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. :)