1989 Catalina 36: The Dread Head…


Honestly, poop on a boat is the worst thing.  You want to get it away, far away from you.  The first choice, the best choice from the perspective of the boat’s occupant, is to jettison one’s dietary consequences immediately–a voluminous glug of saltwater, the conspicuous absence of toilet paper in the bowl, the moment of fear…and away it goes.  Of course, we can’t always get rid of our duty so easily.  Harbors don’t like to see (macerated or whole) little brown logs floating about, nor shreds of toilet paper disposed of by the injudicious who will eventually pay for their folly.  Various health agencies will observe your muck could cause a rash of pinkeye in swimmers nearby, or worse.  How about fishing in any harbor ever, when you KNOW someone isn’t doing right?

Ugh.  So there are regulations, most of which make sense and a few which don’t.  There are needs–alas, there are needs.  And there is function.  On a small boat, just above the waterline, in an environment so destructive we probably wonder if heads are designed as a cruel joke, and a constant round of training landlubber guests how not to ruin the visit.

OK, so it isn’t quite that bad.  99.9% of the time, N and I coexist comfortably with each other and our head.  Mostly, that is because at dock we stick to the harbor restrooms if at all possible.  At sea, we jettison guilt-free.  At anchor in isolation in pristine locations, we poop ashore (providing a convenient excuse to explore) using proper LNT etiquette, or use a crude but effective dessicating set-up I’ll discuss more once I have a 2nd or 3rd generation version so we can laugh at the absurdity of my life choices.

In summation:  we are happy with our head because we do everything in our power to avoid using the blackwater tank.  N’s father lives on a boat, our friends live on a boat, N’s grandparents lived on a boat, my mama lived on a boat…they all did and do everything in their power to avoid using the blackwater tank.  We are in good company 😉 .   We have a Jabsco head in great condition, a 15 gallon blackwater tank, and a y-valve connecting the two and the direct discharge hose.  The direct discharge hose goes to a thru-hull on the port side just forward of the galley.

Another reason to avoid the blackwater tank:  the macerator pump is frozen, so we cannot discharge the blackwater tank overboard at sea.  The tank must be pumped out at a marina.

So–we could fix the macerator.  I’m a civil engineer by training, female, an obsessive gardener, and grew up homesteading (aka dug our own outhouses).  I have waded through more than one kind of sh*t in my time, I tell you what.  Still, I really don’t want to remove the macerator pump.  Even after at least two years of unuse.  You take off the macerator, then you find scale on the hose and decide to replace the hose.  Then you say “I may as well replace some valves..”  Then you spend a few days covered in other people’s dietary consequences, a few hundred dollars poorer (one hopes only a few hundred), and you are still avoiding using the blackwater tank.

I write this knowing I’ve always wanted another composting toilet (really a urine diverting dessicating toilet, but composting toilet works as acceptable shorthand for all but the most fervent dreadheaders.  Mostly because we have a nice out of sight out of mind approach to poop; why, I have made it all the way until now without saying the word poop, and you still knew exactly what I meant 🙂 ) My husband, however, likes the traditional, comfortable ways of doing things.  By his count, the Jabsco head and the blackwater tank represent the traditional, comfortable way of doing things…neglecting the fact bucket-and-chuck-it has existed far longer although with similar ignominy.  Yet, he too has avoided using the blackwater tank.

We are looking forward to traveling south, towards Washington and Oregon.  I commented idly that we’d probably have to start using the blackwater tank once we hit more populated areas.  I must have hit a nerve.  A few days later, as we were watching a sailing show on Youtube where yet another man was buried under the settee getting covered in consequences, fixing something to do with the blackwater tank, I heard Nathan mutter thoughtfully, “Composting  toilet…”  Yes!

I’ll get back to you on that…


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