I have tankage for twenty gallons of water on board Seeker. Frankly, that isn’t a lot for the extended sailing I have planned and I hope to augment that in the near future. But, given that I have what I have, even on shortish week or two trips it is critical to conserve water.

Brita Water FilterNaturally, some water shouldn’t be conserved. It is important to drink plenty of water, especially in the warmer months. Many people do their drinking solely from disposable plastic water bottles, which is a great way of consuming good tasting, clean water. It’s also expensive and wasteful. Admittedly, I do do this; but I am trying to break myself of the habit. I have installed on the pressure water system a Brita filter which produces fine tasting water from my 30+ year old water tanks.

Pump up solar showerOther daily water uses can easily be reduced. Baby wipes are inexpensive, and wonderful for a daily sponge bath. They aren’t as nice as a real shower, of course; but they do greatly reduce the need of the daily shower dirt dwellers are accustomed to.

For an on-board shower I mostly use the Pump Up Solar Shower I found on Duckworksmagazine.com. I can either use it in the head (where I also can use the wasteful, and cold, pressure water shower), or on the deck. I sort of like to sit at the bow with my legs in the anchor locker and clean up there as the second best solution is the cockpit, which I’d much prefer to keep dry and comfortable. I fill this shower before leaving so as to not use the tank water, and find I can comfortably get several showers out of it. The black container also warms up in the sun which is nice. The portable nature of this shower also allows me to rinse off the boat and gear with it, or even dishes if I’m inclined to do them in the cockpit. A real bonus.

Speaking of dishes, I believe that doing them is one of the most wasteful uses of water.

Dish soap sprayer

A good way to save water while doing dishes

One solution to this that I found is to mix up some dish soap and water in a heavy duty spray bottle. A few pumps of the lever and the dishes are wet and soapy and ready for cleaning. One bottle lasts a really long time and uses hardly any water. I have been rinsing using pressure water; but I think a separate water only spray bottle would work really well. There is a minor issue with this method. on the bottom of the pickup tube there is a little plastic strainer that the dish soap seems to coagulate around. After a day or two it is necessary to pull the sprayer nozzle and tube and clean off this intake strainer, or the bottle just won’t pump. The strainer itself pulls off easy enough (at least in the bottle I have), so I removed it from mine and will see if the dish soap starts gunking up more important and less easily cleaned parts of the pump works. Either way, I definitely recommend grabbing a bottle or two.

Oh, and a word about pressure water: I’ve always bought into the common knowledge that pressure water equals waste. That may be true if you have dirt dwellers aboard, or maybe teenage girls or something. With a little care, however, I have found that it is real easy to use a miserly trickle of water. I still desire a manual pump; but more as a backup than to save water.

Coming soon eventually: more water tankage. I’m looking at installing a fresh water tank where the holding tank used to be. The holding tank was twenty gallons and ideally I could get the same for fresh water. Sadly, I can’t find an off the shelf thank to properly fit the spot so will likely end up with a smaller 13 gallon flexible tank in that area (that may or may not be able to be fully utilized). I suspect custom tanks would be too expensive, although I suppose I can look into building one myself. I’m also considering installing another twenty gallon tank under the starboard settee. I’m a little uncertain of this one, as I hate to take away too much of my limited stowage. But, I really hate having to dig under the settees anyhow, so maybe the compromise is worth it. I should still have a fair amount of stowage available. Upping my water tankage from twenty gallons to fifty would really extend my range.

Nature’s Head Composting Toilet

I installed the Nature’s Head after having an unfortunate experience last year with an over filled holding tank (a very messy version of Old Faithful was the odorous result). I had considered making a home-brew version (off the shelf parts would be sweet); but my time is not unlimited and I had other things to spend it on (rewiring the boat, for starters). The boat show price was high; but not unreasonably so.

With me and my gal, the two plus gallon liquids container generally needs emptying every other day. I do have a spare jug which I feel is mandatory and should come standard. I will soon be making a custom fit bracket to snugly hold the spare jug to the bulkhead to reduce the risk of it going flying and spilling the contents all over the interior (a horrifying thought).

