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Old 31-08-2016, 14:25   #1
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What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

I need to know if it is illegal to live on a boat with a port o potty. If so is it a huge deal to add a head? I'm about to get a boat but it like won't have a head based on my budget? Also what size sailboats have heads, 20 footers maybe?
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Old 31-08-2016, 14:29   #2
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

The laws are local, so you'll have to at least say where you plan to liveaboard. Even better check with the local harbor or harbour.
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Old 31-08-2016, 14:32   #3
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

There are two issues.

First, Yes, you will need either a marine head or a composting toilet for liveaboard. Not all marina's allow for a composing toilet. So a head and holding tank with a deck outlet is the first issue. Porta-pottys don't cut it as they don't want you hauling it on the dock to the land side head.

Second and more important issue is many marinas have a minimum size for liveaboard vessel. Sometime's it's 30 feet and othertimes its 35 feet. While it's possible to liveaboard a 20 foot sailboat at anchor the lack of standing headroom would get OLD very quickly.

The good news is there are boats in the 30-35 range for not much money if you look around and are not picky about where you live. There are even boats for free, though they really arn't

EDIT, BTW this is for the USA. EU may be different.
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Old 31-08-2016, 15:01   #4
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

I've seen a few 23' boats that have installed heads and holding tanks, but 25' is the minimum size on which it makes any sense to have anything but a portapotty, and a marine toilet even on a 25' boat is problematic because you can't have just a toilet in any US waters, you also have to have holding tank, which along with the related plumbing can use up to 1/3 of your storage space. And you also have both a toilet and a tank to maintain.

However, there is a portapotty version that does make sense: an "MSD" version. Those are intended to be permanently installed (which actually just means they have hold-down brackets) and are fitted to install a pumpout hose and vent line...you don't have to carry 'em off the boat to empty 'em...they're pumped out just like any other tank. A 5-6 gallon version holds 50-60 flushes, which should last a single person living aboard up to 10 days. And yes, they are legal in every state and in Canada. "Composting" toilets are also legal everywhere and self-contained, but need power to run a fan and a heater...plus, they're expensive!

However, a 25' boat is "floating camping"...as SailorChic said, headroom can be an issue, you have minimal power resources so your refrigeration will be an ice box (not an old fashioned term for a fridge, it's a built in cooler that needs ice)...heat and lights can be problematic and you'll have very little room to store much of anything. Fine as a weekend starter boat, but can get really old really fast when it's your only home. As she said, there are plenty of 30ish boats to found for a reasonable price...27' is the smallest you should consider IMO.
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Old 31-08-2016, 15:05   #5
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

We had a porta potty on our 20ft O'Day, I don't remember it being an issue. What else are you supposed to do?
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Old 31-08-2016, 15:06   #6
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

Discharge of sewage is regulated in the Clean Water Act. No untreated sewage can be discharged in US waters and out to 3 miles. Treated sewage with a Marine Sanitation Device is allow in areas not designated as no discharges zones. Another option is a holding tank that has to be pumped out. I hear some liveaboard marinas have sewage hookups at each slip.
I use an Incinolet. No plumbing, but needs to be vented with plastic pipe. It burns the waste and where I winter costs about 7Ę a flush. If you're at a dock w/power or have a generator/inverter, they work fine, but aren't cheap.
My boat came with 3 heads. I didn't want a holding tank or trouble with the Coast Guard. I was going to install a MSD, but with Washington State proposing a no discharge zone, I figured it wasn't worth the expense if it would become illegal.
I've been using marine heads for more than 60 years. Marine heads plug easily. Especially with people on board too stupid to follow simple directions. One thing I learned, the, plumbing, seals, valves will fail someday and you're left with a crappy job.
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Old 31-08-2016, 15:24   #7
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

@Peghall

I beg to differ, but composting toilets are fairly easy to build and do not cost much if homebuilt (couple of pieces of wood and plywood and a urine separator + a computer fan).
The fan draws very little power.
If you built one with the urine diverter you could even argue that you have two holding tanks on-board, one fully dry, one wet.
Building it yourself is very straight forward.

I replaced my marine toilet in early spring and it's been working flawlessly and without smell ever since.
I empty the tank and bucket about every 14 days.
No need for possibly expensive prefab units.
I did the replacement to have no trouble in zero discharge zones here in Europe.
No problems in Germany, Netherlands, UK, Belgium or France.

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Old 31-08-2016, 15:44   #8
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorchic34 View Post
There are two issues.

