Tearing out the Head

Today I tore out the head. The existing head was a marine style, manual pump, flush toilet with a holding tank. There was also a tiny little sink, and at one time, facilities for a shower. We never attempted to use the toilet, but in testing it after we bought it, the flush mechanism was stiff, and we never did get it to work right.

I don’t like a standard marine toilet, for a lot of reasons. They are a modern invention that attempts to make the experience as close to shore side as possible, and it succeeds in some ways, and fails in other significant ways: For instance, it magically makes everything disappear like at home, but it also means storing all of the waste in a holding tank. This involves hand pumps, hoses, valves, possibly an electric “Macerator” (you figure it out), and the necessity of finding a pump out station on a regular basis. The first “real” sailboat I ever spent time on smelled like antiseptically treated poop if you sat on the port settee, and I think that is fairly normal, even on nice yachts.

There are even more modern options though, and in researching everything, we have decided on a “composting” toilet. It doesn’t compost exactly, but it does render everything more or less benign, without the smell, and without the sloshing holding tank, pumps, hoses, or the need to pump/dump. By switching to a composting toilet, I also eliminate the need for three holes in the hull of my boat that supplied salt water to the head, and discharge for the holding tank and sink, all concentrated in the bathroom. Three fewer holes below the waterline is a big deal to me.

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The 3 through-holes on the hull.

What inspired me to write today was the experience of dismantling someone else’s craftsmanship and the insights I gain into the way they work. I was amazed at the thickness of the fiberglass “pan” I took out. The pan was a single formed piece of fiberglass with a drain in the bottom that allowed the head to be used as a shower and included the sink stand and sink. It was at least a 1/4 inch thick throughout, everywhere. I’m just guessing, but I don’t think there are any boats within a hundred yards of me right now that have a 1/4 inch of hand laid fiberglass anywhere on the boat. The resin alone makes it way too expensive. It is kind of like having a hand carved solid oak bathroom cabinet, and don’t forget the bronze hinges and screws, with teak wood trim.

This boat was built in Yokosuka Japan in 1976 which adds another dimension. I was stationed in Yokosuka from late 1978, to 1980 in the Navy. I can picture the workmen in their work clothes ,and Tabi shoes. I feel a connection when I back out a screw that has done it’s job for over 35 years, and notice the saw marks where the original craftsman custom fitted the teak trim, along with measurements, and Kanji designations.

Now it is my turn to add my touches. I will fit a new floor, and put shelving where the sink was. The new head will have it’s own raised pedestal, and the walls will be painted and covered with bright wood. My memories of Japanese workmen are of a happy bunch, and my challenge now is to bring that same pleasant happiness to this job. I hope that 39 years from now someone has the same insights into my work.

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4 thoughts on “Tearing out the Head

  1. Welcome to the world of boating. You’re not a part of the sailing club until you rebuild a toilet.

    Our previous boat was a 1980 Cheoy Lee. We use to say the same about the thickness of the fiberglass. We crashed into the dock more than once and the dock always came our worse. They is something to be said for the older construction processes.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

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  2. While you are working on your nu lu download and listen to Breaking Seas. A fun tale about a novice seapuppy who installs a composting loo along the way. The equipment is brilliant, its the users who are the problem. Enjoy, you will find his tale on Audible.com; my eternal companion when at sea. Oh and I had a Yamha 24, the best built boat I have ever owned but with everything in miniature, including ‘the bar’!

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    1. Haha! I’ve read “Breaking Seas” on Kindle! I think I would have had some crew members that mysteriously disappeared at sea.
      I will also make sure my impellers actually fit my engine before I need them.
      Inspiring book, I would really like to talk to the author… I have questions…

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      1. He is on Facebook if you want to try to connect. I had a composting loo in a cottage in Tasmania. Worked a treat but so much better if you can keep the wee away. Tight sheets! Brodie

        Liked by 1 person

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