So, the dreaded task; the one that every marine toilet owner has to exercise in some capacity or another, has finally come due and volunteers are short handed. Unless Captain Bligh has assigned the job to someone of minor status or meted it out as a punishment, the crew will have to decide among (more likely between) themselves who gets the honor of emptying out the head.
When Nancy and I bought Lily Pad and moved aboard, we did our best to be modern and share all the duties equally but it was an exercise in futility. It became apparent early on that there were some things that I wanted to do and did better than Nancy and vis versa. Even our catamaran conspired to create a division of labor, her two hulls quickly becoming the blue side and the pink side. The breakdown went as follows. I was responsible for deck and rigging maintenance and all things mechanical. Nancy took over the galley, cabinets, cleaning inside and out (sometimes I was pressed into service in the cleaning department on deck). Nancy cooked too, not because my cooking was bad, I was one of the better cooks in the fire department, but she just didn’t want me mucking around in the galley and messing things up for her. None of it was coerced or resented, it simply fell to us naturally.
We shared the helm and watches and Nancy was unsurprisingly a very good helms . . .person. We had anchoring down to a science, all with hand and arm signals. She took the helm and I took the fore-deck, boat hook in hand to telegraph instructions. Same with my panoramic photography which I did from the mast-head, ergo the business name Crow’s Nest Photography. Today’s drones and easy stitch photo editors would have put me out of business in short order but at that time I got some stunning shots that any photographer with an eye would have wondered how in the hell I did that. It was more dangerous than you would imagine. The first time we took a moderate sized wake on the beam from a passing vessel with me aloft, the rolling was violent and I had to hang on for dear life. The whole thing was very – Monty Python-esque. Can you say . . . Trebuchet! I had a safety tag line but I almost lost my grip which could have been disastrous. From that point on, Nancy was keen to any approaching wave and steered accordingly.
So where was I going with all this? Ah, yes, emptying the head. Let me say emphatically that I don’t think there is any good reason to store waste for long periods of time in the head on your boat, especially, if you have no intention of composting it later. It is never going to compost significantly enough on board for you to be able to safely handle it. If you are going to discard it then get it off your boat sooner rather than later. Weekly is none to soon. Sure there are the optimistic claims that my competition can hold a “month’s” worth of waste for two people but that makes emptying it only that much more onerous and difficult and it significantly increases the likelihood of getting a fly infestation which gives all compact composting toilets a bad name. The C-Head is designed to be easy to empty (look ma, no rubber gloves!) Just raise the housing lid and lift out (with one hand) the urine jug and solid waste bucket. You will find that almost all of the solid waste contents will pour out leaving little or no additional cleaning necessary. A simple rinse or dunk overboard will usually suffice.
If traveling, dump the contents of the solid waste bucket into a plastic bag lined bucket for storage until you get home and can compost it using a wishing well compost tower. Or double bag the waste or seal off the plastic bucket with a locking lid (bucket with permanent locking lid at Home Depot = $5) and discard it in the trash. If you are sailing off-shore, dump the contents overboard. If you are using your toilet at home, pour the contents into a composting tower or bury it shallowly in a composting mound. If you are into permaculture, consider using the BoonJon Garden system of waste management (read here). When handling large unwieldy containers of poop found with other systems, gloves are required for the inevitable Jack-tars who jump ship. If the proper medium is used and some diatomaceous earth added and it is emptied every week, you are pretty much guaranteed to remain bug free and have a clean and easy, angst-free experience emptying the head. If you keep swinging baskets full of tropical fruit onboard or if you have found a cheap slip and are tied up next to the marina restaurant dumpster, then more aggressive measures to control flies may be needed. (read here).
So, with respect to how and who gets to empty the head, either volunteer or assign the task to one of the crew or better yet, everybody take turns. I did the deed on Lily Pad since it was my invention and I needed the research. It was actually kind of fun. Nancy cleaned up around the toilet which was not much of a task as we enforced the “no standing during the ride” rule. Use Alfapet Aspen Bedding from Walmart for your medium. Add a cup of diatomaceous earth and pick a day of the week to empty the head religiously. The day before trash pick up is ideal. You may have very trace amounts of waste left in the bucket which can usually be removed with a garden hose and poses no threat if you dunk the bucket in the surrounding water. It is and should be just that easy.
Please feel free to ask questions or make constructive comments below.
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