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Old 29-11-2016, 13:44   #1
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I'm afraid of my head!

I purchased my boat over 6 months ago, and I've yet to use it for anything except liquid. I'm worried that the first time I use it, it's going to plug up and I'm not entirely sure just how you go about un-plugging it.

I've googled the subject, but all I get is how to deal with plugging caused by seawater deposits - ie using vinegar, etc

My boat has a Jabsco manual head. I've replace the pump assembly, so that part is working very well. There is about an 8-ft pipe run between the bowl and the tank. That run goes up to a value, then down to the tank.

I understand about putting little of no toilet paper in the bowl.

So, how do you deal with a simple plug-up?
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Old 29-11-2016, 13:58   #2
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

By using common sense, and small amounts of TP we've never had a clog. In fact the only head clogs I've had to clear were when I worked for a charter company and what looked like a half roll wad of tp wrapped around chicken bones was jammed in the joker valve.

So in my limited head clog experience, the joker valve is where things will stick.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:02   #3
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

Just exercise some common sense you shouldn't have a problem. Basically, never try to flush too much of anything at one time. I've never had a problem with TP clogging, but then again I've never tried to flush a huge wad of it either.

It's actually pretty hard to really clog as it forces water through the plumbing rather than working on gravity. Add more water, keep flushing.

Perhaps most important, monitor how much is going into your tank. You really don't want a full tank, overflowing through the vent. It's nasty.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:03   #4
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

I'm looking seriously at a move to liveaboard cruising in the near future. I too am very afraid of the head. More than hurricanes. More than being holed by a narwhal. More than pirates. More than capsizing. I believe those other things are either avoidable, recoverable, exceedingly rare, or at least manageable through intelligence and caution.

The head cannot be avoided, and it will be used multiple times per day.

Mexican food + problems with the head = some harsh realities threatening my dreams of sailing away from it all.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:10   #5
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

To the OP: Perhaps it will ease your fears if you think about the fact that even the solid material is mostly liquid. You know the difference between the positions on the valve, right? One way will bring in flush water, the other will pump out the bowl.

You have to try it some time, so just go ahead. Put some water in the bowl before you go - it will help the "solids" move when pumping. If it doesn't all go down, don't panic. Just bring in some more water with the selector valve, go back to the dry position, and pump some more. Repeat if needed.

If you have a new pump (and hence new joker valve), a clog is not likely, especially if using marine toilet paper. Marine TP is designed to come apart pretty quickly when wet, so small amounts shouldn't cause a problem. If the TP is your main concern, set it aside after use, in a ziplock bag. (Many people can't imagine not putting TP in the bowl, but there are MANY countries in the world where the sewage system won't handle anything but waste, and so TP goes into the trash.) Your boat, your choice.

To DDup: Consider getting a desiccating head. No plumbing. No clogs. Some disadvantages, many advantages, and many converts. Google "desiccating marine heads". There are 3 manufactures. Not cheap, but no leaks, no pumpouts, fewer potential disasters.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:15   #6
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

[QUOTE=dmksails;2268588 So, how do you deal with a simple plug-up?[/QUOTE]

In the Sewage World we call it rolling up are sleeves.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:19   #7
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

It's all in your head . Plastic gloves and if you're really sensitive a face mask. I just replaced the head and hoses in my "new to me" boat. Sucked for the hour it took but works perfectly now.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:26   #8
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

Thanks for the encouragement, but what I'm looking for are steps to take when it does clog. At home I would use a plunger and if all else failed, a plumber's snake.


I'm not sure, but I don't think it's a good idea to use a snake on a marine head. Is the only way to deal with this to disconnect the hoses until you find the plug? Hope not as it took 2 hours of sweating and swearing to get the one hose replaced - it is not in a convenient location.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:40   #9
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SFS View Post
To DDup: Consider getting a desiccating head. No plumbing. No clogs. Some disadvantages, many advantages, and many converts. Google "desiccating marine heads". There are 3 manufactures. Not cheap, but no leaks, no pumpouts, fewer potential disasters.
Thank you. Yes, I am considering the desiccating / composting heads. Also because of simplicity and space saving. Might be just the thing

My post was more-or-less humor, sympathetic with the OP, though I'm not exaggerating or misrepresenting myself. I've been spoiled by an entire lifetime of taking plumbing for granted. When I tell my friends and family about the dream, they ask, "well, aren't you worried about xxxxxx?" Where xxxxx is pirates, or drowning, or whathaveyou. I feel like I have an answer for everything, except dealing with this most regular of bodily functions.