The solids container does seem to last quite awhile; but I’m not convinced it makes the advertised 60-80 uses. Of course, if putting the toilet paper in the head (and it is somewhat distasteful to put it anywhere else), it will fill up much faster. The TP takes some time to break down. The poop does become inoffensive in a couple of days, although it surely takes much longer to fully compost than the practical time it can remain in the toilet. There is rarely a smell (the cat box is much more of an issue). The small fan barely registers on the amp meter and does an admirable job of venting to the anchor locker.


From a philosophical point of view, I think that discreetly pouring pee overboard is not much of a health risk anyplace that is not unusually sensitive and not morally shaky, unless it done in a really crowded harbor at which point it is bad manners. Legally is a different thing altogether, and I’m pretty certain it is universally frowned upon by those men with shiny badges. You makes your choices and you takes your chances. It should be easy enough to find a shore side facility every two or three days, although I can think of more pleasant things than carrying around a couple of gallons of smelly pee.

By the same token, I think that putting partially composted solid waste in a thick contractors trash bag (the Nature’s Head site suggests a regular kitchen garbage bag…given the subject matter I think I prefer the extra toughness of the thick bags) and putting it into the dumpster is no more offensive or generally harmful to mankind than disposing of dirty baby diapers in the trash; but it may still be illegal. The Nature’s Head folks suggest it is dirt at this point (assuming some time between last deposit); but I am not certain that it really, truly qualifies without having at least months of time to cook. Choices. Chances. I read somewhere (the c-head homepage, perhaps) that sealing it in a pickle bucket (aka Home Depot ‘Homer’ bucket) with some bleach qualifies it as “treated” and it suddenly becomes legal for about the same price as a pump out. I’m not sure; but it sounds like a reasonable compromise assuming an offshore dump is not practical. I emptied mine after using it occasionally all summer plus regularly for a ten day trip for two. It was not anymore distasteful than a pump out, and more pleasant than dealing with a porta-potti. I expect the next time I empty it will be when I recommission the boat next spring. Although I’m now living aboard part-time, so that estimate might not hold true in the end.

The bottom line:

Everything in life is a compromise. But as far as compromises go, this one ain’t that bad. And I no longer have nightmares of exploding holding tanks. Bonus: By pulling the holding tank, I now have room for a new water tank to augment the somewhat anemic twenty gallons of the primary tank. If only I can find an off the shelf tank that would properly fit…

Bayfield 29 Refit Planning: The head

One of the issues I currently have with the boat is the toilet, and black water system in general. The current toilet (for those marine purists…I consider the “head” to be the equivalent of the bathroom, not specifically the toilet itself) is a Groco manual, a brand which seems to have a pretty good reputation. But it is pretty old and not quite working as well as it should, and really needs to be rebuilt. As well, the survey pointed out that the waste lines need to be replaced, and since the survey mentioned it, my insurance carrier (BoatUS) is insisting on it. On top of that I was shocked to find out how fast the holding tank (20 gallons?) fills up, although that may have partially been due to over exuberant pumping.

Keeping in mind that I will eventually be living aboard, and that getting pumped out in the winter months could be problematic I was left with a few decisions.

One: Fix the current system, plan on pumping weekly in season, and not using the waste system at all in the winter months. This would include a rebuild of the current head, and a replacement of all the waste lines and the overboard discharge seacock (only used well offshore).

Two: Make some changes to the current system, plan on pumping weekly in season, and not using the waste system at all in the winter months (a little Déjà vu there). I was thinking either an electric macerating toilet or a Lavac system in addition to the waste lines and seacock. There would still be the holding tank limitation, though.

Three: Doing something different. In this case a dry composting toilet. In fact, after a lengthy conversation with the designer of the Nature’s Head toilet at the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, this is exactly what I decided to do and I bought one there on the spot. While pretty expensive, I believe it would in the end be cheaper than option two, and not all that much more than option one.

