  I had to change the solenoid water valve too but that was only a fiver from Italy but I had to buy two as there was a minimum charge from the factory place.  Anyway after six years the entire unit had had enough and so had I.........

"Oh Poo" were the words I said just before Christmas when the toilet made some unsavoury noises and stopped working.

I said something a little stronger when, upon taking the unit apart, I found it was kaput, dead, nailed to the perch. The price for a new gubbins unit with the circuit board and pump unit was nearly £500 and a complete replacement toilet was £1100.

Someone it having a serious laugh here, at the moment it is consigned to "outside" status.


The thought of keeping several hundred litres of effluent under the saloon floor is beginning to wear thin, especially as the no smell pipes are beginning to smell. The pump out procedure is becoming a little tiresome too. Because of the emergency I have brought the porta potti into temporary use but I hate using that. I am too tight to spend cash on the blue stuff so it stinks, badly.

A year ago I was looking at composting loos but expensive they are and my own toilet was working then.


Nature's Head, compact but a little mechanical if you know what I mean.


Smooth and refined, the Separett Villa.

Now they are not so expensive especially as me and Mrs Barge have been using the £500 tin to save up golden coins and the demise of the Vetus unit.


Still the £700 or so for a Separett or Nature's Head seemed excessive if we didn't get on with it. It appears that most land based compost loos are in a shed outside somewhere. What to do?

Well....... Separett do a range of stuff concerning poo.

They have weekend and camping options and I wondered if I could work with one of their cheaper alternatives.

Hence Billy's "Poo in a Bucket MK I."


Ten of these recycled Syrup tubs came from:

A seat too.


And, ;D it does have a thing to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.


Of course it will all fit into a nice box (thunder) and small fans will keep a negative air pressure, vented to the outside. This desicates the excreted material and removes any offending smells. Well this is the theory anyway.



This is one the Little House Company are trying out.

Which is where I got the Separett Privy separator and seat/lid from.

I reckon I can make a half decent loo for around 150 golden coins, which is a considerable saving. I might just have to have a party to celebrate..... [image]

Latest news update.

Well, even though we have runny noses, there is no smell. I "commissioned" the compost loo the other day when Mrs B was visiting Butlin's with the small child. The fan is fairly unobtrusive. The extract fan that is normally used when showering is unnecessary now and has been disconnected. A urinal pineapple chunk is used to combat scale and an empty spray bottle filled with water is used to spritz up when needed. Use no chemicals as this will ruin the bacteria in the bucket. I started the fermentation with some soil round some rotting wood and a bit of peat compost suitably moistened with a bit of pee.

The whole experience is so much better than the portapoti. Mrs B is delighted with the entire experience. That says everything! [image]

There is a book on the web (free download) called Humanure. Rather informative. Much is said about pathogens in human poo. If you are in good western health then what you get rid of should not pose a problem. Generally we are not infested with too many worms these days. Cholera and Beri Beri etc will not be an issue. Normal hygiene standards will be fine. Use a fly screen on the vent pipe and don't allow the material to get wet. Use a dryer, peat moss perhaps to mitigate should it ever become necessary.

Fresh clean water was used to flush the old loo. Our fresh water lasts so much longer now, great.  My calculations suggest a 20% water saving.

If it turns bad I'll let you know believe me, but so far so good.


Well it has been ten days now since the inaugural deposit. Mrs B is delighted, no more smelly portapotti, now more stinky pump outs. Lets face it, just no more stink, full stop. Lets be brutal here even when the extractor fan was on it was always possible to know what someone else had been up to. Not so now, no nostrilic evidence at all, and I have a good nose.

I still don't quite believe it, there you have a bucket of poo, the pile of which is getting bigger every day and it simply does not smell, at all. It looks like the bacteria are starting to get established now as there are strings of fluffy furry stuff growing. The deposits are all black through oxidisation. I will be super happy when the breakdown really gets going.

As you can see from the photos the box is a lash up from some old ply. No point in spending a fortune until we know we can live with it. So far so good.



Ticket sales have been going well, quite a few folk have expressed an interest and come to have a look. Some have even stuck their head down to check because they couldn't believe the lack of odour.

I do keep a little bag of absorbent sawdust in case of emergencies, none yet fortunately. The tiny fan works well and the noise does not bother me and I am fretful about that sort of noise. I can hear the buzz of a phone charger at 6 yards! It reminds me of the ventilation fans on big ships, always there but background, very background and a lot better than the noise of the fridge.

Gentleman guests will have to be taught to remain seated regardless of performance. But I suspect that most will just cross their legs at the mere mention of compost loos. :)

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

More on the Inside.

Once all the insulation had been covered up with timber a little titivation was called for in the way of storage, beds and cupboards.  The front cabin was going to be used as a company office with a settee berth on one side and a desk on the other.  Above the settee berth would be another demountable occasional berth which slots together using dovetail joints and knees to support it.

As you can see full use is made of trotter boxes to accommodate the feet of the berth occupants, don't want them to get too comfy do we.

Here is the office more or less finished.


Offcuts of oak from the flooring were machined up to make the bed in the aft cabin.  This encompasses the weed hatch so heights had to match else there would be a lump in the bed which wasn't me.  Two hatches are in the floor to give access to the propeller shaft, stuffing box and intermediate bearing.

1mm lathes of clear oak were cut 20mm wide and woven to make a breathable panel for the wardrobe and cupboard doors in here.



 All wardrobes are 24" deep and have enough space in them so that air can circulate and there is enough space to hang stuff properly.  Every last bit of space is used for storage, specially when it's your home.


 The companion way steps swing up on gas struts to give a good easy access to the engine room.  It took a bit of working out to get the angles and levers right but it was worth it.  When closed the steps are over centre and held closed.  A little initial lift has them swinging above your head and you're in.


 I made these one Christmas out of iroko ready for when they were needed.  Put too much polish on them and once fitted broke 4 ribs wearing socks.  Don't wear socks anymore, boy that hurt.

 I'll have to take a photo of them actually in operation, remiss of me, sorry.

At the same time as all this the plumbing was being installed.  A wet central heating system was the plan, using cast iron radiators and inch and a quarter steel pipe.  Proper job.  The boiler is a drip feed Kabola E7 running on diesel or kero.

The light green tank is for hot water,  the light blue tank is the expansion vessel for the central heating and the red thing is the boiler.

 Each section of these radiators has an output of 250 watts making this one 2 kilowatts.  Note the two hold down u bolts through steel floors and the sideways stay tapped into the hull frame.  In a seaway I don't want these to move.  The big 3 kilowatt jobbie in the saloon weight in at over 23 stones.  The system uses no electricity and relies on thermo syphon to move the water through pipes.  Basically hot water rises and cold water falls.