Whew, I'm pooped. Wiped out. Gotta get my s**t together.
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Old 29-11-2016, 14:54   #10
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmksails View Post
Thanks for the encouragement, but what I'm looking for are steps to take when it does clog. At home I would use a plunger and if all else failed, a plumber's snake.


I'm not sure, but I don't think it's a good idea to use a snake on a marine head. Is the only way to deal with this to disconnect the hoses until you find the plug? Hope not as it took 2 hours of sweating and swearing to get the one hose replaced - it is not in a convenient location.
No to the snake, maybe the plunger.......But most likely place for a clog will be at the joker valve or beneath the pump. These are the places where check valves interact with the "product". Before undoing either the pump or the joker valve though, try pumping with a bit more force or letting everything stew for a while. Age can sometimes work wonders with more than wine.
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Old 29-11-2016, 15:00   #11
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

If you've replaced the pump, you have already done the steps - it'll likely be clogged in the joker valve.

If it's in the hose, that becomes more fun.

They really don't clog all that much if you flush with water.
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Old 29-11-2016, 15:36   #12
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

If you clog and just wait for a while the clog will soften up and pass. Btw I'm got a cheap bottom of the line head and it has never clogged in 8 years if poop and paper going down it
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Old 29-11-2016, 16:07   #13
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmksails View Post
Thanks for the encouragement, but what I'm looking for are steps to take when it does clog. At home I would use a plunger and if all else failed, a plumber's snake.


I'm not sure, but I don't think it's a good idea to use a snake on a marine head. Is the only way to deal with this to disconnect the hoses until you find the plug? Hope not as it took 2 hours of sweating and swearing to get the one hose replaced - it is not in a convenient location.
No snakes.

Have you tried reading the installation manual for your head? If you have done what you said you did, then you are already years ahead of almost everyone else.

The trick, for me, has been to USE the damn thing and learn how it works.

Fear never gets you anywhere.

I spend weeks at a time on board, then sometimes only two or three days in a row with a month in between. Less use is worse for it, like outboard engines!

Don't worry, be happy.

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The New Get Rid of Boat Odors
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Old 29-11-2016, 16:19   #14
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

The "head worry" is way overblown (like many things you read) I think I have only had one bad plug up in 30 years. Just use minimal amount of TP and flush with lots of water every time.
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Old 29-11-2016, 17:03   #15
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Re: I'm afraid of my head!

I've had WAY more plumbing problems on land than on boats. Including flooding in the bathroom, as well as commode issues. So there's not a lot to fear with marine heads. You just have to get to know them, Including their "moods", & warning signs.

This, along with figuring out how to firmly, but kindly, explain the rules of it's use to everyone. So that they understand if they clog the thing by breaking the rules. Either they fix it under supervision (yours), on the spot, or pay to have it sorted out ASAP.

To this end, it helps to have the rules for it's use posted in the head compartment. Along with it's operating instructions. Part of them being to ask you for help if at all in doubt. Which again, your Captainly skills will be called into play, so that you can keep everyone smiling or laughing, & unembaressed, while sorting out this kind of delicate situation.

Edit: If your holding tank is of reasonable size, you could have a policy of 1 wipe, 1 flush. Or, perhaps something a bit less drastic, if your plumbing reliably handles more TP at once than that.

Also, how well you think a person will handle the issues involved with properly using a marine head, are ones useful for screening who you choose to have onboard. Much like making an educated guess as to whether or not person X will turn into a hostile idiot after 3 cocktails. And thus preemptively get put on your "no fly list", except perhaps when you're tied to the dock.
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