There are several advantages to the dry composting toilets (there are a few designs out there that work more or less the same way).

  1. Urine is separated from solids with a clever diverter design which dramatically slows how fast the main tank (built into the toilet) fills, allowing a claimed 60-80 uses between emptying (more if you don’t throw the toilet paper in the tank, although that would generate a whole new set of issues).
  2. There is no offensive odor, although depending on how ventilation is handled there might be a musty peat mossy scent.
  3. There is no need of a holding tank or associated waste plumbing or through-hulls simplifying the system and opening up more space.
  4. With the holding tank gone, I will have room to install a new 20 gallon (more or less) water tank, an important addition for when I can finally leave on some extended traveling.
  5. I don’t have to worry about pump-outs.

Of course, TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). There are drawbacks, too.

  1. It is unfamiliar to most people (women in particular) who might not feel comfortable using it.
  2. While the solids tank should last a long time, the liquids will have to be emptied every day or two. Of course, this can be done in any toilet, or for any anarchists out there, discreetly overboard (warning: while there is little to no environmental risk that I’m aware of to this, and while people pee directly overboard all the time without thinking twice, while within the three mile limit this is illegal).
  3. Eventually the solids tank will have to be emptied. Assuming there hasn’t been any extremely recent “deposits” this shouldn’t be too offensive or difficult a job (I doubt it is worse than a pump-out); but neither will it be pleasant.
  4. While the Nature’s Head guys suggest bagging the stuff (they call it dirt) and throwing it in the trash, it is unlikely that it would be fully composted, and this may very well be illegal (although no more illegal than throwing dirty diapers away). Buying a five gallon “Homer Bucket” from Home Depot, putting the waste in that along with a cup of bleach, and sealing it turns it into “treated” instead of “untreated” waste and may make it all legal. This is unclear; but so far it doesn’t seem to be a big issue. The other option is to store it (perhaps in a vented Homer Bucket) for a year or two, or dump it on a composting pile somewhere until it finishes doing its’ thing, at which point it is excellent fertilizer (it is recommended not to use it on food plants…just in case). If offshore, of course, it is completely legal to just dump it overboard when outside the three mile limit. I don’t think there is any harm no matter the method; but in the interests of not self incriminating I think I’ll keep my choices to myself.
  5. Occasionally there have been known to be issues with flies. This is not universal and there are ways of dealing with the problem; but it does happen.

I’ve actually been thinking of this system for a few years as I was trying to find a way to shoe horn it into my Seafarer 24 (it’s a pretty bulky, and in particular, tall system), so I think I have a pretty good feel for the pluses and minus. It’s new to me, though, so I might not tear out the old tank too fast, or seal up the through-hulls until I feel happy with the system, allowing me to revert to a wet system should I feel like it. Or not. I’m still thinking on it. The good news is that the majority of people I know (on web forums, mostly) who have tried a dry composting head have been extremely pleased with the results. I do have my concerns for the fairer sex, though, as I do like to keep them happy and impressed.

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Bayfield 29 Refit Planning: Anchor gear (Part 2: The Rode)

The gears continue to turn as I further contemplate ground tackle…

While I’m still working through the options on an anchor selection (I’d like to get it done by October 15th in order to take advantage of the Boat Show Specials at Defender), I believe (read: hope) selecting the rode should be a bit less troublesome.

West Marine suggests that 1/8” of line diameter for every nine feet of boat length is appropriate. For a 29 foot boat this suggests a little more than a 3/8” line, or round up to 1/2”. Anchor chain would typically be half the size of the line, or 1/4”.

Rocna recommends 1/4” high test for their Rocna 10 (the recommended size), and 5/16” high test for their Rocna 15. Presumably the other anchors would benefit from similar sizing.

With agreement from two sources, if I go with a recommended size anchor, I’ll probably also go with 1/4” high test, upsizing slightly to 5/16” if I oversize the anchor. Although the larger chain isn’t that much heavier or more expensive and might be worth considering if I even think I might upsize sometime in the future.

How much chain and how much rope on the rode?

