The Great Toilet Crisis: Crack!

I’m trying to figure out how my life has come to the point where I am blogging about a toilet. Worse, I’m really into it.


Sooooo….fair warning. In this post and the sequel, I will talk about poop. If that doesn’t float your boat, here are some pictures of fluffy kittens instead.


First, the marine toilet. In most boats you have a slightly smaller than normal bowl and seat and a manual pump that brings seawater in and the bowl contents out. The bowl contents may go to a holding tank, or the sea, or to a y-valve that lets you choose the tank or the sea. Some people upgrade to electric pumps and some people flush with fresh water rather than sea water.


Two totally grodi to the max things about marine toilets:

IMGP52441) Sea water + pee = a shellac that hardens in the pump and the pipes – deforming the rubber bits in the pump and gradually restricting flow in the pipes. Clearing this sludge requires frequent treatments with vinegar or muriatic acid (a pool chemical) and sometimes  hoses being taken out and beaten on the dock. Imagine that for a second – beating your poop hose on the dock. Lovely, huh?

2) The pumps are notoriously finicky and you periodically have to open the pump, clean out the shellac (gag) and replace the rubber seals that have become deformed. This is called “rebuilding the head”.


Our toilet was old. How old? We don’t know because it came to us already really old. It was so old that the plastic bits were all brittle and each time we rebuilt the toilet it was a balance between tightening things enough that they wouldn’t leak but not so tight that we would crack a plastic part. Our first week back at the dock, I rebuilt the head. Out of fear of overtightening, I left a few “just a drop at a time” leaks that Carol noticed and was kind enough to attend to. Carol, having already broken one head part, was very careful to tighten miniscule amounts at a time and watching for the leak to stop.


*CRACK* There goes another part on our ancient pump. Sea water starts gushing into the boat (sea water that has been in poop pipes I might add) and Carol quickly shuts the valve that goes to the ocean (this valve is called the seacock – don’t giggle, I’m serious, that is what they are called).


After some quick internet searching it becomes clear that finding this part is going to be nearly impossible and a replacement pump will cost about the same amount as the cheapest marine toilet.


I told Carol that rather than a crisis, we should see this as an opportunity. I hated our old head. I had a callous on my left palm from pumping the damn thing. I wanted something that pumped with some mechanical advantage not a silly tiny metal handle you had to pull up and down.


So, we went big. After checking our local used boat parts store and coming up empty handed, we bought a really nice toilet called a Lavac. The Lavac uses a pump that is built to be a manual emergency bail out pump if your boat starts sinking. You still have to attend to your hoses but the seals on the Lavac (reportedly) go about 3 years between replacing rather than the 6 months we were used to (and we should have done at 4 months). More on the installation and how it is working in the next installment of The Great Toilet Crisis Opportunity.



Rest in peace Wilcox-Crittenden 1460:



  1. Blogging about a head. Yes, yes indeed - you are now a true liveaboard!


  2. I shall never complain about condo work again!

  3. I chuckled at this blog! We just finished (well actually Darren did, lovely man that he is) re-installing all new hoses and a new head. Certainly not a fun job, but the last time was 4 yrs ago and since we live aboard we figure that was pretty good mileage out of the old one :) We still went manual, nothing fancy as we subscribe to the less fancy less to break down mentality!

    Good luck on your new install....enjoy & welcome to having a worry free head....even if it is just for a little while :)

  4. @Mike - I thought so :)
    @Bob - Indeed.
    @Jessica - Complain away. Condo maintenance still is part of the suck.
    @Cindy - Thanks and agreed. That's what I love about the Lavac. The manual version uses a BILGE pump. Seriously burly and seriously simple.

  5. I can tell you're all pumped up about this subject. Why, you sound positively flush with excitement!

  6. It was a crappy job that turned out to be a bit of a headache but sometimes you just have to go with the flow ;)

    Mike = cool.



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