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Old 10-07-2013, 11:39   #1
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Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

Just bought a sailboat that has a head with direct flush out to the ocean. There is an old holding tank, but it doesn't have a macerator and the throughull has been filled in for it. We are thinking the easiest thing to do is take out the existing head and put a compostable one in. Anyone know anyone who can take out the old and put a compostable in in the Vancouver, Canada area? Or do you think it makes more sense just to put a holding tank in? We want to lessen the long term maintenance and not have to haul our boat out to do the work....
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Old 10-07-2013, 14:07   #2
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I think a holding tank makes the most sense. There are good pump out facilities close to the city, and overboard discharge always an option when away, carrying bags of waste up the dock doesn't seem like fun, especially as more places eliminate or lock dumpsters.

Does depend a bit on the size of the boat though.

Re: hauling out, perhaps try to time it to coincide with other out of water work like bottom paint?
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Old 10-07-2013, 14:39   #3
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

I would go with a composting head. I have had both and will never go back to a holding tank. Unless you are living aboard or have a large crew you shouldn't have to empty the solids more than once a year.
They are costly though. But if you are paying someone to do the work I think it would be less labor intensive than plumbing a new holding tank.
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Old 10-07-2013, 14:43   #4
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

Here s a link to composting thread, sorry don't know anyone in your area for installation.

Composting toilets, do they actually work?
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Old 10-07-2013, 14:57   #5
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

I just installed our Nature's Head. We're heading () out for a few weeks, but have started to use it at the dock already. Seems great for a small crew (two).

The hardest part of installing it was uninstalling the standard one. Hoses, holding tank. If all goes well I'm going to remove the outflow seacock and seal in the thru-hull hole. Will be nice to have a couple less holes in my boat.

Like most boat projects, this one is not particularly hard, but it does take time. I'd recommend DIY, unless you have more money than time ... a category I rarely fall into .
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Old 10-07-2013, 15:18   #6
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

I tried the natures head, and quickly changed back to a regular head/holding tank, you can read what happened here
not totally impartial, but wish I had found something like my experience before I spent a fortune on a bucket with a handle!
just my 2 cents
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Old 30-08-2013, 23:43   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
I just installed our Nature's Head. We're heading () out for a few weeks, but have started to use it at the dock already. Seems great for a small crew (two).

The hardest part of installing it was uninstalling the standard one. Hoses, holding tank. If all goes well I'm going to remove the outflow seacock and seal in the thru-hull hole. Will be nice to have a couple less holes in my boat.

Like most boat projects, this one is not particularly hard, but it does take time. I'd recommend DIY, unless you have more money than time ... a category I rarely fall into .
So how has this been working for you? We've just purchased our boat and a composting is our plan.
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Old 31-08-2013, 00:51   #8
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

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Originally Posted by sharkbait2035 View Post
I tried the natures head, and quickly changed back to a regular head/holding tank, you can read what happened here
not totally impartial, but wish I had found something like my experience before I spent a fortune on a bucket with a handle!
just my 2 cents
Because of your cautionary tail, we took a simple "bag it"camping head on a sea trial. I made the $20 dollar head into very crude dry compost head ( separated 1from2). No vent, no agitator, just lined it with black garbage bag, bugs apparently are attracted to light colors and light. I put some cheap peat moss in the bottom ( I didn't have the good cocotek yet). I uh er, made a contribution, no smell, shook it a bit to spread the peat around, and added a dash of cedar chips. I read cedar keeps some bugs at bay. Covered the head with the lid. We then sealed up the boat for two weeks to go back to Austin.

Came back today, very scared I'd find a holy mess. Was greeted with a nice earthy smell with a bit of cedar. Earthy smell only in the head. My boat smells like a boat.

So the project is a go. But I really appreciate your blog, keeps us skeptical but willing to try.

Sorry to the OP if this is a bit of a hijack.
Cheers
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Old 31-08-2013, 02:27   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean Girl View Post

Because of your cautionary tail, we took a simple "bag it"camping head on a sea trial. I made the $20 dollar head into very crude dry compost head ( separated 1from2). No vent, no agitator, just lined it with black garbage bag, bugs apparently are attracted to light colors and light. I put some cheap peat moss in the bottom ( I didn't have the good cocotek yet). I uh er, made a contribution, no smell, shook it a bit to spread the peat around, and added a dash of cedar chips. I read cedar keeps some bugs at bay. Covered the head with the lid. We then sealed up the boat for two weeks to go back to Austin.

Came back today, very scared I'd find a holy mess. Was greeted with a nice earthy smell with a bit of cedar. Earthy smell only in the head. My boat smells like a boat.

So the project is a go. But I really appreciate your blog, keeps us skeptical but willing to try.

