View Full Version : Let's talk s**t...(Heads and Holding Tanks)
My 36ft Hinckley currently has a portapody in place of a true head and holding tank. While this setup does have some advantages I want to put in a real head instead of carrying the "stuff" home to deal with. Plus, my girlfriend will be more inclined to go sailing with me...
So the through-hulls are already in the boat for water intake. That shouldn't be a problem. There is also a good place to mount the new toilet. Also there is a through-deck waste fitting. Basically I don't need to do any cutting or drilling to the boat.
I have found a decent place to mount the holding tank, and I think that I can fit around a 20 gallon tank in the boat under the port bunk.
Does anyone recommend a specific type of holding tank and or vent on the holding tank? Defender has a sale on Wilcox-Crittenden heads that look ok for the job.
So do I need a fancy vent on the tank? Are there any other things to think about as I hook up the system? I hoping to install all of this stuff before the weekend, but that may not be possible...
07-07-2003, 11:06 AM
Check out these people,
5319 Littlebrooke Ct.
Atlanta, GA 30338
and then search Peggy Hall. I think she is on some of the other boating forums.
edited to add: and download the catalog from that link. It has a lot of useful information in it.
[ 07-07-2003, 11:11 AM: Message edited by: Gresham CA ]
07-07-2003, 08:54 PM
Peggy Hall is at www.boatered.com. (http://www.boatered.com.)
See the "boatkeeping section and feel free to ask her questions. She knows it all.....
Also, Ronco plastics has over 400 different tanks to chose from. You can download a pdf catalog for them at:
[ 07-07-2003, 08:56 PM: Message edited by: Bill Berger ]
07-07-2003, 11:30 PM
Ahh Peggy, the queen of poo.
07-07-2003, 11:33 PM
and you might want to take a look at the Lectra-San stuff rather than a holding tank...
07-08-2003, 01:25 AM
Queen of Poo?
She prefers "Head Mistress"
07-08-2003, 08:00 PM
Bucket and chuck it!
Peter Malcolm Jardine
07-08-2003, 09:06 PM
The plastic tanks are okay, but they tend to absorb and transmit odor after a while in my experience. I am in the process of replacing my older plastic/glass or whatever tank with a stainless one. end of story, since I am in fresh water
07-09-2003, 05:11 AM
Was wondering if anyone has used a flexible tank. Seems like it would be much easier to find an area for it in your boat and can be used in a space that otherwise might be useless. In my neck of the woods high quality flexible tanks are much cheaper than ridged tanks. I considered a flexible tank for fuel but put in a plastic 20 gallon tank from a VW so that I could use the fuel gauge.
Florianopolis SC Brasil
07-09-2003, 06:03 AM
I was in an anchorage with a guy who had a charter boat with a flexible tank.He was new to the boat and didn't know when the tank was full.Tank exploded into the bilge..... :eek:
07-09-2003, 12:42 PM
My strongest possible reccomendation:
Lavac. There is no substitute.
Pricey, no doubt, but in my world there's no headache more worthy of prevention. Defender sells them.
I did a few weekends' worth of dockside surveying before ordering mine. I asked 25 or 30 people the same question: "have you ever had problems with your head setup?" Everyone who replied "no" had a lavac head. Decision made easy.
Along the same line of headache-prevention thought, I'd avoid the use of the flexible tank if possible.
07-09-2003, 05:59 PM
Originally posted by Noah:
Are there any other things to think about as I hook up the system?The big thing you need to think about is whether you want to carry 20 gallons of smelly crap in your boat, or whether you would rather dump it over the side before it gets to your holding tank. It all depends on your place in the environmentalist's spectrum, I guess.
On the one hand, you probably want to follow the law; and you boat in a closed fresh water lake, so you don't want to pollute it.
On the other hand, a 20 gallon tank fills up mighty fast and may not even last for a weekend cruise. That means you need to be near a pumpout station at all times. What are you going to do when you're anchored out in a two day storm, and you can't make it to the dock?
I suppose the equation is a little different for those of us who cruise in open salt water. You get a few miles off shore and it's legal to dump. If your conscience isn't too, too strong, you can justify pumping two miles off, since the three mile limit is kinda arbitrary anyway, and what's a few gallons of treated human poop gonna do anyway?
Salt or fresh, you will probably find it impossible to install a setup that will be properly vented and have enough capacity. Old wooden sailboats were not designed for it. That means you'll have an odor problem unless you treat the waste with chemicals. There are two kinds of chemicals: the "green" ones and the ones that work. The green ones are expensive and claim to be environmentally safe. No matter how much of the green ones you add to your holding tank, it will still smell.
The ones that work contain formaldehyde. The formaldehyde is worse for the environment than your poop. But the formaldehyde is legal.
