The crapper. Officially, known as the head but in this case crapper is more fitting. Stinky, loud, gnarly, STINKY crapper. When I say stinky I’m not talking music festival stinky. Think fully-loaded-Texas-outhouse-in-summer stinky. You may ask, how about using air fresheners? Silly goose. We tried that and then it just smelled like the air fresheners peed everywhere. Also, the bowl was household size which means you had to shuffle sideways to get to the sink versus just walking in.
The original crapper, which we’ll name OC, was electric. That means to flush OC you opened the water inlet then pressed the on/off button. When your deposit was whooshed through you would flip off the switch then turn the water inlet to the closed position. While that sounds all modern and fancy it was not. OC’s motor was so loud it could raise the dead. Flushing OC caused a cloud of noxious stinkiness to waft about for a good 15 minutes. Awesome as Serenity is I was not going to be living in a floating Texas outhouse. No thank you. This thing Has Got To GO.
Our friend Laura, her beautiful Benetau boat “Cybele” has a manual head made by Jabsco. The first time I used Cybele’s head I was smitten. Even though it’s a manual it’s super easy to use. Flip the switch to the bowl fill position, give a few upward pulls on the handle to draw water in, do your thing, flip the same switch to the flush position, give the handle a few strokes and your deposit is quietly and cleanly disappeared. When we returned to Serenity I proclaimed, hands on hips, that we were getting a Jabsco manual head. Tim looks at me like the looney toons I am and says gopher it.
On a lark I check out Amazon to see if they have it. Say what?! There it is!! The Jabsco 29090-3000 Marine Manual Twist and Lock Toilet. I could not get out the credit card fast enough. Also, since my super sweet sister shares her Prime membership with me 2 day shipping was Free! Almost instant gratification. Okay, right now I’m going to omit the part where I messed up the shipping address and got all wrapped around the axle about it. Tim found it beyond hilarious but I’m still peeved about the whole thing. Besides, Amazon and UPS fixed my error so it’s all good.
The head finally arrives – YAY!!!! We eagerly open the box and gaze lovingly at the pristine, no smelly whiteness. By this time Tim has purchased some stuff called Starboard to construct the new base for the head to sit on, which in turn sits on a platform. The platform is necessary since that’s how the hoses are routed to and fro. I guess the best way to describe Starboard: it’s plastic plywood. You can saw it, sand it(sorta), drill it, route it, etc… One odd thing about this stuff is it will melt if your saw or drill or whatever power tool gets too hot. That didn’t happen to Tim, but our dock neighbor Mathias told us he’s experienced meltage. Eeeps. I’m sure many, many penguins died in the making of this product and for that I am sad, but for use on a boat it is unparalleled. Sorry penguins, you know I love you.
The day comes for the removal of OC. Rejoice! Tim and I gird our loins for a stink-fest when we pull off hoses and remove OC. I thought we’d be gagging the whole time but nothing of the sort happened. Hooray! Tim hustles OC off the boat and onto the dock. IMMEDIATELY the boat stops smelling like an outhouse. It’s an olfactory miracle.
I desperately wanted us to do this right the first time so we palaver at length about measurements, position of the new head, is there enough angle for the lid, do we keep the salt water on/off lever(yes, as a safety precaution), hose routing, affixing the head to the Starboard, the sit test, all that good stuff. Tim goes off to cut the Starboard. I get down to business prying/scraping off the old and busted cladding of the platform, sanding the plywood base, and general preparation of the platform. Oh yeah, and in the middle of all this fun we replaced the foot pump for the fresh water for the sink. Bam!
Time to check out the fit of the Starboard piece for the platform. It fits perfectly. High Five! Tim drills holes for the bolts, then we caulk the base of the head to the Starboard. Gotta let that dry a scoatch before bolting the head down tight to the Starboard. While that’s curing Tim putters about. I eyeball the outlet hose going to the Y valve. Not a pretty sight. Over the years it appears the accidentally flushed t.p. has gone from a paper based product to something entirely different. It’s now more like a t.p. fossil. A hose that should be around an inch internal diameter as been Jurassic Park’d down to about a 1/2″, raggedy-ass opening.
No wonder the poor pump for OC was working so hard. Yeesh. At least it didn’t stink. Small favors. I bust out the long nitrile gloves and an assortment of scraping/chipping/scouring/defossilizing tools and get to work. About 45 minutes later and the T-Rex t.p. has been conquered and I’ve managed to wrestle my anal retentive self into submission. It’s good enough; the hose doesn’t have to be perfect. Time for head and hose installation.
Tim and I maneuver the head, now securely bolted to the Starboard, into the head, and place it on to the platform. Hee HEE! It’s so beautiful! Look at that fit. After a few more admiring seconds we crouch down to
install attack the hoses. Son of a biscuit, the hoses are TIGHT. We bust out the heat gun. YIKES! Too much heat! The main hose that attaches to the outlet pipe, it goes all Wicked Witch of the East – I’m MELTING! Tim and I look at each other. Is it salvageable? Yep, looks like it re-formed itself once it cooled down. Whew. Gentle now with the heat… Back and forth and QUICK! SHOVE it onto the outlet pipe. Lots of grunting from Tim, and wiggling, and grunting and shoving and it’s finally ON. Clamp. Final check. Done. Now for the smaller hoses. They are just as feisty as the large hose. Blerg! Tim has a lightbulb moment and sends me to fetch the liquid dish soap. He slathers some on the pertinent hose parts and after some additional coaxing via the heat gun those hoses finally get attached, clamped, and done.
The moment of truth. We turn the salt water seacock to ON. No hoses pop off. Miraculously no leaks. A test sit. Solid. A test fill. A test flush. SUCCESS!! The new head is fully operational and it looks FANTASTIC! Tim puts in a few screws to secure the platform to the base and we close the books on this project.
I cannot express how happy I am to ditch OC and have a brand new head. Choirs sing. The angels weep. Here it is, in all its no smelling glory:
In conclusion, the project I thought would be one of the more treacherous, smelly, curse inducing, blood spilling ones turned out to be not so bad after all.
Loved your article. Replacing the head is about as yucky as it gets! Funny what makes one so gleeful when living on a boat.