Life in the Boat Yard

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2014 • all rights reserved

Tips for the biggest question: peeing in the middle of the night

Okay, it’s only in the boat yard, but we’re pretty excited: last night was the first night we spent aboard our new boat!! Yes, we’re living aboard her now!!

And so come the inevitable questions. I’ve written before about living on the hard more from a galley perspective, but there is one question I get pretty frequently from those about to try living aboard on the hard for the first time. Sane thing when we tell a non-cruiser that we’re  living on the boat while we’re working on her in the yard.

We get a few sheepish looks and then the question, “so what if you need to, uh, pee in the middle of the night?” Yeah, we can’t really use the toilet. During the day, it’s pretty simple to use the yard bathrooms. But do you really want to do that in the middle of the night?

The first time we lived in the boat yard — just a few days for bottom painting — we’d climb down the ladder, cross the yard and use the facilities in the shower house.

The next time we were in the yard, we were doing some major work on our first boat, Que Tal, and would be on the hard for 4 months. Dave’s one of those guys who gets up several times a night and he said “no way” to going down the ladder every time.

Solution: the pee bottle and its corollary, the pee bucket.

We put a 5-gallon bucket in the head for me and simply took it out and dumped it it in the toilet in the morning if I’d used it. To be honest, it’s rare that I get up in the middle of the night, so Dave wanted something easier to take down the ladder the other days.

He tried several different jars and bottles, but for various reasons (volume and watertight threads being the main problems) the ones we salvaged from the trash just weren’t right.

Then one day Dave saw a Nalgene canteen used by campers and backpackers and got one. It holds 96 ounces, has a wide mouth and is designed to carry water in backpacks and daypacks, so it’s engineered not to break or leak.   I can vouch that it has never leaked — the big concern for a pee bottle!

And now, considering that the head is in the opposite hull from our cabin in the new boat, I’m guessing it may get used no matter where we are.

Print Friendly
How to Copy

Do You Find The Boat Galley Useful?

You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost to you!



  1. We are having Island Queen hauled out today and we’ll be staying on her for the next several weeks. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Capt Rich says:

    Being an “Old Salt”, I consider my pee bottle as basic equipment. I have found the best container to be a 50 fl oz laundry detergent bottle. They come with a large mouth, and all I have seen come with a pouring insert. So grab a pair of pliers, grab hold of the pouring insert and pull it out. Voila…perfect pee bottle!!!

  3. Greetings from my boatyard to yours! I am in Bock Marine, near Beaufort NC.

  4. Eva Persson says:

    I have to tell you about something I bought in Sweden, but I am sure it can be sent internationally. My parents have a small sailboat (Havsfidra) without toilet, and they told me about it. Perfect for trips, camping, on boats without toilets (whether temprary or permanent :)). With a very good lid and in great colors. I can truly recommend it!

  5. Ugh my sympathies to all living aboard on the hard!

  6. I’m a little confused. If you’re only going to be on the hard for a couple days, say for bottom painting, why wouldn’t you just use the boat toilet and pump out after you’re splashed?

    For a long haul out, this is great advice. And for something in between, we try to use the boatyard bathroom as much as possible during the day, and save our tank capacity for the middle of the night.

  7. Jane Gammons says:

    We had a male friend use
    A pee bottle on our way to Bermuda, not only did he nt have to get up, thus not disturbing others, he used it to keep his feet warm.

  8. Susie Burall says:

    Our tap in the heads doubles up as a shower so I use it to flush the heads into the holding tank at night.

  9. Im a get up in the night group too !!! … I sorted the problem after buying a John/Jane bottle as used by pilots flying small aircraft … It is uni/sex bottle equipped with leakproof inter-changeable heads. They can be purchased from online aircraft/pilot suppliers and some camping outlets.

Add Your Thoughts