Monday, February 20, 2012

A post from Jeffery: "Input and Output- from a Different Perspective"

Chris and I had a date night two evenings ago.  Juliet was spending the night at a friend’s house so we had the opportunity to spend some time alone.  Having just come home from a long day reefing out seams on Pacific Yellow Fin, I needed a shower pretty badly.  So I head forward to crack open the hot water.  Nothing.  Not even a drip.

Chris hollered forward that Juliet shut off the pressure water pump because it was running continuously.  Before she’d even said that, I knew we were out of water.  I’d actually known for a few days that we were getting low, because Kwaietek was telling me. She was riding high at the bow, and I could feel the “uphill climb” in the sole (floor) as I would walk forward.  She was also livelier in a southeast wind.  Lastly, I knew that it had been about two weeks since I’d last filled the tanks. 

As a family of three we go through the 350 gallon freshwater tankage in about two weeks.  That covers all of our cooking, washing, cleaning and showers.  It works out to about 50 gallons per person per week.  The average consumption in this country is about 100 gallons per person per day.  We’re not doing too badly.  Careful use and low flow faucets and shower heads help a lot. 

This however does not cover our laundry, as we take that to a laundry mat.  When the galley is rebuilt, I already have a high efficiency single unit washer/dryer that uses about 7 gallons per load.  It will be installed under the countertop.  We should be running about five loads a week, including my work clothes and we’ll still be way under the national average.

The fresh water also doesn’t cover is the head (toilet).  When we rebuilt the forward end, I purchased a high efficiency, electric macerating head.  It uses about a pint and a half per flush, but it uses seawater.  The head flushes into a 45 gallon holding tank in the bilge under our stateroom.  (As you can imagine, proper odor-proof plumbing, tight fittings and a bomb-proof installation it paramount when living so close to the “black water”).  When I installed the system, it took a few tweaks to get everything tight.

So where does the black water go when the tank is full?  Bellingham is part of the zero discharge zone, which means we can’t pump it overboard.  Plus that’s just gross, especially when living in a marina.  So every Sunday I get to spend some quality time pumping poop.  The marina has a cart that I wheel out, push down the dock and plug into our boat. It vacuums out the holding tank, and then I roll it down to pump it out at the station.  Not the most pleasant job, but it really sounds worse than it is.

The amazing part about it is how few people actually use the cart.  There are at least nine boats on the dock that have people onboard regularly.  Theoretically, they should all be pumping out to the cart.  For the first few weeks I was doing this, I would find the cart exactly as I left it.  Our neighbor asked me how to use the cart, as he had never touched it.  I actually had a guy a few slips down ask me what I was doing with that big "carpet cleaner". 

So that means all the other boats are pumping directly overboard.  I say again, that’s just gross.  Now I don’t mind direct discharge in open water where things will dilute and flush on the tide, but not in the marina.  We have occasionally walked down the dock when one of the fishboats in pumping overboard and the smell is most definitely “ripe”.

However, we’ve got two new couples with small children on the dock and a small club is being formed.  It seems that every Sunday, we’re all pumping our black water tanks, utilizing the cart.  We all joke about the romantic lifestyle of the live-aboard, and we all wonder why more people don’t just do the right thing. It’s really pretty easy.

 - Jeff.

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