Sorry to the OP if this is a bit of a hijack.
Cheers
Love this post! I also appreciate the cons being posted. My only confusion is what does he (Sharkbait) mean by the composting "takes time". Since we will be live aboards, I would like to know. Does it smell at first and THEN is ok...ie "earthy"? Or did he feel like it wasn't ready when it was time to empty? We are still planning in a Nature's head, and our boat has the vent already there. Other DE 38 owners have installed the nature's head and a solar fan with good results. But I am a bit curious. :-)
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Old 31-08-2013, 04:53   #10
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

Built my own Composting head 30ltr (with 10ltr urine container) and as a live aboard (with 2 of us) using coir blocks we are very happy with it. My wife detests the tradition head/holding tank smell. Ours has a 12 volt computer fan suppling the air flow and occasionally you get a earthy potting mix smell coming from the vent when the wind blows over it towards us. 2-2.5 months before we first emptied it (didn't need too got sick of waiting for it to fill up) next empty was 3 months and again only because we were near a Nat Park long drop toilet. Had some problems with some small bugs but fixed that with fine mesh over vents. Won't be going back. The look on the Australian Poo police (Marine EPA) in QLD when they climb on board to check out the head is worth it too :-)
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Old 31-08-2013, 05:04   #11
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We have installed and used two over the last 4-5 years. I like them so much better than standard heads. After you make a deposit, give it a turn, there really is not much smell and it dries out fairly quicky and then it's just "earthy". The "compost takes time" comment I think may be more about making the compost "inert" which can take something like 60-90 days or more. So if you use it continually ( like we do) it is never completely composted. When it is full (we get about 3 months) then we typically drop off -shore. Or you bag it up and throw it out. Or if you are a purist, you put it in a spare bucket and let it complete composting.
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Old 31-08-2013, 05:13   #12
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

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So how has this been working for you? We've just purchased our boat and a composting is our plan.
I am completely pleased with our NH ... so far. We did not get out for as long as normal, but we did full-time for nearly 4 weeks. Two people, worked as advertised. Have not had to pump out at all this season. Love it! Smell was never a problem. The odour, when it was noticeable at all, was an earthy soil smell. And I only smelled this when first opening the trap door.

I'm still playing with the amount of material to use (coir). I may have overloaded it at first. We are also not in the optimal zone b/c our water is so cold up here. Composting works better when it's warm. We were rarely warm this season on Superior. But despite my overload, and cold temperatures, it is still working well.

For two people, I would say a well-designed composter is an excellent option. I'd guess that NH could manage more than two for a short time. From my experience so far I would say venting is absolutely critical, and agitation is pretty darn important as well. After that, just about any sealed poop chamber would probably work.

Bottom line is we're ripping out the remaining old head plumbing and keeping the NH. The freedom of not worrying about all that sloshing sewage, and not having to plan your journey around pump-outs, are all great plusses. In addition, we've recovered a lot of useable storage space. We can now carry our new inflatable kayaks .
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Old 31-08-2013, 05:21   #13
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Re: Compostable Head Installation in Vancouver, BC

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Love this post! I also appreciate the cons being posted. My only confusion is what does he (Sharkbait) mean by the composting "takes time". Since we will be live aboards, I would like to know. Does it smell at first and THEN is ok...ie "earthy"? Or did he feel like it wasn't ready when it was time to empty? We are still planning in a Nature's head, and our boat has the vent already there. Other DE 38 owners have installed the nature's head and a solar fan with good results. But I am a bit curious. :-)
I have only used my airhead toilet for a week at a time, but I'm so much happier with it than the Dometique porta potty (pump-outable) I had before.

In my experience, even with fresh coco pith and a new "deposit" I don't notice any odors except the initial odor you'd have when crapping in any toilet. (I have not installed a fan as of yet) I simply give the crank a turn and the deposit is covered/coated and all smell is gone. Once it begins to actually compost it has an earthy smell not at all unpleasant (unless you think about where the earthy smell is coming from). Emptying is pretty painless...just cover the solids container with a hefty trash bag and tip it over spilling the contents in the bag. Tie it up and carry to the dumpster. I once had two identical bags, one with dirty laundry and one with airhead deposits...what a surprise when I got to the laundromat and found I'd thrown my laundry away!

Two problems with the airhead;
the urine reservoir is difficult to remove from under the main body of the toilet, risking a slosh/spill. I'm thinking about running a hose to a small urine holding tank under the head floor, to either pump overboard or to simply have an easier way to remove and carry the urine. this solution would also free up some leg room in the head. The urine reservoir stinks to high heavens once removed! (I inadvertently threw the urine lid away so can't contain fluids/odor while carrying). If only peeing I usually don't bother to go to all the trouble of dropping my britches to use the airhead...I just piss into a large ice tea jug and cap it until next use. (I know...I'm a pig )

Gnats do seem to like the solids bowl. It doesn't really bother me as the gnats don't come into the rest of the boat. Much.
Someone here once posted that they hung a bug killing air freshener type of thingy inside the solids bin which solved the problem. So far I'm not bothered enough to do anything about the gnat problem.

Even with the downsides, I love love love not worrying about a spill into my bilge. The composting toilet will never spray or spill ****, and is almost indestructible, and idiot proof. I removed a couple of thru-hulls too!
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Old 31-08-2013, 05:28   #14
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We actually did hook the urine tank into the old holding tank via a pump. Now when the urine gets filled (every other day) we pump it into the old holding tank. With no sea water this can hold a lot of urine. So much better!
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Old 31-08-2013, 05:47   #15
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Re: gnats, another DE 38 owner suggested a couple moth balls in the compost to deter gnats. They had a pretty bad infestation but the moth ball cleared it up and didn't effect the composting. FWIW.
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