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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Notes on DIY Urine Diverter

This thing is surprisingly simple and effective.
Having lived with our DIY Urine Diverter in our DIY Composting Toilet for near on a year now, I thought it might be a good time to address the "what worked" and "what didn't" of the thing.  For the initial posts on construction, you can go have a look here.

In general, the thing has worked really well, and with very few problems.  It extends to nearly two weeks the time between needing to empty the solid waste from the toilet, and makes that job less arduous because the mass is far lighter without being chocked full of pee.   Not having liquid pooling in the compost bucket means far less chance of insects or odor.  We use a spray bottle with a weak bleach solution and spray the diverter after every couple of uses, which keeps the smell virtually nonexistent, and the bottle (a disused 1 1/2 gallon cat litter container) is far simpler to empty than dumping the entire composting bucket, I can tell you.

There, however, a few things that we might have done differently (and which we will do differently in subsequent versions) that we thought we'd impart.

First and foremost, we used 1/2" (about 13 mm) tubing for the drain.  The interior diameter of this hose is only about 3/8"  (about 9.5mm), which is fine for drainage.  From the beginning, however, we've used mostly wood chips and wood stove pellets for mass in the composter, and dropping even a single pellet into the diverter can plug the thing (happens about twice a month)  necessitating using a piece of wire or something to dislodge it.  Not a deal breaker, certainly, but irritating.  In future iterations, we'll endeavor to use a wider diameter tube, which should solve that instantly.

Since this was a retrofit to a composting toilet we'd already built, we had to get a bit creative with routing the tube to the bottle.  Because it looks a bit like a novelty drinking straw, it's rather easy to kink it when pulling or replacing the compost bucket.  In designing a new housing, we would opt for a much more straightforward (and shorter) route for the hose.

Since the initial install, we've had to play a bit with both the height and the depth of the diverter to keep it from hitting your bum on the toilet.  This was pretty easy, and involved screwing the thing in place half an inch lower and using a pocket knife to cut the curve of the top of the diverter a bit more deeply to keep it out of the way.  Neither affected the efficacy of the unit.

By the way, rotating the compost buckets is a plus.  Even with a liner, the plastic still manages to pick up some stink (though it isn't evident until you go to dump them). Being able to leave one out to air while the other is in use keeps that down .  I'm curious if a stainless steel bucket might be more resistant to retaining odor.

When choosing your diverter bottle, virtually anything will work, but as unattractive as it may be, I'd strongly recommend getting one in which you can easily see the liquid level.  Humans produce a surprising amount of pee, and though we've only overtopped it once, it wasn't a pleasant experience cleaning it up.  There are a bunch of other fixes for this, including possibly sealing the hose into the bottle while providing an air vent of some kind, but the simplest is just to be able to see just how much of the smelly amber stuff with which you're dealing so you can empty it in a timely fashion.

Lastly, note that, if you're in a non-mobile situation, routing the urine hose permanently into a dry well or into a garden or flower bed (urine being a major source of nitrogen) can mean you NEVER have to empty the thing and your flowers or lawn can reap the benefits.

All in all, I'm really happy we built the thing and rather wish we'd done so sooner.

Hiking at Marshy Point Nature Center on a sunny December day.
The late fall has been as erratic as the rest of the year here on the Chesapeake.  Two days ago it was sunny and 60 degrees F.  Today, it's barely above freezing.  Still, we did get in a lovely hike at one of our favorite places here (Marshy Point Nature Center) and managed to finish getting our stuff into the storage space.  Now we've got a couple of chilly days, suitable for finishing the first draft of the novel at which I've been working.  Close now. 

Fortunately, the solution to chilly feet is ALWAYS a well padded ship's cat.
So it's a couple of days of writing and artwork, and then maybe we can re-address the electric drive controller.

Stay Tuned.

M



Thursday, November 15, 2018

AAAAAANNNNNDDDDD Life gets in the way....

