Our new weekly blogger, Jonty Pearce, shares his tales from the boating world. In his first column he awknowledges a neccessary evil: heads maintenance
Six years of regular use had taken its toll on our toilet, which now leaked. Not only did this give us unpleasantly wet toes, but it meant that the siphon break emptied every time the toilet was not in use, necessitating manic pumping to get the water to flush again. As is my habit I had already purchased a spare on eBay just in case of such an eventuality. Unfortunately it was only when I had removed the old toilet and replaced it with the ‘newer’ one that I discovered an identical crack in exactly the same place. Concluding that there was a design fault in this toilet model, a different make was purchased. This had the advantage of offering an opportunity to correct the pipework legacy from Aurial’s original Lavac toilet – removed soon after purchase when reliable flushing had eluded us. I had then left the siphon break in place between the inlet seacock and the pump rather than moving it to lie between the pump and the flushing bowl as recommended for the replacement. Carol and I had both tired of the energetic pump priming required after a few weeks away, so a redesign of the plumbing was deemed an excellent idea.
I must admit I rather dreaded the job as on my Southerly it involves kneeling in front of the toilet to work through a small oval hatch in order to access the bolts securing the toilet to the plinth and reach the seacocks. The seacock pipework disappeared through the bulkhead, traversing a narrow inaccessible gap beside the fuel tank, before vanishing behind the holding tank. Any change of the siphon loop would therefore require emptying the lazarette, removing the holding tank, and squeezing my large bulk into a space insufficient to contain it. I got ready with new sanitation hose and a hot air gun and decided that, rather than struggling to change the pipe on the inlet seacock, I would pull the siphon loop down through the bulkhead and into the heads in order to convert it into a shortened inlet pipe direct to the pump. My brand new pipe could then be fed through the bulkhead and up into the lazarette to form the siphon break.
This is all very well, but kneeling in front of the toilet as if praying before squeezing into the lazarette when you’re built like a brick outhouse is not the most comfortable of experiences. I’m afraid some rude words did escape my lips especially when I wobbled whist lifting the holding tank out of the lazarette, thereby suffering a smelly brown shower that cascaded over my arms, soaked and stung my skinned knuckles, and rendered my trousers unwearable. After a hot shower and a change of clothes, I returned to my cramped posture in the locker where, with the help of the hot air gun, a resultant burn on my palm, and more skinned knuckles, I bent the stiff sanitation hose to my will and finally connected all the pipes correctly before reinstalling the dreaded holding tank. The job ended successfully, and I was finally able to enjoy flushing a fully functioning leak free toilet installed as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Once I had tidied everything away and made all shipshape, it was time to reward myself with a refreshing drink with friends Norrie and Hutch during a visit to Coelocanth’s deckhouse, courtesy of Jeremy and Janet. Those present did comment on the odour that insisted on pursuing me but after a few too many schnapps cocktails nobody seemed to be bothered any more, though we were all a trifle slow the next day.
Such is sailing life. Gladly, the rewards of beautiful sunny gentle sailing days do offset the necessary evils of boat maintenance. I trust that my toilet will now last another decade before I have to delve behind that hateful holding tank again.