I’ve been a soldier, a sailor, a boat builder, a roughneck, a photographer, a permaculture gardener, a firefighter and an inventor. I had a cabinet shop for ten years, worked in various and sundry interesting occupations, and I retired at 60 from a 17-year career as a firefighter and paramedic. If you had told me fifty years ago that the culmination of all those skills would result in a business that builds and sells toilets, I’m not sure what my reaction would have been. My guess is that I would laughed at you and dismissed it as a joke. But alas, here we are and I find myself pulled out of retirement and back into the hectic world of being a self-employed businessman, hair on fire and all! And all about a toilet!
Truth be told, there are few things more satisfying than creating something and watching it grow into a living, breathing thing, be that a sailboat or a small business. And though the toilet business is an ugly child in the eyes of most people, I remain a proud parent. The idea for its design was conceived aboard our Gemini catamaran back in 2008 and born of absolute necessity, but its origins go back much further.
After leaving the Army in 1971, I developed a passion for sailing and boat building. My first two sailboats were wooden. I covered the hulls of both with fiberglass and shortly after that I went to work for a small fiberglass boat building company. That job lasted a couple of years and my next job was working in a cabinet shop. As fulfilling as that was, I had been bitten by boat building and that would lead me to work for a couple other boat builders in the following years. Prior to going into the Fire Service, I had my own cabinet shop near Austin, Texas for ten years. The great Texas recession that began in 1985 put that struggling enterprise out of its misery four years later, and after a two year stint working on the floor of a half dozen drilling rigs, both off-shore and on land, I saw my father’s wisdom in having a government job. Too old to go back in the military, I chose the Fire Service. My skills at building small things from wood and plastic were well established by then.
My first encounter with blood and guts and involuntary bodily functions was back in the Army in 1969 when I was training to be a Special Forces medical specialist. I was wrapping up my final OJT hours in the ER at the hospital at Ft. Benning, Georgia which proved to be a busy night. I was dispatched to a scene that was otherworldly and upon arriving, I witnessed a sea of men lying around on the ground and roadway, all dressed in plain green buttoned up uniforms with shiny, white, bald heads that seemed to glow in the dark. Working to save the life of one of several unfortunate recruits who had been hit by a speeding car driven by a drunken fellow brother-in-arms, I remember that my patient had vomited on himself and lost control of his bowels in his death throes. It was my first encounter in life with someone who was actually dying. Frantically working over him, suddenly I wretched, and it caught me totally off guard. It would be the last time that anything like that ever bothered me again. I was immunized from that day on. Since that night and after a career as a professional firefighter and paramedic, I have seen every kind of situation involving exposure to human blood, guts and waste that you can imagine. That exposure removed a barrier in my decision to build, of all things, a toilet. You might say that I had simply developed a nose for it.
Nancy and I had lived aboard Lily Pad, our sailboat, a little over a year when the smell from the toilet (head in boat-speak) began to permeate the living space. It wasn’t especially strong smelling but, faint as it was, it was ever present and it was annoying. So when it came time to fix the problem, I was unfazed by the disgust of it all. We had tried all kinds of remedies suggested by fellow boaters but eventually disaster struck and the contents of the holding tank were accidentally dumped into the port bilge.
By the next day, I had gutted the port hull of the plumbing, toilet and holding tank. We were tied up at Lady’s Island Marina on Factory Creek in Beaufort, South Carolina for the summer and I was in the process of building a dinghy that I had designed. With scraps of material left over, I cobbled together a toilet that used the principles I had seen in other “composting” toilets, and will wonders ever cease, it worked like a charm! Over the next year, I refined the design to something that looked more like a conventional toilet and learned a lot about marine composting toilets. The rest is history.
My adventures in the Army and the fire department are as dark as the story gets. From here on, I will be telling you all the great things that I have discovered you can do with my simple dry toilet, from boating to permaculture, to Granny in the basement, Hell! the prospects are limitless! I invite and eagerly await your input. So folks, lets have some fun with this topic and learn a thing or two in the process. But be forewarned, as fowl-mouthed as I was in my youth, I have become something of a prude in my old age, to the shock of some of my old buddies no doubt. As an avid comment reader, I don’t suffer morons well. I like humor and I like wit and I do swear from time to time, but don’t be crass in your remarks. Leave that to the professional comedians who need a cheap throw away line and aren’t nearly as funny as they think they are. That being said, it is a peculiar business and I have never worked so hard trying to get behind in it.
Click on the “Category” that interests you or search for topics using the search box; both located above. BTW: I will be including tangential stories about my boat building endeavors, photography, permaculture, life in the Army and fire department, life in the oil field, life aboard a sailboat, and other adventures that I think you will find interesting. Stay tuned and I hope you enjoy it.
Please feel free to make constructive comments or ask questions.
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