No, we haven't forgotten about you.  We've had to do a bit of necessary repair work on our cockpit enclosure (winter coming on) and have had to move our storage from the Marina building basement to a private storage facility further ashore (they're doing some renovations and we're kinda in the way). 

The wheel is in place, at the proper depth, and wired in.
Last week, we got the support lines replaced with chain and rerouted our wiring to connect the motor.  We booted up the sysem, turned the rheostat and, low and behold it turned.  It turned both forward and back.  We were ecstatic. . . .

. . .or were until the NEW motor controller--from the same company--went *pop* fizzzzzzz and quit. 

I checked the motor load and our wiring, and that doesn't appear to be the problem.  I just think the stats provided with these cheap Chinese controllers really don't match their capabilities.  So we're in process of getting and installing a more robust unit.  As soon as the current ice storm is over, we'll give it a go and give you a full report.

Winter finally caught up with us today:  snow and ice and rain.  We were bright enough to do our shopping yesterday so we have a day hunkered down in the boat, drinking tea, doing artwork, writing, and in general, having a quiet day of it. 

In coming days we'll be testing the new motor controller, installing an electric water pump for the galley (finally giving up on these crappy marine galley pumps....they either seem to be utter plastic junk or way more than we can afford), and doing a review on our flexoglass wheelhouse enclosure at a year of use, wind, and sun exposure, so stay tuned.

More very shortly.

Brrrrrr

M

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Electric Motor Install: Part IV: In the Water

....and if you haven't figured it out yet, these headings don't really mean a whole lot.

Yesterday we removed the Kayak that was supporting the wheel--which took a bit of finagling--and lowered it into the water for the first time. 

Mercifully, it hits the water evenly and at the right depth
Of primary concern was the depth of the buckets at their lowest position.  Ideally, they should be about 2" below the water surface.  If we were far off that, we'd have to remove and reposition where the wheel was attached to the stern.

Happily, once we got it off of flotation and let it down, the bottom bucket was almost EXACTLY 2" below the surface. 

Occasionally, I win one.

So today we'll get chain cut and make the supports permanent (at present it's hanging from the blue lines you see above).  We'll wire up the motor and see if she works properly.  Look for a test on the water today or tomorrow if that goes well.

Wish us luck.

More Shortly

M

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Electric Motor Installation Part: the third

FINALLY a fortuitous conjunction of tides, weather, help, and sunshine made it possible for us to get the wheel in place.

These chain supports will support the aft end of the wheel frame and will allow for adjustment.
Here's the stern, cleared and ready for the wheel.  The wiring is leading out the old engine exhaust tube on the Starboard side.
we dropped the wheel off the dock and onto our Intex kayak, which let us line it up with the old mounting holes that had been the outboard mount.  The thing is now firmly connected to the stern.

here's a shot from Port, showing the kayak step on the side of the wheel.  The aft lines supporting eh back of the wheel frame will be replaced with chain as soon as we're sure of the lengths.
With help from a nice slipmate, we rolled the wheel off the dock onto our Intex Kayak, which let us get is lined up with the stern far more easily than what I'd originally planned (Thanks Gail), snugged it over, and got it lag bolted in place. 

Tomorrow, of course, they're predicting rain, but when that clears, we'll pull out the kayak, set the depth for the wheel, hook up the wiring, and try the thing out.

Wish us luck.

We actually have gotten rather a lot done while waiting on weather and tides.  We made a lovely batch of Perry (think hard cider, but from pears), and did a lot of resetting of lines to make room for the wheel.

We bottled the Perry on Halloween night.  Initial tastes are promising, I can tell you.
We spent Samhain evening with friends, toasting the Pagan New Year.  Hope it's a much better one for all of us.

Happy Samhain!
Oh, by the way, we both voted:

Go do this
You should really go do that.  Really.  It's important.

More shortly,

M

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Electric Motor Install 3.somethingsomethingsomething

Finally a nice day and we managed to get some work done in getting the wheel ready to mount.
Everything you see that isn't red (yet) is carbon steel and has to be painted.

