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Date: 4 December 2014. Building a Locker (Part 1)


This week I opened a kitty litter container (one of the plastic ones that are so great for storage in the bilge) and discovered it wasn't working out quite as well as I'd anticipated. You see, I kept four dozen canning jars in there and condensation bit me on the can tops. Fortunately nothing broke, but one jar lost its seal.

The jars are everywhere, and a real m-e-s-s. Which is fine motivation to solve the problem, eh?

I am rapidly losing the Christmas spirit in the chaos of the project.

The first thing to do was remove all the jars and dry them. Many of the rings had rusted so they were unscrewed and thrown away. All jars were wiped down and inspected. Still, it was a disheartening moment. I rely on the jars I process for sustenance and to have even one fail...

Of course I do not want to deal with any more canning jar problems. Now I know that the plastic container I had previously utilized allowed condensation inside. That was the point of failure. Frankly though I was not impressed with the method in the first place. It did not allow me to easily see what I had on hand.

Side Note to Self: Add ventilation when storing jars with lids that can rust.

Who wants to open the bilge, pull out a box then go through it looking for a jar with a stuffed green pepper? That is too difficult. This has been an ongoing problem and it is time to have a permanent solution.

Minor irritations make for major thorns if not resolved quickly.

I have been considering adding a locker beneath my dinette for the jars. It wouldn't be super easy to get to but it would be an improvement over the current chaotic conglomeration. What I have now is:

  • A kitty litter box in the pilothouse bilge.

  • Three cases of jars stored in a small locker under the reefer.

  • And a milk crate in the bilge with extra supplies including my pressure cooker

Frankly, this is a mess. It is not tidy and getting to
anything is a pain in the transom. I want a locker.


So for the past few days I've had out my tape rule and have been plotting destruction and construction. This has been great fun.

Initially I measured the jars three deep so I would be able to make maximum use of the space. That becomes problematic because I use both wide mouthed and standard jars. That meant two different diameters and heights to contend with.

At first I determined that nine inches would be sufficient depth. Each shelf will be designed to hold jars stacked two high. The jars do not sit well when three high. Two works a-okay.

"Seaweed" is written in permanent marker on anything that could easily grow legs.

I tinkered with the sides (supporting the shelves) and how to attach to the bulkhead/dinette benches. Lots of thinking was involved. Do not worry: no animals were injured in the exercise though my brain did require multiple doses of caffeine.

Initially I opted for a 9" deep locker, then upped it to ten inches. That is because tens are easier to work with for me. And the extra would allow a fiddle at the front of the shelf to keep jars from sliding out when the doors are opened.

Then today I had the brilliant idea that I should store ALL the canning goods together -- including the pressure cooker. Well, of course. You naturally might have thought that would have been one of the first considerations. Sometimes the obvious escapes me initially.



Do not be Paralyzed by Perfection.


One flaw I have noticed over the years is I tend to complicate projects to the point where they become too difficult for me to accomplish by myself. I become paralyzed by the desire for perfection.

Because I'm aware of this tendency, I re-think and sleep on stuff. That time delay usually allows me to catch some critical component I might have missed initially.

This also helps me to simplify and streamline projects. By focusing on the essential my plans hopefully can be executed without undue difficulty... at least that is what I wish would happen!


I do some of my most productive pondering while horizontal.


Also, I am fully aware that my results on projects like this will not be perfect. It will be good enough. When I first owned Seaweed often I did not do things because I feared the finished product would not be nice enough. Finally I came to accept that done is better than waiting for perfection.

I do learn and with experience improve my results. In the meantime however, I will do what I can and call it good.


So I got out the pressure cooker and measured across. It is just less than 11" so my carefully designed and mapped out 10" deep locker will not fit the pan. Now, three days into this mess, I have decided the locker will be 12" deep. One sheet of 3/8" thick plywood be sufficient for materials, and not cost a lot.

Note: If money were no object I would opt for better quality wood. It would be lovely to build this out of something beautiful but I know that with a bit of tweaking it will look okay. Below is a peek at a DVD shelf in my cabin. The rough edges are hidden behind that wood that looks like rope. The dark stain pretty, and functional.

Stained, the trim covers the icky edges of the plywood. (My VHF is tuned to weather channel.)


A friend (Marsha on Freebird) gifted me the MinWax Red oak stain I used to get the color just right on the trim. Marsha was quite a gal. She and her husband lived on a Freedom30. That's a particular type of sailboat with an *unstayed mast.

*Unstayed means there are no wires holding it from side to side nor fore and aft. The masts are generally much larger in diameter at the base too. They can be adapted to a junk rig and are sought after by some sailors.

The photo was taken in a house on the St. John's River in Florida. Freebird was tied to a dock out back.

For friends: we lost our ball-of-fire earlier this year after that stroke. Still, Marsha and her Ken had a life afloat filled with love and laughter.

Kenny still lives on S/V Freebird in Fernandina Beach.


I miss my dear friend. Thrift-store shopping with Marsha was always fun. With her little orange VW bug, we were quite the sight no doubt. The koi curtain rod holders in my galley are a much treasured gift from her.


Anyway, I have rambled a bit... I tend to do that. Kidlet calls them Bunny Trails.

So, back to the canning jar locker. One sheet of 3/8" plywood will suffice. I will see if the local hardware store will whack it into 12" strips which would make transport much simpler. If I am very fortunate they might even cross cut them to the exact lengths. Then all I will have to do is screw 'em together.

We shall see -- tomorrow. Or the next day. When the project is complete I will do a follow-up. As my favorite local is busy until after the new year I have got time to tinker. I would rather tinker with him though, truth be told. It is doggone cold here in Carrabelle and I miss the fellow.

The follow-up article can be found here: Building a Locker (Part 2)

Have you ever built from scratch a locker?
Do you have any advice or things I should look out for during the process?

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