We volunteered at the island school this week, first doing a very introductory presentation on how it took us a LONG time to accomplish our goal of sailing to the Bahamas. We started planning for this thirty one years ago. We learned how to sail (I never even sat in a sailboat until I was 26 years old), and then borrowed boats, owned our first boat together, and then we got our second boat together. We’ve been working on our beloved “Magus,” a 37 foot Banjer pilot house ketch, since 2008, and now finally this year we were able to sail her to the Bahamas. It feels like such an incredible accomplishment to be here! It was a lot of work, but it was worth it!
We’ve had to solve a lot of problems over all these years and so we shared a little bit about how we coped with and resolved some our our big problems just one little piece at a time.
One of the problems we have to solve when living on a boat is poop. Not just our own poop, but dog poop. Nobody likes to talk about poop, but it’s not a great idea to overlook it either.
My idea of a happy day is any day where I can just jump off the boat and swim around it. So, I don’t dump shit in the water, because I would never want to shit up the water quality around my boat. We use a urine separating composting toilet for human poop. You don’t “have to”dump shit into the water. You really don’t. And, honestly, I wish you wouldn’t.
So, I feel the same way about dog shit. I don’t toss it into the harbor because I don’t want it to get into my hair if at some point I jump in to swim.
So, we made a mini composting kit special for our dogs’ poopies! It works great!
This is a two quart container 1/4 filled with peat moss. The dogs poop on deck, I pick it up with the “kit bag” and drop it into the peat. I roll the kit around a bit to mix the poop with the peat moss and I leave the kit open and exposed to air for the few minutes I am collecting and depositing poop. The poop molds over and disappears into the peat (very!) rapidly. This is our forth day of using this kit, and it is amazingly unstinky. I did add a little scoop more of peat moss today.
Why encase feces in plastic bags? Truly the right thing to do with compostable organic matter is to compost it, especially if your only other option is open air burning. Do you know how smokey, toxic and gross it is when you try to burn a pile of dog shit that is in little plastic bags? Shit in plastic bags doesn’t burn that well.
Elliot Colman shared some research once about how composting helps neutralize so many toxins, including chemicals like DDT. We take our compost out into the woods and dig a hole, bury it, and cover it with more compostable materials. Making a mini compost pile, and then burying that in the woods to be further digested by soil microbes is a better option than bagging the poop in plastic.
Not to sound poop “holier than thou,” because we do sometimes dump pee into the harbor. We have pee collection jugs that we can cap and store when full, to dump on an outgoing tide at least, or preferably while at sea. But when the dogs pee on the deck, as they do daily, we just scoop up sea water, and rinse off the deck. Although pee is not always “sterile” as some claim, it does not pose the same risks that feces pose to human health.
What’s worse than pee and poop? As much as people don’t like to talk about poop, it’s even harder to talk about all the waste that is not compostable.
Plastic waste is a big huge problem. It can feel overwhelming. So we start just start by solving a piece of the problem, and then we can build on that.