We used the nice weather to do the last of the touch up painting and to get some rust preventative paint (which mercifully matches the wheel) on all the steel parts that aren't stainless, those being the driveshaft, flanges, and pillow blocks.

We also got the motor mounted.  Here it is covered with plastic while we finish painting.

Here you can see the pillow block bearing, driveshaft, and connecting sleeve all painted.

The beast is now ready to install.
So today I'll install two strong eye-bolts to the wheelhouse frame for the support chains (we'll start with line until we're sure of the length) and then, hopefully (tide and wind cooperating) we'll get this puppy on and working over the weekend.

Wish us luck.

More shortly.....one hopes.

M

Monday, October 15, 2018

Of composting toilets and rain

No, we haven't forgotten about you.

We're still sitting here halfway through the paddlewheel installation, but every day this week it's either been raining, thinking about raining, threatening raining, just having rained, or too windy to get anything done.  Hopefully, after today, we'll have five or six days of decent weather and can make some progress.
Magellan is REALLY bored with all this rain.

It's life on a boat.  You deal with nature.  It's part of what we love about it, but it can get in the way sometimes.

In that regard:

I've noticed of late a LOT of interest in the Composting Toilet/Urine Diverter/Toilet build info posts.  I mean, rather a lot.  Would you guys be interested if we put together a little Ebook combining all the information we've learned from the start of the original Floating Empire on composting toilets and their care and . . .um. . .feeding?  We'd probably stick in on kindle or somesuchwhat for download.

Let me know in the comments if its a go.

More shortly, I promise.

M

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Electric Motor Install 2. i forget

So, rather racing to get a bit ahead of hurricane-induced rainstorms and wind (shouldn't be too bad here, but we will get wet Thursday) we did manage to get the frame and the wheel mated and all the keys in their respective keyways.

Port side, with the platform for accessing the kayak.

Starboard side.  Motor mounts at center.
I have to admit, I was really pleased.  Gail and I picked up the wheel and frame and spun the wheel.  It just kept going and going.  So the bearings are good and we've obviously got them aligned properly with the shaft.

So tomorrow will likely be a waste. Friday we'll still have some winds but it's likely the rain will be done and we can do the last of our touchup painting, then, hopefully with some help, we'll try to get her on Saturday or Sunday.

If you're in the path of Michael, stay safe.  It's a big storm.

More shortly

M

Monday, October 8, 2018

Electric Motor Install Pt. 2.3.4

Okay, due to some really unpredictable weather, some minor health issues (okay, we broke a pair of glasses), and some general ennui, we've not exactly been surging ahead, but we have made some real progress in the installation of the wheel.

Okay, so I'm never happy with how fast these things go.....or realistic about how fast they CAN go.



Getting the driveshaft keyways aligned is a bit tricky.
We got the drive shaft in to align the flanges that connect it to the wheel.  It's a bit tricky as the keyways in the flanges and the keyway in the drive shaft all have to align, but we got it to work.  Hopefully when we go to put it all back together, I can do this without a sledgehammer.  FYI the driveshaft and flanges, like the motor shaft, are 7/8" steel with a 1/8" keyway.

The frame assembled and laid out with the driveshaft and pillow blocks.
We got the frame for the wheel assembled and fitted the pillow blocks and shaft to it.  You can see, it's not symmetrical.  The motor hangs off the starboard side of it (to your left in this picture.)  The larger framed space on the right will be a sort of swim platform to help get on and off the kayak.  It also will help counterbalance the weight of the motor.

Today, if the rain holds off, we'll get a bit of the last bits of painting done and get the whole thing assembled, looking for an installation tomorrow or the next day.

Weather and ennui permitting.

Stay Tuned.

M

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Electric Motor Install, Pt II, the Wheel

So yesterday we completed the paddlewheel (the test one, anyway).  The wheel is 3.5 feet in diameter and has six two foot buckets (paddles). 

