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Old 18-09-2009, 20:54   #1
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Should I Replace the Head with a Porta-Potti?

Hi,

My wife and I are buying a 1970 Tartan 34c. This is our first "real" boat (we've had some sailing dinghies), and this is also my first post on the formum. We had the marine survey done today and the boat checked out in great shape. Whoever had her before us fit her out for some serious sailing, and evidently did a fantastic job on every installation. My only concern was the head, which is a Wilcox model, possibly original. The current owner has been living aboard for some time, and probably has not used the head in 3 years. When I operated the lever to run flushing water into the bowl, all kinds of weird green gunk came out. Would that just be algae or some other kind of build up in the raw seawater line that would go away if I pumped long enough? The whole set up just seemed kind of delicate compared to everything else on board and I don't know how to feel about that. My concern is that if anything goes wrong with the current head, not only will it be disgusting, but it will be a flooding hazard.

We live in Hawaii, so in time we will be cruising this boat in bluewater to distant paradises. However, for the next couple of years, we will probably be cruising around Oahu and to neighbor islands. It seems to me that it might be a good idea to just have the head and holding tank removed, to seal off the associated thru-hulls, and to install a good portapotti. When the day comes to start making longer passages, I could put a new head and holding tank in.

I don't have the slightest idea where to start with removing the current system and how big an undertaking this would actually be. Do I have to haul out the boat to do this, or can it be done in the water? Is this a DIY project I could do without buying a haz-mat suit? Would I potentially screw up something that works nicely?

Any advice or war story would be much appreciated.

Mahalo,

Jon
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Old 18-09-2009, 21:25   #2
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West Marine sells something called wag bags.

I have used them up in Maine in remote areas where the ground is too stoney to dig a latrine.

They are easy to use...and seal up.

I carry a couple on my boat in case the head takes a sh**
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Old 18-09-2009, 21:25   #3
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heads have one input hose and one output hose. if it's a 'basic' installation then the output hose goes directly overboard using a 1 1/2" thru hull, and the input hose takes in seawater using (probably) a 3/4" thru hull.

you should be able to simply close both thru hulls and then remove both hoses and disconnect them from the head and then unbolt and remove the head. be ready to have dirty water come out of the hoses and run into your bilge while you're disconnecting them - clean the bilge that day to keep odors from settling in.

some boats have holding tanks or electrical waste processing devices (electrsan is one of them) and these will be between the head and the output thru hull fitting. you may want to remove these as well.

i've never used a porta potti. when i had smaller boats without a head i just used a five gallon bucket and a standard household toilet seat with pegs screwed to the bottom of the seat so it wouldn't slide around the rim of the bucket while in use....
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Old 18-09-2009, 23:03   #4
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Pump the head for a few minutes and the intake water should clear up. Crap grows in the hose water when it sits. I'd look on line or go to Defender Marine and see if there are rebuild kits available for the head. If not, trash when it breaks and buy a Raritan PHIII head and install that. Probably a good idea to replace all the hoses with the expensive but effective head hose in any case. I'd get rid of the holding tank unless you can empty it with its own pump. You will not need a holding tank except a few eco Nazi areas like Puget Sound in the US and in marinas. Porta Potties are a PITA and smell if used and not immediately emptied. Get a bucket and fit a seat if you are going to get of the head completely.
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Old 18-09-2009, 23:40   #5
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Think long term - if you are planning to entertain guests or cruise more than one overnight, a Porta-potti will not be acceptable. I strongly recommend against downgrading your head. We actually replaced our brand new manual heads with Vacu-Flush units to avoid the "natural" smell of decaying critters in flushing sea water that sat more than a few hours. I suggest you test the current head thoroughly, overhaul it if necessary, and upgrade when it fails.
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Old 19-09-2009, 00:51   #6
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Think Murphy’s Law:

  • You or the wife have the runs
  • You are sailing in sloppy seas with little wind
  • Your guts are churning
  • The boat is bouncing
  • The Porta-potti is bouncing.

Use your head!
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Old 19-09-2009, 01:20   #7
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Its just not that big of a deal to go through the system and do some maintenance......fix it right and be done with it.
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Old 19-09-2009, 01:46   #8
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A brand new Jabsco thunderbox, lock stock and barrel including the whole box and die and pooper scooper is just $159!

It can't take more than a jiffy by a blind man in a tunnel to install and your bum will feel like the Queen of Englands.


Jabsco Marine Toilet USD$159!!! Westmarine

http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/producte/10001/-1/10001/331619/377%20710/0/Marine%20Sanitation/Primary%20Search/mode%20matchallpartial/0/0?N=377%20710&Ne=0&Ntt=Marine%20Sanitation&Ntk=Pri mary%20Search&Ntx=mode%20matchallpartial&Nao=0&Ns= 0&keyword=Marine%20Sanitation%20&isLTokenURL=true& storeNum=11&subdeptNum=209&classNum=715
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Old 19-09-2009, 02:05   #9
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Mark.

You post made me ROFL. :-)

Oh, and I agree.
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Old 19-09-2009, 10:47   #10
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Thanks for all of the input. I really appreciate it.
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Old 19-09-2009, 10:55   #11
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For a 34 foot boat I would reinstall the head. If you really don't want to do that then instead of a porta-potti (which are always miserable things to empty out), I would go with a 2 1/2 gallon bucket, a liner and a toilet seat and let people take care of their own waste.


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Old 19-09-2009, 11:20   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
your bum will feel like the Queen of Englands.

Leave it to Mark to know what the queens bum feels like!
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Old 19-09-2009, 14:08   #13
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Jon, I'll take the minority position here in favor of the porta poti. I have a Dometic 975MSD which can be emptied dockside or over the transom. No added water volume to flush and is good for about 5ga of waste about 3-4 days for 2. No below waterline thru hulls and no smell with holding tank chemical. Only a 1.5in discharge hose and 5/8 vent hose for optional dockside pump out. Dave
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Old 19-09-2009, 14:34   #14
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On our catamaran, we removed head & holding tank and replaced it with a composting toilet called an "air head". Works great. Recommend you go to Yahoo users' group for Gemini catamarans and search the message traffic. You will get dozens and dozens of opinions from people who have them (and almost always like them). (As to the extra space from pulling the holding tank, on a long cruise I'll say I need half of it to carry peat moss (the active ingredient in composting toilets).) Btw - this type toilet works like a cat pooping in the garden. In 2 days it's dry and without odor. While "fresh" the odors care carried out of the boat by an always-on (solar) exhaust vent. They have a good web site.
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Old 19-09-2009, 17:37   #15
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Porta potties may be fine (for some) but when it comes time to sell your boat..... well..... you'll take a hefty drop in price!

Why wants a boat wivout a comode? No one on the second hand boat market. No couple where a female is the significant other.
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