The general rule of thumb regards scope is 7:1 for the typical short length of chain followed by rope, and 5:1 for all chain rode. In heavy conditions as much as 10:1 might be called for, and in tight anchorages many people lie to as little as 3:1 ( hopefully all chain). It is important to remember to include the height above the waterline of the anchor roller and the expected tide in the scope computation (10 feet of water + 4 feet of freeboard + 2 feet of expected tide increase would equal 16 feet for the purpose of figuring scope).

I figure that 100′ of chain would allow me to lie to all chain at a 5:1 scope in fifteen feet of water (plus four feet of freeboard). Add 200′ of anchor line and I can anchor at 7:1 in thirty-five feet of water or 5:1 in fifty-five feet, which should cover me in most anchorages I’m likely to find myself in. Any more than that and I’ll have to add another length of line to the rode.

Freeboard: 4 Feet Chain Length 100 Feet
Draft: 3.5 Feet Rope Length 200 Feet
Water Depth Total Depth Scope
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
5 9 27 36 45 54 63 72 81 90
10 14 42 56 70 84 98 112 126 140
15 19 57 76 95 114 133 152 171 190
20 24 72 96 120 144 168 192 216 240
25 29 87 116 145 174 203 232 261 290
30 34 102 136 170 204 238 272 306 340
35 39 117 156 195 234 273 312 351 390
40 44 132 176 220 264 308 352 396 440
45 49 147 196 245 294 343 392 441 490
50 54 162 216 270 324 378 432 486 540
55 59 177 236 295 354 413 472 531 590
60 64 192 256 320 384 448 512 576 640
65 69 207 276 345 414 483 552 621 690
70 74 222 296 370 444 518 592 666 740
Anchor Chain Size WLL Weight/ft (pounds) Feet Total Weight (pounds) Price/Ft (Defender 10/8/12) Total Price
Acco G4 1/4” 2,600 0.64 100 64 $2.84 $284.00
Acco G4 5/16” 3,900 0.93 100 93 $3.76 $376.00
Anchor Line Size Average Tensile Strength Weight/ 100 ft (pounds) Feet Total Weight (pounds) Price/Ft (Defender 10/8/12) Total Price
Sampson Pro-set 3 strand 1/2” 6300 6.5 200 13 $0.57 $114.00
Sampson Pro-set 3 strand 5/8” 10000 10.5 200 21 $0.94 $188.00

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Bayfield 29 Refit Planning: Anchor gear (Part 1: The hook)

I’m in serious research mode right now for this winter’s refit of my new (to me) 1982 Bayfield 29. What follows is a kind of crazy mind dump (meaning likely a bit incoherent and free flowing) detailing my thought processes for ground tackle.

There is a tremendous amount of noise out there regarding ground tackle (anchors, rode, and associated links), with lots of conflicting opinions, and web forum ugliness that I normally associate with political and religious discussions. Add in the complication of boats having different shapes, displacements, and windage profiles, the wide variety of bottoms that vary by geographic region, the expected weather one might encounter along one’s route, and the difference in how people actually use their boats, and you come up with a mess of confusion. Just for fun add in all the propaganda from the numerous anchor manufacturers and distributors (all of which seem to claim to be the “best”) and their varied methods of determining an appropriate size anchor (not to mention chain size and length), and it’s enough to cause a guy to bang his head against the wall.

Starting with my personal experience, I will say that I’m not entirely happy with the anchor system on my Bayfield at the moment. Currently she has a Danforth (genuine) 13S (13 lbs) on the bow, with an inadequate rode of maybe 10 feet of 3/8” chain and probably 80 feet of I think 5/8” 3-strand line. The anchor hangs from brackets on the pulpit, which I (and my back) find awkward to deal with. This system is probably adequate for occasional use in the Chesapeake; but I anchor out a lot (when away from my home marina I have yet to take a transient slip, and only rarely pick up a mooring) and plan on eventually going much further afield. I’ve only once had a difficult time setting this anchor in a crowded anchorage in the Rhode River near Annapolis. Although once it set it was fine, even with winds blowing into the 20s from different directions, I was unhappy with the five or six attempts to get it to set. Looking at this system…

Existing Ground Tackle System:

  • The Danforth 13S appears to have 920 lbs of holding power.
  • 3/8” Proof coil G3 chain has a Working Load Limit of 2,650 lbs.
  • 5/8” three strand line (I’m using Samson Pro-Set as a reference, as I’m not sure what the actual manufacturer is) has an Average Tensile Strength of 10,000 lbs.