No matter what you decide, you should know that it's extremely rude to dump in a closed harbor (at least during daylight hours).
07-09-2003, 08:45 PM
Well, now that Scott has let the cat out of the bag, I'll chime in. Like I said, "Bucket and chuck it!" I won't wax eloquent about the idiocy of holding tanks. Scott touched on the subject sufficiently that all but the die-hard eco-nazi's ought to be convinced. Granted, if you are doing your boating on Lake Pristine Resevoir, the source of your drinking water, pumping overboard may not be the best option, but then, I don't know of a body of potable fresh water that's regularly used by boaters that's so big you can't run into shore if you have to use the potty... right? I mean, how often do you take a dump anyway? Some people can go all day without one after their morning constitutional. Like Scott says, if you are overnighting, dump in the dark!
What I will add, however, is that putting a fixed head and holding tank in your boat to keep the ladies happy is a really BAD reason to do that. You have to think it out. If she is UNCOMFORTABLE using a even a portapottie, let alone a bucket, she's a sissy... which is okay if she's a lubberly girl, which most are. Women worth having aboard tend more toward the rustic and are rarely encountered. Now, that said, let's figure you spend all that time and money to put the head in to accommodate the Princess. NOW, you have to endure the uncomfortable task of impressing upon her that NOTHING SHE HASN'T EATEN FIRST GOES IN THE HEAD. She will nod and tell you that she understands, but, I guarantee you, she will be BS'ing you. If she's too sensitive to crap in a bucket, she isn't going to follow your instructions because she will find all the other stuff women flush down the toilet way to embarassing to dispose of any other way. Girls are taught this by their mothers at a very young age: "Anything embarassing... flush it down the toilet." There is no correlary, "Except on a boat." Now, I'm not going to catalog what all this might be, since there is no limit to what they will put down the crapper. If she's a closet smoker, you can expect cigarette butts for sure, if she wears makeup, you can expect cotton balls and facial tissues, if she flosses regularly, the floss will get flushed... it goes downhill from there, if you get my drift. Whatever it might be, whether it has wings or not, it WILL stop up your head. I'm not kidding. I once took a guy's head apart and pulled out a pair of lepoard-skin print nylon panties... Fortunately, his wife, who would never have fit in them, was not aboard at the time.
On the other hand, if you don't put in the head, it serves as a litmus test. If they don't mind, they are worth having around. If they do mind, well, as Popeye the Sailor sez, "Wimmens iz trouble!" LOL
Love it ! What a man !
It reminds we of the time many years ago when I pumped out a septic tank of a newly purchased house prior to main sewerage connection. The pump blocked and I don't think I want to describe what was causing the problem except to say that pumping someone elses s**t aint much fun.
Bucket and chuck it ... or a Lavec.
07-10-2003, 05:32 AM
I p'd in the river today, I have to admit - which is worth a $180 fine I believe. I was moored 50 metres from houses with dogs. Guess what they do every day that ends up washing in to the river every time it rains.
I'm about to install holding tanks - thinking of using the same style of 316L stainless auto gas tanks that I'm using for the fuel system. Futile process here though - there are no pumpout facilities anywhere on the river!
You guys are starting to make sense, but on this one I really kinda want a holding tank.
Take this weekend for example. Me and 8 other guys are going sailing on my boat for the weekend. This is my best friends batchelor party BTW. I have arranged to stay on moorings all weekend so we don't have to worry about dragging our anchor at night.
After what I"m guessing is a fair amount of beer being drunk, I really don't want to empty the portopodie after 8 dudes do their business.
My girlfriend certainly isn't rustic, but after 5 years she knows me well enought to know that if I give instructions about how to use the head on the boat, I'm gonna be pissed if they aren't followed.
As for going straight to the lake, I gotta say I'm against it. This lake is big, but not huge.(6th largest lake in the country) If you have an onboard head connected to a through hull you will get a fine. It must be disconnected at all times.
Dropping my business into the ocean is a whole different ball game.
How much water does these heads use each flush. 20 gallons of turds is quite a lotta s**t...
BTW, I pee off the side.
07-10-2003, 08:59 AM
That all depends on how many times you pump the handle. smile.gif
07-10-2003, 09:12 AM
If you absolutely insist on having a tank, then you should make sure that that tank's discharge line has a split which allows you either to empty through the deck or pump out the tank through the hull, underwater of course. As far as I know, it's legal to have a line from the tank over the side.
Nine guys on the boat for the weekend! Nine craps a day, two gallons a flush and you're full. If you don't have a way to empty the tank at least once a day, you're gonna have a mighty unpleasant trip.
