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Old 10-04-2015, 07:41   #1
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A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

So we just got a new boat. It has an old RV style recirculating toilet with built in holding tank. By some miracle it still works and doesn't leak but I'm not going to trust that will continue. I'm planning on replacing this and installing a new holding tank and head.

My question to you guys is what types brands models of heads do you like? I'm currently undecided on whether I want to go with an electric flush or stick with the KISS theory and keep a manual flush. We had a manual flush on the last boat and no issues with use for either of us. So what do you like? What lasts, and doesn't need a rebuild every year or 2months.

I'm really not interested in composting heads so that's a no go from the start. I've just never had that much of an odor issue or problems with a plain old marine head to warrant the composting ones.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:54   #2
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

Raritan PH II is a good head, highly recommended.
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Old 10-04-2015, 07:57   #3
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

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Raritan PH II is a good head, highly recommended.

+1. Our PHII with full size bowl is on five years and all I've ever done to it is an occasional lube with silicone oring lube and change the o-rings on the wet dry selector.


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Old 10-04-2015, 08:21   #4
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

If you go with a manual toilet, the Groco Model K is the best currently sold. Unfortunately it is about a thousand dollars.


As mentioned, the Raritan PHII is a very good toilet and much more affordable at less than $400.

Raritan PHII Marine Toilet


If you decide to go electric, take a look at the Raritan Marine Elegance toilets. I hear very good things about these toilets and you can get them configured in more than a dozen ways.

Toilets, Macerator Pumps & Parts
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:32   #5
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

I've switched over to electric (Raritan Elegance) and have been happy for a few reasons:

Less maintenance than manual - seriously. There is no recommended maintenance by Raritan. After two years with it I stopped by the Raritan booth at a show and asked a senior guy what maintenance I should do at two years - his answer was "nothing". I asked about spare parts. He said I could carry a spare joker valve if I wanted but they only knew of a few that had needed replacing (and there are two joker valves in line so you'll never know if one fails).

Fewer pumpouts - The automatic flush control is very stingy with water and can be programmed to use even less. The holding tank fills 1/2 as fast as with a manual head (even slower when guests are aboard)

Fresh water flush - Using fresh water for flushing pretty much ends head odors and buildup in hoses. The Raritan uses so little fresh water that this is feasible for me. This also means one less below waterline hole and seacock to maintain. (If the PO is sailing on in fresh water this won't mean so much)

No clogs - We've never had even a momentary clog. While my wife and I never had clogs with the manual head (a PHII and a Lavac) there was the occasional "oh, oh" moments of very hard pumping. Clogs when guests were aboard were routine - embarrassing everyone. I've never tried but I think the Raritan would chew through a box of kleenex.

More guest and kid friendly boat - For non sailors, getting used to heeling is already a lot to deal with. Does the toilet have to look like something from Dr. Frankenstein's workshop? With the manual head some kids were so embarrassed that they would just try to "hold it" and be miserable.
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Old 10-04-2015, 09:20   #6
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

I've been happy with the VacuFlush we put in 16 years ago. Very low water use. Annual change of the bowl seal. All good. After 15 years we had some work done on it (replaced the flush dome, joker valves, etc).


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Old 10-04-2015, 10:53   #7
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

I would agree with all the good things CarlF has to say about the Raritan Marine Elegance... great head!

Installed one on my little 19' catboat two years ago, believe it or not. Smartest thing I ever did. It weighs no more than a manual head, is dead simple in construction and operation, quiet, very energy and water-efficient, easy for guests to operate, and its sleek exterior is much easier to keep clean than typical manual heads with all their nooks and crannies. Installation was simple, too, even on my tubby little catboat.
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Old 10-04-2015, 11:09   #8
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

KISS, manual.
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Old 10-04-2015, 11:46   #9
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

I'll throw out the Raritan "fresh head", which is a PHII made to flush with fresh water.
First using fresh water eliminates a lot of issues with heads like calcium build up in the hose and a lot of odor problems, secondly you don't have to have another hole in the boat to draw in seawater.
I converted mine and am a lot happier with them
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Old 10-04-2015, 12:19   #10
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

I had to replace the head on my last boat and opted for a Groco Model K. Based on prior experience with other marine heads, I figured I might as well get a rebuild kit while I was at it. 11 years later when i sold the boat, no guest had managed to clog it and I still had the unopened rebuild kit. It's pricey compared to most other marine heads, but taking heads apart because they're clogged (yuck) in the middle of a week out cruising or parts need replacing is a pretty nasty job. It's a one time hit to the wallet (Defender $924) but I thought it was well worth it to have that peace of mind. Another nice feature is that the base and pump mechanism is made of cast iron rather than plastic so no ham fisted or extra large or energetic but misguided guest is going to come up after a visit below to tell you that they "ummmm, think they might have done something wrong to the toilet and a part bent or broke off or it won't flush, etc."

