I've had boats with tradional heads, installed a composting head on one boat and gone back to traditional heads with gravity fed holding tanks
on later boats.
Each has it's positives and negatives which in my mind are conducive to differnet cruising situations. (as well as individual preferences)
I installed the composting head on a trailerable cruising triamarain which I planned to take on cruises of less than a month to locations where pumping overboard
was either illegal or not ethical. Small trimarans obviously have limited space and are weight sensitive. A composting head requires no raw water
and actually gets rid of moisture, so they are very space and weight efficient. When I used it on a short cruise
, I simply let the compost finish composting at home and threw it into a composting pile a couple months later. Very econologically and logistically efficient. Also, I plumbed the urine to a 3-gallon holding tank (gravity) rather than having to deal with emptying a urine bottle once or twice daily by hand. For short term cruising on a small boat
, a composting head was wonderful and what I would choose again.
The big problem I ran into with a composting head is what to do on a longer cruise when the tank fills. You now have a bucket full of mostly uncomposted waste you must disposive of while on a cruise. Having to find a pump out in the Florida keys
may be a hassle, but finding somewhere to legally dispose of uncomposted human waste may prove even more difficult (though probably less frequent). Dumping a composting head bin overboard
is just as illegal as emptying a holding tank (and less discreet) In many areas, throwing human feces into the trash is illegal. (Except of course disposble diapers. Apparently politicans are happy to disenfranchise a few cruisers, but not all mothers!)
cruising, and other places where overboard discharge options are legal
and more available, my preferred system is still a traditonal head with a gravity discharge holding tank. It's very easy to simply open a through hull
when off shore and let the waste simply drain out. I much prefer that to trying to detach a composting bucket, haul it out and dump it overboard while under way. Note, this worked well for me because I spent little time in Florida
and little time at a dock
in the Bahamas. It's a whole different story if you spend the winter at a dock
or anchored in a harbor.
The issue you have is you are cruising in locations where overboard discharge is an available option and locations where it is not, which makes the decision more complex and you don't really discuss how often you will be 3 miles or more offshore
where oveboard dumping is legal
. If I were cruising those grounds, these are the two questions I would address in making the decision:
1. How often will I be offshore
, where I can legally and ethically dump overboard?
2. If I am doing extended cruising
, largely near shore, what is my plan for dealing with uncomposted waste when the bin fills?
In summary, what I love about composting heads is they are simple. Vented right, they have little odor, you will never have to deal with clogged joker valve or malfunctiniong pump. You save the weight and space of a large holding tank and don't have to pay for a pump out. You can cruise for weeks without the tank filling. Throwing a composting bin overboard is no joy, but I sure prefer doing that every few weeks than duming a porti-potty every few days!
Again, the big issue and decisive issue for me is what to do with uncomposted waste when the bin fills before for cruise is over, which will happen frequently if you are cruising on the boat most of the year.
So, in your situation I think it really comes down to the balance of how/where you cruise as well as personal preference. As with many decisions, there is no right or wrong answer, it's just a matter of how the trade
offs fit your own situation and preferences.
All the best whatever you decide.