First, Yes, you will need either a marine head or a composting toilet for liveaboard.
Depends where you liveaboard. Lot's of places in the world where the reality is still "bucket and chuckit" .
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Old 31-08-2016, 15:58   #9
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

AFAIK porta potty's are one of the few legal things. They are nothing more than a toilet with only a holding tank. ...?
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Old 31-08-2016, 16:03   #10
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

It is very easy to add a head. But you are not supposed to use it everywhere. Check your area for the existing limitations.

If you just want to live aboard, forget the head and use the marina facilities (unless you have a condition that asks for a loo at hand).

If you are going to live anchored off, I would not use a porta, just plain manual pump water toilet.

Cheers,
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Old 31-08-2016, 16:12   #11
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

On our 19' boat we have a type III "marine sanitation device" (MSD) which is... a portapottie, secured in place, with a pumpout fitting plumbed to it. It's a Canadian inland lake regulation thing.

I wouldn't consider a 19' or 20' boat to be 'liveaboard' material A nice plump 24' boat is what I'd consider the minimum.
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Old 31-08-2016, 18:56   #12
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lake-Effect View Post
On our 19' boat we have a type III "marine sanitation device" (MSD) which is... a portapottie, secured in place, with a pumpout fitting plumbed to it. It's a Canadian inland lake regulation thing.

I wouldn't consider a 19' or 20' boat to be 'liveaboard' material A nice plump 24' boat is what I'd consider the minimum.
I have a 1977 American 24' and have the same set up. Portapottie in place piped to a pump out on deck and also to a pump and through hole. I was wondering why the set up. I only sail in an lake, so never used it (have a nice marina). Debating now in upgrading or refitting, but unsure what would be best options. Installing a head and holding tank vs composting head etc...
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Old 31-08-2016, 20:01   #13
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

We have a standard portapotty on our 26ft boat. It's a horrible option. Don't do it. In our case we sail in land lakes without pump without facilities so a portapotty made sense. I would prefer a dry toilet (separator toilet) but we are selling the boat now so it's no longer a concern.
A diy dry toilet can be economical to build. Look on youtube for some ideas. Look for "composting toilet"as that is the common name.
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Old 31-08-2016, 21:49   #14
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by peghall View Post
I've seen a few 23' boats that have installed heads and holding tanks, but 25' is the minimum size on which it makes any sense to have anything but a portapotty, and a marine toilet even on a 25' boat is problematic because you can't have just a toilet in any US waters, you also have to have holding tank, which along with the related plumbing can use up to 1/3 of your storage space. And you also have both a toilet and a tank to maintain.

However, there is a portapotty version that does make sense: an "MSD" version. Those are intended to be permanently installed (which actually just means they have hold-down brackets) and are fitted to install a pumpout hose and vent line...you don't have to carry 'em off the boat to empty 'em...they're pumped out just like any other tank. A 5-6 gallon version holds 50-60 flushes, which should last a single person living aboard up to 10 days. And yes, they are legal in every state and in Canada. "Composting" toilets are also legal everywhere and self-contained, but need power to run a fan and a heater...plus, they're expensive!

However, a 25' boat is "floating camping"...as SailorChic said, headroom can be an issue, you have minimal power resources so your refrigeration will be an ice box (not an old fashioned term for a fridge, it's a built in cooler that needs ice)...heat and lights can be problematic and you'll have very little room to store much of anything. Fine as a weekend starter boat, but can get really old really fast when it's your only home. As she said, there are plenty of 30ish boats to found for a reasonable price...27' is the smallest you should consider IMO.
Peggy I have to disagree with you on several points.
First I built my own urine diverting composting ( dry ) head for two bucks out of salvage plywood a free square bucket from laundry soap. And a two dollar funnel from the local Kmart. ( uses milk jugs for the urine tank) ( haven't found a need for a fan on it)
Second I have been living comfortably for several years on my islander Bahama 24. ( I don't consider it camping)
Third I have 225ah house bank for power needs with 100 watts solar for charging. Never needed ice in my ice box. ( bought a pound of dry ice to freeze my meats on the way back to the boat. If needed. )
Lastly Propane force ten bulkhead heater. ( this fall I will be converting to force ten diesel)
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Old 31-08-2016, 23:46   #15
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Re: What are the laws for a boat head/ toilet for live aboard?

Still haven't heard where the OP is. Makes a world of difference.


Most places it's a non-issue (unless you ask). ie: the suggestion that some marinas don't allow composting toilets??? Never had one question it and never saw a rule against it in a marina.


Some areas of Canada can be an issue with composting toilets. The marinas don't care but the officials consider it equivalent to a portapotty, which it isn't and they have different rules for portapotty


Then you run into areas where there is a rule but no enforcement and no way to comply and it all gets silly.


Tell us where you are.
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