My current boat has 2 vacuflush's that operate with fresh water and they seem nice too. As others have noted, using fresh water pretty much eliminates odors but depending on how big your water tanks are, there are pro's and con's.

With my Groco K, I asked every guest to give it 10 extra pumps after "everything" disappeared from the bowl, and when I used it I gave it an extra 20 pumps to be sure the hoses were well flooded with water, and my head was odor free except when I had left the boat for several days. In that case, upon returning to the boat, I'd give it about 20 pumps to get those sulphurous smelling dead organisms overboard and the smell was gone.
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Old 10-04-2015, 12:22   #11
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

I have only replaced one part in my raritan phii in ten years of use. A piston o ring. But I sure do lust after that elegance.
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Old 10-04-2015, 12:24   #12
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

Hey, I've got a Skipper II head that I replaced with a composter (one of the best upgrades IMO ). It was working fine when we pulled it off the boat a few years ago, although it has been sitting in an unheated garage ever since. Might need some valve changes, but I'm sure it's still fine. It's a great head, but I have no use for it anymore.

Shipping would be a PITA, and kinda costly, but it retailed for over $1000, so I'd be happy to let it go for $200 + shipping costs from Thunder Bay, Ontario.

I even have a repair kit and some valve parts somewhere....

http://www.usna.edu/Sailing/document...headrepair.pdf
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Old 10-04-2015, 12:30   #13
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

The wife has had the opportunity recently on a friends boat to use their Raritan Elegance, guess what I'm buying at Strictly Sail this weekend.

I will second (or third) the PHII recommendation for a manual head.
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Old 10-04-2015, 13:08   #14
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

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I'll throw out the Raritan "fresh head", which is a PHII made to flush with fresh water.
Sorry, but the Raritan "Fresh Head' Fresh Head - is NOT a PH II made to use pressurized flush water ... it's a totally different toilet, designed "from the ground up" to use pressurized water...available as either a complete toilet or a "conversion kit," which is everything south of the bowl, that, not just the PH II bowl, but any bowl from ANY toilet which has a 4-bolt mounting pattern, will fit.

Hopefully you did go with the Fresh Head "conversion kit" and didn't just switch your PH II intake to a fresh water line, which is a major no-no for two reasons:

Piston/cylinder pumps designed to use sea water PULL water in...pressurized fresh water is PUSHED through the pump. When water is pushed through a pump that's designed to pull water through it, depending on the amount of water pressure, that can mess up the alignment of seals o-rings and valves. But more importantly, toilets designed to use sea water should NEVER be connected to the potable water plumbing because of the risk of e-coli migrating into the flush water intake from the bowl.

It's for these reasons that every toilet mfr warns against connecting ANY raw (sea, lake, river) water toilet to the onboard potable water plumbing.


Now...about that recirculating system. Thetford still makes one-- the
Electra Magicģ Model 80 RV (the link on the Thetford site is longer than Lincoln's Gettysburg address, so best to let you google it) so it may not be that old. But even if it's brand new, you definitely want to replace it, for two reasons: 1) it holds fewer flushes than 2 gallon portapotty, and 2) if even a few flushes sit in the tank for more than 48 hours--less in hot weather--it doesn't have to leak for the odor to be incredible!

As for candidates for replacement, the "Fresh Head" is a compact, so may be a bit "basic" for a boat that size...the Marine Elegance is definitely the best of the electric all china "thrones"...the Raritan SeaEra is also a good choice. Manual toilets: the PH II is by far the best choice. Keep it lubricated, rebuild it every 5-6 years, it'll last a good 20 years.

You're also gonna need a holding tank. Your best source is Ronco Plastics Marine Catalog They make TOP quality water and waste tanks for a very reasonable price and have more than 400 shapes/sizes, over 100 of which are non-rectangular. And they install fittings in the sizes, locations and quantity needed when they make the tank.
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Old 10-04-2015, 13:37   #15
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Re: A fresh start for the head on my boat need advice

The other great thing about the Elegance is an end to toilet paper rules. If a guest wants to wipe their butt with two feet of toilet paper, I don't have to make it my business.

I do tell guests the special "fast dissolving" toilet paper (it's not special but it sounds reasonable) is the only paper product that should go in the toilet. I don't think the Elegance particularly cares if they ignore me.
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