A Crappy Job

There’s an old cliché about traveling around the world in your sailboat, that it’s actually just fixing your boat in exotic places.

There’s another one that goes, it’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” you will have to dismantle and rebuild your toilet on a cruising boat.

Yes and yes.

When you are running your own boat (I like to call it a ship in these instances) you are essentially running a small (very small) city. You have all the infrastructure issues intendant with a city…except maybe roads. There is electrical generation and power grids, fresh water production, garbage, and of course, waste management.

Gadabout has two toilets (“heads” for the nautically inclined). The guest head is a rock star electrically-powered toilet that is controlled by a push button and makes all sorts of cool noises and grinding sounds when it flushes. The head in our stateroom is a traditional mechanical marine toilet where you have to pump a lever and rotate a valve to either fill the bowl or flush the bowl. Every guest on board gets the same lecture: don’t overburden the plumbing, no foreign materials, and flush early and often and everything should work fine, until it doesn’t. Oh, and if you clog it, I will supervise while you fix it.

So when Paula told me in the middle of the night that the toilet stopped working you can imagine my excitement for the next day’s activities – supervising her as she fixed it. Unlike visions of sugarplums dancing through my head, however, my thoughts were somewhat darker as I tossed and turned. I knew who would actually be doing the work. After a morning of pounding through five-foot seas while rounding a cape (I sincerely hoped something would be knocked free), I attacked my challenge head on (pun intended). The good news is that the problem seemed to be on the intake side of the system. This is where seawater is pumped in to fill the bowl so hopefully all I would have to deal with is seawater. Dismantling the valve assembly was surprisingly easy and almost immediately the culprit revealed itself. A three-foot-long piece of seaweed had been sucked into the system and was mucking up the works. After cleaning it all out, bingo bango we were up and running again in about thirty minutes. It was SO much better than the alternatives that had been running through my head all night.

So, having read this you can now sign yourself off as a “qual” on Marine Heads 101. Moral of the story, it’s not “if” it’s “when.”

– Wags


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