Better Litter Box for the Boat

After writing the Learning to Live Aboard article for Three Sheets NW, I received several inquiries on the litter box system that I mentioned I was using on the boat.  I initially tried a top loading regular litter box and found cat litter all over the boat, in the bed, between my toes….something had to change. Tidy Cat Breeze is a litter box that uses pellets which do not clump or absorb. The pellets are cylindrical and about1/4″-1/2″ in length.


Tidy Cat Breeze System

Tidy Cat Breeze System

The bottom of the box is slatted and there is a drawer underneath that holds an absorbent pad.  The urine goes through the litter into the pad.  I change mine about every 4-5 days for one cat.  The scoop slats are designed to let the pellets fall through so the nuggets can be sifted out easily.

Tidy Cat Breeze Pellets

Tidy Cat Breeze Pellets

The pellets are changed once per month and are about $10 for a bag (3.5#) and the pads run around $1.10 per pad if you get the 10 pack (4 pads per pack).  The pellets also come in a 7# pack if you just want more at once, but it’s also slightly less expensive to buy this way. Considering that I go through about 8 pads per month, my monthly cost is $19 – similar to regular cat litter but much more convenient, and without the hassle of carry heavy new and used litter back and forth each week. Be aware that if you don’t change a pad in time, the urine will spill out of the bottom of the box.  As long as you don’t let the pad get saturated, this should not be a problem.  Every cat will be a little different – my cat is diabetic so he uses a little more than the average cat.  Just to be on the safe side, I put a waterproof mattress cover underneath.


Black Hole Mat

Black Hole Mat

I also recommend a Black Hole Mat  under the box to catch any pellets that come out of the box. It has holes about the size of the pellets and seems to catch them well and is the best litter mat I have used so far. It’s a sleeve that you open and let the filtered litter slide out.  I keep an extra pad in this space in the event of a “miss”.  These run around $45 but are much easier to clean that other types of mats I have used and are very durable. You can chose between rectangular and round shapes.

For more info on the Tidy Cat Breeze and cats on boats, check out The Boat Galley’s articles Cat Litter on a Boat and Cat Aboard!.

Editorial note: I tried the generic pads for the letterbox that Amazon suggested, and although they look similar, they are not as absorbent and I think I get a day less, which works out to 25%!  The Tidy Cat Pads are worth it.  (I have no affiliation with Tidy Cat or it’s affiliates).

The Changing of a Hanging Locker

Hanging Locker

Empty Locker Before

I was frustrated with the inability to store much of anything in the two hanging lockers that I had, and the lack of storage in general on the boat.  The shape of a hanging locker doesn’t lend itself to any item of clothing I can think of other than perhaps a miniskirt or skinny jeans, and I doubt that is what most people want to store in them.  I decided to convert the locker in my V-berth to shelves instead and see if I could recover some of that space.

Hanging Locker

Supports Installed

The first challenge was that with the curvature of the hull, nothing looked straight.  I ended up measuring down from the top and then using a level to draw lines on the walls where the shelf supports would go.  Never would I have thought that those lines were straight due to the visual tricks of the curvature and I had to trust the level.  Each of those lines were measured for the supports which were cut 1” short of the back wall and angled at 45 degrees due to the slant of the wall.  These were predrilled with a small countersink.  Once this was done they were coated in polyurethane and screwed onto the side walls where the marks had been made and the holes filled with wood filler.

Logan Helps With Patterns

Logan Helps With Patterns

The second challenge was that the back wall is the hull of the boat and curved not only top to bottom, but from forward to aft.  After starting, I discovered that one of my two “straight” walls was not straight.  Not being a geometry genius, I had to come up with something that would allow me to cut shelves with as few tries as possible.  I took a piece of scrap trim and drilled a hole the size of a pencil at one end. I used a thin piece of balsa wood about 4 inches wide as a temporary shelf, put brown wrapping paper over it and placed it on the supports. I then used my pencil “protractor” to trace the hull shape onto the paper.

Once I had the side measurements and the shape of the back, I cut the shelves. I left a one inch gap at the back for air flow. I used 1/2’ plywood for the shelves – anything thinner wasn’t going to be strong enough and thicker just took up room I could use for storage.

Hanging Locker Shelves

Cut Shelves With Rail

After a few coats of polyurethane, a small fiddle-rail, stained to match the outside of the locker was attached to the end with small brads.  The shelves sit on the supports unattached. The fit is snug enough that there’s no movement, but they can still be easily removed.  The fiddle-rail keeps containers from sliding into the door when the boat heels.

