Imagine this…You are one week out on a three week trip and you realize that funky odor is coming from your trash and there is no place to toss the bag and get it off the boat.
Okay, I might be a bit obsessive about my trash and I admit it, but I come by it honestly.
We have taken three trips, each three weeks in length up the Rio Macareo, one of the outflow rivers of the Orinoco. We have also spent a month in the Venezuelan out islands, Las Tortugas, Los Roques and Las Aves without a place to get rid of our trash.
If I know that we will be without a trash deposit facility for more than a few days I start sorting and managing the trash.
Sorting the trash
|In the Rio Macareo there was no trash deposit facility.|
Organic trash is all food waste and it gets deposited into a closed container. I use a 5-liter Rubbermaid container. The lid fits tightly and the walls of the container are straight, so it is an easy container to rinse.
Burnable trash, such as paper towels, toilet paper and any paper wrapping get segregated into a separate container. Since this will have to get burned I try not to put wet paper in the burnables and will even try to dry paper towels. This should be mostly dry and non-smelly. I keep the toilet paper in a separate bag and do not open that until the flames are hot.
Non-burnable trash will be all the plastic, glass bottles, cans and other food wrappers.
How we get rid of our trash
I keep my organic trash until I can toss it overboard in deep water or where it will not wash up on a beach or in view of someone. The Macareo River is a large volume river and a bit of food trash will not disturb the ecology of the river, but I did not want to be seen tossing trash in the river so I waited until dark to toss the trash. If we are at anchor every few days we take a dinghy trip outside the island water flow to toss the organic at sea.
The burnable trash can be burned when you have a beach or shore nearby.
|Trash burning up the Macareo was a buggy affair. (Photo by Chuck Shipley)|
Getting the “burnable trash” to burn can be quite difficult.
Toilet paper does not burn well even before it is used – enough said on that.
We start a small fire with local wood and wait until it is a burning well before adding any of our trash.
My husband, Hunter, uses an accelerator fluid of approximately one part gas to five parts diesel. He mixes about a cup and we wet down the fuel before we light it. It is not safe to add the accelerator after there is fire.
If that makes you uncomfortable bring some dry newspaper and collect plenty of kindling and make a good fire before adding the trash.
Make sure you get all the stuff burned and put the fire out.
Trash burning up the Macareo was a buggy affair. On wet season trips we wore long pants, long sleeves and head nets.
The non-burnables are the most troublesome.
This is where I get a little obsessive. This is where you have to be meticulous.
You need to wash and dry everything before you toss it into the non-burnable bag. It will only take a few days for the tuna can to stink and then you have its company for the rest of the trip. That means plastic food containers, ziplocks that held food and even the tetra pack that held your milk.
You can use seawater for washing and then dry the trash (now, doesn’t that sound stupid?) and even after weeks at sea your trash should not be stinky.
If you are at sea or will be making passages in deep water you can sort out your bottles, cans and paper for deposit in Davey Jones’ locker, but make sure there is no plastic. The paper will float for a while, but soon will sink and disintegrate.
Here is the rule – no plastic in the sea.
About Devi Sharp
I come by my trash fetish honestly – In my misspent youth I was a river guide on the Rio Grande for week-long trips, and more recently Hunter and I have taken many long canoe and kayak trips in the Alaskan Wilderness.
On all of these trips we had to manage our trash and in Alaska the trash had to be non-smelly and bear-proof. On the Grand Canyon kayak trips we had to pack out all trash (including the porta potty).
When I am not managing trash I hike on the islands, teach yoga, watch birds, write and chase green flashes.
We have been living aboard our Island Packet 45, Arctic Tern, since December 2005 and never looked back.
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