[ 07-10-2003, 09:13 AM: Message edited by: Scott Rosen ]
07-10-2003, 05:33 PM
As much as I hate to do it, I am going to install a tank. There are places along the coast that will check to make sure you have one before you can use the moorings. I am going to install a contained flexible bladder.
Yah yah ..... However, I once backed my race car into a wall at over 100 miles per hour. The bladder didn't break and the many many sprints I saw go end over end and the bladder didn't break. I once had nitros oxide hidden in the roll cage. Bet I can hide a couple of hoses.
I plan to put in a system that looks real. However, it will vent to sea and a overflow hose will dump to sea, when I decide to dump it. Bet I can sqeeze the crap out of a bladder!
The thing about gals putting those things with wings in the toilet is no problem. The gals I hang out with are too darn old to worry about such things. In addition to that, I have never been anywhere in south america where people threw toilet paper, or anything else, into the toilet. It's called training the kids!
Florianopolis SC Brasil
07-10-2003, 09:39 PM
Check the regulations.
If you install a toilet facilities, they must be equipped with a certified marine sanitation device (aka holding tank).
If you're within the 3 mile limit (actually, any waters where the discharge of sewage is prohibited (http://squid.law.cornell.edu:80/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=33&PART=159&SECTION=7&TYPE=TEXT) by the EPA), the seacock must be closed and sealed so as to prevent discharge. It must be sealed in one of these ways:</font> Closing the seacock and removing the handle;</font> Padlocking the seacock in the closed position;</font> Using a non-releasable wire-tie to hold the seacock in the closed position;</font> Locking the door to the space enclosing the toilets with a padlock or door handle key lock.</font>Failure to comply is illegal and getting caught in the act, getting boarded and inspected, or having someone turn you in, can result in extremely high fines—try up to $10,000 per occurence or up to $25,000 per day. (http://squid.law.cornell.edu:80/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=33&PART=159&SECTION=321&TYPE=TEXT)
And if someone turns you in, they're eligible for a reward of up to half the fine levied.
I'm not sure I'd risk the scofflaw thang.
07-10-2003, 10:47 PM
Peggy Hall has hundreds of posts at rec.boats
groups. This link shows these listings:
Best of Luck
07-11-2003, 03:26 PM
Let me make the case for "civil disobedience" when it comes to anal retention systems. We've got a bus sized Class A motorhome (the ultimate white trash accouterment... the wife uses it to take her dogs to dog shows.) It's got all the same systems boats do, including a 45 gallon "black water" tank (the head) and a 60 gallon "grey water" tank, (everything else). All the systems are set up for "shore hookup" or totally self-contained ("dry camping"). When we got the thing, we had to pick it up and drive it from Las Vegas to the SF Bay Area. When we got home, I stop at the local gas station, which had a dump station, to empty the waste tanks. Now, I don't know how long it's been, but they are reading 3/4 full (they have gauges). I hook up two lengths of 4" discharge hose to reach the dump hole and hook it up. The valve is a "push-pull" gate, it just opens wide all of a sudden. Now the catch was that there was a bit of a wiggle and a kink in the corregated hose and where the two hoses were stuck together, just a slide together fit... well, heh, heh, heh.... the damn hoses blew apart in the middle and I've got 4" worth of **** with maybe a 3 foot head on it hosing all over the gas station parking lot!
I did get the valve shut quick, so it only amounted to maybe ten or fifteen gallons, but... Oh, God... the stench woulda gagged a maggot. Hosed it down quick before anybody really noticed and got outta Dodge in a flash. Been careful about that since.
I've been musing about whether there might be a way to hook up a remotely controlled valve on the waste tanks so when I'm rolling down the Interstate at night in the middle of nowhere, I could just let 'er rip, but haven't had the time to install that system just yet. LOL
As everybody knows, there really aren't sufficient pump out stations anywhere. I don't know anybody who's ever been actually fined for an "illegal" head. I really don't think that the federales want to be bothered chasing turds. I don't see how MY crap can get me fined big bucks so long as seals and fish and whales and seagulls are happy enough using the sea for the same reason. Not to mention things like the carriers (the government is always exempt from their own rules) with 6000 aboard, dumping a small town's worth of sewage overboard. Seems to me that taking the handle off the sea cock and stowing it in the head compartment ought to satisfy 'em.
If anybody asks about my "traditional" head, which is "packed up" most of the time, I tell them it doesn't work, which is generally true. It's easy enough to stick a plastic bag from the supermarket in the bowl and then tie it off and "bring it home" (i.e. chuck it discretely) when you're done, no?
Sorry, I value clean water and the environment as much as anybody, but you do the math... how many parts per million can boaters really contribute to any given ecosystem. Maybe Chemist can tell us how many sailors would have to pump their heads at the same time on SF Bay to actually produce a measurable effect on the water quality.
