Poop! What do you do if you can’t do what you need to do?

As I’m sure you all realize by now that a cruising sailboat is really miniature house or apartment.  There is a an entry, a living room, a kitchen, places to sleep like your bedroom (only ours rock us like we’re in a cradle…but that’s a different story).

And there is a place to poop.


This is the Raritan PH II head, the king of manual heads, in the bow of Endless Song.

When you use it you might wonder, “So where is this all going?”  Well, it goes into the holding tank.  Most boats have it under a seat or under a bed.  On Endless Song it’s hiding in the bow, right behind that charming wooden cabinet door that’s right behind you when you’re sitting on the loo.


That’s it hiding up high in the bow on the Port, or left, side of the boat. It’s 40 gallons and made of fiberglass. The boat builder put it in early in the process, then built the rest of the boat around it.

When all is well, this is a pretty simple system.  You pump the handle, and that sends the “effluent” up a short hose to the top of the tank. When it fills, and you are in a marina, you go to the pump out (or you might be lucky to have folks we know at “Pump Me Out” who come to your boat every week in the motor boat named RELIEF and pump out that stuff through your deck fill.


But offshore…and out in the wilds of Alaska…where pump outs are hard to find you have to go way out in a big body of water and pump overboard. No one likes doing it…but when you’re in the Pacific or way out in the middle of some gigantic 40 mile wide straight…you get over it.

Most boats have long hoses, pumps, and macerators, and y-valves and lots of steps they have to take to pump overboard.  On Endless Song it’s different. Our holding tank up high in the bow has a hose coming out of the bottom and it goes directly down to a through hull valve. Open that valve, and gravity vents the tank.


It’s genius.

Until something goes wrong

So here’s where Karin and I violated a rule that we know…really well.  Don’t try new products or equipment right before you leave on a long trip.  If everything’s working….don’t experiment.

Everything on Endless Song’s head/holding tank system was working great.  Then Dan just happen to come across a holding tank chemical that a customer had raved about as being the best thing ever made to keep your system running well.  It’s called NoFlex Digestor.   As the directions say,”NoFlex Digestor reacts with anaerobic sludge to neutralize sulfide odors, liquifying solids and facilitating easy pump outs. This cleaning action also greatly reduces odor permeation through plastic hoses and tanks by removing deposits built up on inside walls.

All right!

Well, the challenge is that Endless Song is 35 years old….and with no inspection port on this holding tank…that means it’s never been properly cleaned out.  So when you put a product in there that’s going to “remove deposits built up on walls” you’re suddenly going to have a lot of “stuff” fall to the bottom of the tank…..and you might just plug things up.

I’m just saying you might…and we did. Oh poop!

So we’re sitting on the hook at Gibsons…North of Vancouver…and now we can’t get the head to work.  What’s worse, the “Anaerobic” action from the NoFlex is creating pressure inside the tank…and some small liquid started leaking inside the boat near that tank.  icky boat smell…Ugh!

But we have a fresh water shower and we able to clean up all that.  So there’s a win.

Ok, we can clean up inside. But what about the stuck tank?  What if it’s leaking? We can’t go to Alaska if we don’t have working sanitation system. If we had to pull the tank out where would we do that….and how would we find/build a replacement?

Wait a minute.  Didn’t we say that the system design on this boat is very simple? It’s just a straight hose from that through hull at the water line up to the bottom of the tank. Maybe we can clear this thing from the outside!

So with 4 massive Zip Ties I happened to have for a different project….we created a 4 foot long roto-rooter tool, sailed a way off shore, and started to play marine plumber.



Finally, I worked that thing up into the tank….and after a little rooting around…it all let go.


So we now have a working head system again….the smells have been banished from the inside of the boat…as they should be.  And we’ve been reminded again that it is not a good idea to start experimenting with new chemicals, new systems, new boat parts….right before you leave on a big journey.

Also, we realized that we had brought on board some different toilet paper.  So being paranoid, we decided to test our paper.  We had three different kinds hence the experiments.  The winner AngelSoft.


But we’re in Canada now and we’re not seeing AngleSoft.  What to buy instead?  What we found was Royal Original, 2-ply, designed according to the package to
“Dissolve 5x quicker” than anything else…in French even. It did.  This stuff dissolved even faster than the AngelSoft.  Hopefully, it won’t mess up anything else.


Gee, I sure hope nothing goes wrong with that new raw water pump we put on the engine just before we left Anacortes.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close