Hanging Locker Shelves

Finished Shelves

A relatively large amount of storage was gained by changing a traditional hanging locker to shelving.  This solution works well for me since I don’t really have clothes that need to be hanged.  I plan to convert the only other hanging locker as well, but will use L brackets instead of wood supports to save some steps and time.


Also in Three Sheets NW


What’s In A Name?

People have been naming boats for thousands of years, I have been trying for 7 months.  Early on,  boats were named after gods, goddesses, or saints to infer protection to the boat.  Perhaps because of the languages that applied gender to objects, the names slowly began to drift toward the feminine, since boats and the sea are both considered such.  Although this practice is still in use, naming boats these days has gotten a bit more creative.

Some are puns or plays on words (Ship for Brains, Aquaholic) or an inside joke (She Got the House, The Office).  In the case of race boats, you may see something competitive or intimidating in nature (Project Mayhem, Renegade, Nefarious).  There are even ones I personally would shudder to utter over the VHF (Titan Uranus, Priapism). And lets not forget the pragmatic in the group (If It Doesn’t Come When You Call It, Why Give It A Name).

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

Some boaters seem to have no trouble at all picking their boat names, and have them in mind far before they ever meet the boat in question.  Others are so ensconced in the possible bad luck of renaming a boat that they would never consider changing the one currently used, and may even pass up buying the boat if they can’t tolerate the current name.  Then there are those that feel that they need to get to know the personality of the boat first, rather like the parents that still haven’t named their three month old child because he hasn’t yet given them a sign or they can’t make up their mind.   I fall into the third category.

Years ago I would play the “What Would You Name Your Boat” game with friends while out for a day sail.  It seemed everyone had great ideas, everyone except me that is.  I failed this game miserably.  I am not of the inside joke or play on words camp; I suppose I believe there should be something slightly more serious about a vessel that is protecting you from high winds, tall seas, dragging anchors,  or that may be your home.  I don’t want my home named Breaking Wind or Reel Nauti – call me picky.  I wanted a more traditional name or something that meant something special to me; something that would make my boat proud of me, like a kid that actually likes their name instead of preferring a nick name, their middle name, or just going to court to change their name.


Mayday, Mayday Mayday….


In July 2014 I bought my first sail boat after sailing for about 6 years.  I loved the boat, I hated the name.  I really hated the name. Out of respect for the previous owners, I won’t mention it here, but I can say it’s French, and it describes a bird we all know that is particularly fond of depositing on our decks and sail covers and seems to have no food restrictions or manners.  The name had to go, but what was I going to replace it with? My boat is a 41 year old Challenger 32. She isn’t racey, fast or flashy.   If I were to describe her as a woman I would say she has big hips and is a tomboy.  Really feminine names just weren’t going to fit.  I had hoped a variation of my grandmother’s and mother’s names would fit, but they just did not match. I went through the suggested motions. I searched baby names online hoping for inspiration.  I searched all types of mythological names- Greek, Roman, Arthurian, Viking, and came up empty.  I made lists of words about how I felt about the boat and what I hoped our experiences together would be.  Nothing. The closest I got was Compass Rose.  I always loved pictures of ornate, antique compass roses with their intricate designs, and loved the thought that these beautiful instruments guided sailors to the place they wanted to be, keeping their path true.  Then I looked up Compass Rose on the Coast Guard documentation website and found no less than 89 boats named Compass Rose.  Clearly unique wasn’t in my repertoire.


Photo Credit

I am now entertaining the thought that she may not tell me her new name until the old name is off the transom.  I realize this is clearly superstition, but what’s left to try?  I’m just waiting for the right weather window to take on this project; the Sticker Off and a printed copy of the de-naming ceremony are ready and waiting.  Perhaps then, and only then, she will tell me who she really is.  Until then, and up until now, she remains respectfully “The Challenger”.  Somehow I find this more comforting than I would “The Catalina”,  “The Beneteau”, or “The Hans”.  Perhaps it’s because it has a ring of truth – she is “challenging her (me)” to do things that she hasn’t done before, to do things that she may be a little afraid of, and to learn a great many things she needs to know to be a boat owner.

If you would like to check out an array of humorous boat names, I suggest these links:

No Shortage of Truly Terrible Boat Names

Funny Boat Names

Cool Boat Names

10,000 Boat Names

Really Stupid Boat Names

Got a photo from a favorite funny boat name from your area?  Please send it to Tiny@TinySails with the subject Boat Names!  Check out the submissions here.

As seen in Three Sheets NW


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