Sailboat Specs:
According to http://sailboatdata.com, the specs for the Bayfield 29 are…

  • LOA: 29.00’/8.84m (this includes the bowsprit…the LOD is probably a little more than 27′)
  • LWL: 21.75’/3.10m Beam: 10.17’/3.10m Draft: 3.50’/1.07m Displacement: 7100 lbs/3221 kgs. (I’m told that virtually all B29s are heavier than this…I’m going to run with 10,000 lbs as a cruising displacement until I learn otherwise).
  • Ballast: 3000 lbs/1361 kgs
  • Hull Type: Long Keel
  • Rig Type: Cutter

I replicated some info, I believe originally sourced from the ABYC, in
the chart below…

Ground Tackle Design Loads
Length Over All (Feet) Boat Beam (Feet) Load on Tackle and Hardware (pounds)
Sail Power 15 Knots 30 Knots 42 Knots 60 Knots
10 4 5 40 160 320 640
15 5 6 60 250 500 1,000
20 7 8 90 360 720 1,440
25 8 9 125 490 980 1,960
30 9 11 175 700 1,400 2,800
35 10 13 225 900 1,800 3,600
40 11 14 300 1,200 2,400 4,800
50 13 16 400 1,600 3,200 6,400
60 15 18 500 2,000 4,000 8,000

The Bayfield’s beam is a little wider than 9′; but she is a little shorter than 30′, so I’m going to work on the assumption that this is close enough. According to this info the Danforth 13S should be  quite satisfactory as a working anchor in winds up to 30 knots. I have a second identical system  below deck if it looks like I’ll be anchoring in more than that (and I have). Frankly, I’d prefer to have the primary hook at least handle the 42 knot load. I’d also like it to nest on a bow roller, and not  hang from the pulpit (which is clumsy to handle). I’ll probably install a windlass at some point, too, which would also take advantage of a bow roller.

Digging through the manufacturer sites, I compared Danforth, Fortress, Rocna, and Manson Supreme anchors (these are the readily available anchors I’m personally most familiar with, having used all of them at one point or another). I wanted to compare the claw variants as well as I have one on my Seafarer 24 and like it a lot, but had trouble finding info I could use for a paper comparison. I took a guess and included one anyhow as the price is very competitive. The Fortress and Danforth listed Holding Power while the Rocna claims that their recommended anchor is good to 50 knots and I worked under the assumption that the very similar looking Manson Supreme  would have similar working limits (they claim they are better than the Rocna; but then Rocna claims they are better than the Supreme!). I was surprised to find that Rocna no longer carries the huge premium price they had in years past, and are now actually a little cheaper than the most equivalent Manson Supreme, possibly due to the substandard (or at least, sub-speced) steel quality that occurred after moving manufacturing to China (a problem that is supposed to have been corrected, I understand).

Anchor comparison
Brand Model Weight Holding Power Defender Price (10/8/12) Notes
Danforth 13S 13 920 Existing Anchor
Danforth 12H 12 1,800 $147.19
Danforth 20H 20 2,500 $206.99
Danforth 35H 35 3,800 $331.19
Fortress FX-16 10 1,250 $197.79
Fortress FX-23 15 2,000 $308.19
Fortress FX-37 21 3,000 $427.79
Rocna 10 22 $227.23 Good to 50kts
Rocna 15 33 $275.99 Storm Size
Manson Supreme 25 25 $239.00 Good to 50kts
Manson Supreme 35 35 $326.59 Storm Size
Lewmar Horizon Claw 22 $40.00 Manu. Recommended size.
Lewmar Horizon Claw 33 $142.00 Working size?