Alan D. Hyde
07-11-2003, 04:29 PM
I was told a few years ago by a Coast Guard guy that "bucket and chuck-it" was legal even where a direct-discharge head was unlawful.
Has this changed?
07-11-2003, 04:45 PM
I'm pretty sure the federal regulations pertain only to MSD's--the actual devises themselves--not to whether a human can urinate or defecate in the ocean. I would guess that if someone uses the bucket and chuck-it method, the CG wouldn't have any reason to stop them. However, it may violate some local ordinance and get you a ticket from a local cop, similar to peeing on the sidewalk. But I'm just guessing.
Alan D. Hyde
07-11-2003, 05:10 PM
I certainly wouldn't advocate "chucking it" in harbors or small lakes or confined waters, but I can't see any harm in doing so offshore.
Not, in those instances, akin to "voiding where prohibited," eh, Scott? :D
There's something to be said for keeping things as simple as possible, and for minimizing thru-hulls, isn't there?
i remember reading somthing on heads and holding tanks. that if you have a holding tank it should be a few gallons bigger then your freshwater tank
and that you should use your fresh water to flush.
that way when your out of fresh water you know you have to empty your holding tank. makes sence i guess
07-11-2003, 10:02 PM
Couple of points. The system I have has the head discharge into the holding tank, no y valves, etc. But where the pump-out hose comes down at the oppossite end of the tank there is a "T". One leg goes to the pump-out, the other goes to a grinder pump, then overboard. My understanding is that since the head can only discharge into the tank, the options (pump-out or purge) at the other end are OK, and not covered by the locked seacock rule. I could be wrong, but the CG has looked at it and no hassels. Also, when you do pump overboard, no chunks, so it quickly dissapates.
Also, it is perfectly legal to take a dump into Puget Sound, or pee, as long as it goes directly into the water- no head, no bucket. Explain that, will ya! :D
07-21-2003, 07:58 PM
One of our local Waterways officers stopped by Grantala on Sunday to voice his approval of the restoration works. The discussion got around to holding tanks.
He said the houseboat hire operators on the Hawkesbury River have been putting in 700 - 800 litre tanks, with one installing Lectra/sans and 270 litre tanks - the idea being that the treated stuff in the tank will not stink.
The Waterways guy said that things were going to get really tight here too. Even Lectra/san discharge becomes illegal here at the end of 2005.
I guess I've got to rethink how big a tank will have to go in.
A digression: Years ago I can remember traveling by train from New York to Illinois. When you used the toilet and flushed, you looked down thru the bowl at the ties whizzing by. The conductor would lock the toilet while in the station.
At one time public health officials were puzzeled by random outbreaks of typhoid in Switzerland and Austria. Turned out that they were under the air route from India.
Things have changed.
07-22-2003, 04:15 AM
What gets me though is the massive concentration on minor elements whilst ignoring other key elements of the problem.
Sydney has a million or so dogs that invariably crap on open land every day - which drains into the creeks and rivers. There's probably only 5,000 people on boats (weekends) in the same area who would take a dump and a fraction of this during the week. The big issue gets ignored.
I spoke to an EPA guy a few years back and he told me that the cattle in the Namoi River basin (one of our inland rivers) produce the human-equivalent sewage load of 7 million people!
Maybe the Gov't should provide a registration / mooring fee rebate to all owners who retrofit holding tanks and actually use pumpout stations in order to encourage compliance?
07-23-2003, 04:57 PM
This will not answer the questions postet; I'm assuming holding tanks need to be vented - how is this done?
07-27-2003, 05:02 PM
best darn "head" that I ever saw wuz on a 31 foot Brown Searunner Trimaran. The boat has a center cockpit and the seating is actually out from the main hull and into the "wing". The feller just lifted the cushion and cut the appropriate shaped and size hole in the bottom of the wing, then a plywood cover hinged at the back. Then the cockpit cushions covered the "hole" thing. Ya gotta go just lift the cushion and lid, have a seat and do your thing, drop the cushion and cover back. No Muss, No fuss, No pumps, no water and no holding tank....and no illegalities. ;) :D ;) :D
07-27-2003, 11:56 PM
I will suggest everyone read two items.
1)Get a West Marine catalog and read the West Advisor info about holding tanks etc.
2)Read the Head Mistress's essay called "Marine Sanitation - Fact and Folklore" at
So long as you dont try to circumvent the rules or the quidelines, but work within them, there should be very little to mull over.
I like the idea of the plastic fuel tank and sending unit. I have a VW Jetta diesel and I know what the fella is talking about. I'll be in the wrecking yard next week to investigate that one further. sounds promising.
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