Cutting the sides of the wheel.
The lumber bill at the moment looks like this:  One sheet of 3/4" exterior plywood, three 1" x 8" x 8' clear boards for the buckets, 3 treated 2" x 4" x 8's for the frame, and a piece of 2" x 2" x 8' for the blocks to support the buckets.

No, this is tragically not a lost Calder sculpture.  It's the blocks that will support the buckets (paddles)
Multiple coats of a good exterior paint starts the paint process.
aaaaaaand paint all over the damn place.
laying out a hexigon to align the buckets. 
So we used the quasi reliable radius method to lay out six equidistant points on each side rim and then struck a line connecting them to be able to mount the bucket supports evenly.

Blocks in place.  Note that each side must have the blocks on the opposite side of their alignment marks than the other.  I got paranoid about this, checked it five or six times, STILL got it wrong and had to remove and replace the blocks.  Take care.
Here is the beast assembled:


So today we will fit the drive shaft to the assembled wheel and begin assembling the frame that supports it.

Stay Tuned.

M

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Keeping it Together

So, I've a lot of pictures and text and so forth on the new paddlewheel construction, which I'll post in a day or so, but--not at all based on anything I saw on the docks yesterday, mind you--this has been on my mind.

So, after thinking about this a bit, watching my slipmates, especially the newbies, deal with their boats and the water, I thought I would pass this along. Here are six, potentially disasterous things you can easily avoid on the water. Take them to heart and you'll be a lot less frustrated, I promise you.

First: The “Three Point Rule” is paramount. Whenever moving on, or getting off or on the boat, keep three points of contact at all times: two feet and a hand, two hands and a foot. . . avoid if at all possible stepping off the boat with both hands full. It's a formula for a fall. Boat decks can be slippery. Boats move, often suddenly and unexpectedly. Make sure you're ready and capable of coping with that if it happens.

Second: This is a boat, not a baseball field. Don't toss things unless there's no other option. In my time living aboard I've seen keys tossed from boat to dock (they missed, prompting an expensive locksmith visit and the even more expensive replacement of a wireless car key set), along with cell phones (they smashed) and a whole host of caps, floats, plates, tools, and assorted detritus, all of which either currently resides on the bottom below the docks or floated off downstream. HAND things off, and insist on the recipient saying “thank you” (an old Boy Scout trick) acknowledging they've got control of the item before you let go.

And in that regard: If you've got your cell phone, keys, etc. in your pocket or in your bag, you are unlikely to drop them off the dock. Wait until you hit dry land before you just HAVE to begin texting aunt Edna. I've seen some amazing juggling acts with keys and phones as people whip them out on the dock only to lose control of them.

Third: TURN OFF YOUR DOCK WATER WHEN YOU LEAVE!. I know of three boats now that sank, not because of leaks, but because the fresh water line from the dock was left on and a fitting broke aboard, filling the boat with water.

Fourth: Never, EVER wind a line around your hand when you're pulling it. You won't be able to let go quickly if you need to. I've seen hands smashed betwixt boat and dock because they were pulled down by the line they were holding and couldn't let go.  I actually learned this one working for years in the theatre, working in what's called a "hemp loft" stage. . . .ropes and sandbags.  I've seen more than one stagehand literally jerked off the ground because they couldn't let go of a line connected to waaaaaay too much counterweight.

Fifth: It's a boat. You're outside a lot. If you were camping, you'd wear sun block, bug spray, hats, sunglasses. . .all things to protect yourself from the elements. You need to do that on board. Reflection off the water can blast you with sunlight you aren't aware you're getting. Wind and salt can sap you of hydration, heat can do likewise. Pay attention to your body and what your surroundings are doing to it.

And Lastly: It's a boat. I know it doesn't happen often, but you can sink, you can fall overboard, hit your head, and drown. The ocean demands respect, and you forget that at your peril. Pay attention and you'll have a lovely time. Fail to and you may get an emergency room visit. . . .if you're lucky.

Nuff said.

M