While it looks like we are comparing apples to apples, because of the lack of measuring standards we appear to actually be comparing apples to kiwi fruit or something. While Danforth and Fortress provided holding power numbers (I have no idea how they came up with them, and if the method they used is standardized), no one else felt the need, so I need to make some educated assumptions. It’s also worth noting that holding power alone does not an anchor make, and that each performs differently in different bottoms, and each may handle a change in the direction of pull differently, which is why many people recommend keeping multiple anchor types aboard.

Let’s use the 42 knots on the original chart as our target need for a primary anchor. This would be more than a weekender would need; but when I transition to full time cruising it seems like a reasonable number to work with. I will use the 60 knot range as the target storm anchor size, making the assumption that one size up would be appropriate where holding power is not listed. It is worth noting that the “H” versions (High Tensile) of the Danforth anchor have significant increases in holding power over the “S” (standard) version that currently exists on the boat.

So, our working anchor choices are now:

Working Anchor Comparison
Brand Model Weight Holding Power Defender Price (10/8/12) Notes
Danforth 12H 12 1,800 $147.19
Fortress FX-23 15 2,000 $308.19
Rocna 10 22 $227.23 Good to 50kts
Manson Supreme 25 25 $239.00 Good to 50kts
Lewmar Horizon Claw 33 $142.00 Working size?

And our storm anchor choices are:

Storm Anchor Comparison
Danforth 35H 35 3,800 $331.19
Fortress FX-37 21 3,000 $427.79
Rocna 15 33 $275.99 Storm Size
Manson Supreme 35 35 $326.59 Storm Size

Surprisingly, on the storm anchor chart the Danforth is more expensive than both Rocna and Manson, so given my so-so feelings towards that anchor, and the issue it sometimes has resetting when the boat swings, I’m going to cross it off the Storm list. Since I already have a couple 13S anchors, I’m going to cross it off the Working list as well.

I don’t think I have room to store a Rocna or Manson Supreme anyplace but on the bow of the boat (they are bulky), so they are not really suitable for keeping below in reserve for the rare storm, and a very expensive Fortress which can be disassembled for storage might fit that bill better. The affordable claw, using my best guesses as to equivalent weight, gets kind of heavy in comparison to the others for the Working Anchor size. It does suggest, however, that if 33 lbs is OK for a working anchor, then I might just as well hang a Rocna 15 (33 lbs, $275.99) off the bow to cover me through pretty much any situation I’m likely to find myself in. Peter Smith (the designer of the Rocna and former scourge of internet forums everywhere) is adamant in his claims that the sizing recommendations for the Rocna are conservative (the recommended size is the 22 pounder, theoretically good to 50 knots) and that it really shouldn’t be necessary to go larger, although I worry about having to ride out a hurricane at anchor someday.

I think I need to stop at West Marine and actually see how big this gear is. Perhaps combining a Rocna 10 on the starboard side of the bowsprit, with a Lewmar Horizon Claw 22 (the manufacturer recommended size) on the port side would be a good compromise allowing multiple anchor situations (tight swing room or storm use) and a spare setup in case of primary anchor failure (either through loss or simply not being able to set properly). A seven pound Fortress FX-11 ($142.59) as a stern/kedge anchor would round out the set nicely, especially since I think I already have one (although what I have might be an FX-7). And what the heck, if I can find the room I can always keep one of the Danforth 13Ss around for good measure.

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A quick note on the SPOT…I am providing public tracking through the share service on findmespot and through Spot Adventures. I really don’t know how well they work, so it should be interesting to see how this all works out.

The links…



It will doubtless be a learning experience.

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The motor Lives!

Preps continue. The big news…the motor runs!

But, of course, I underestimated how long the remaining projects will take. It looks like a Friday departure is unlikely as I need one more day to get things well enough in order (and Friday just happens to be my next day off). Oh, well. There should be enough time built into the plan to still get me to Martha’s Vineyard on time.

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