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Head Etiquette and Protocall

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Aug 28, 2007
Hunter 33.5 Northern Neck, VA
Sensitative Topic.
I am having problems with my 22 gallon holding tank. The only waste it gets is from the toilet, it uses sea water manual pump type flushing, and it fills up very fast. What is acceptable head etiquette and protocall for sewage tank liquids and solids control.:redface:


Jun 15, 2004
Islander/Wayfairer 30 sail number 25 Perryville,Md.
Peggy and others will correct me if I am wrong but you need only enough water to clear the solids from the bowl. After that dry pumping will transport the load to the tank. Adding a pint of water to the bowl before it is used for solids helps to prevent any sticking.
Jun 2, 2004
Hunter 37-cutter, '79 41 23' 30"N 82 33' 20"W--------Huron, OH
I also have a 22 gallon tank. And women are a problem. They use way too much TP. And no, I am not one of those who has the tp put in a separate wastebasket, yuk! Mainly it is having the discussion. On my boat we use fresh water from the sink if it is just urine, one cup before going and one to flush. True, this leaves the stuff in the hose. Then before lights out I flush the hose. This prevents filling the tank with 90% water. For the other we do use the valve to bring in the seawater but not too much. Fortunately my Raritan Cricket doesn't clog so the ladies are really not much of a problem.
Nov 9, 2008
Pearson-O'Day 290 Portland Maine
I have a porta-potti so most of the etiquette I can't help with but, as numb as I am, I have learned one bit of universal truth about heads. Never, and I mean NEVER, tack or gybe while your bride is in there. Learn that and all else should be fine.
Jan 24, 2008
Alerion Express 28 Oneida Lake, NY
I have a porta-potti so most of the etiquette I can't help with but, as numb as I am, I have learned one bit of universal truth about heads. Never, and I mean NEVER, tack or gybe while your bride is in there. Learn that and all else should be fine.
...and you learned that truism how?

Tim R.

May 27, 2004
Caliber 40 Long Range Cruiser Portland, Maine
I am not sure I agree with TP being the problem. One whole roll of TP does not displace much water. Maybe a quart. I think the problem is probably water. I have seen people pump the head for 2 minutes trying to get that one little section of the bowl that is still dirty. Instruct your users to use a cup of water from the vanity to spot rinse when needed. Also a good way to pre-wet the bowl without a lot of pumping.

Also consider that a 22 gallon tank really does not hold 22 gallons of waste. Subtract the amount that cannot be drained from the bottom and the fact that you probably pump out before it fills completely.

Our holding tank is about 80 gallons. We live on our boat and have access to a pump-out at our marina in the summer and will often use the head rather than walk up to the shore-side facilities. We(2 adults) have an electric toilet that uses a fairly consistent amount of water. We go about 2 weeks between pump-outs.

BTW, our head is a sit-down model only. No standing allowed. I usually tell folks this but I did not mention it to a fellow cruiser who managed to "hose" down the head compartment.:eek:


Jun 15, 2004
Islander/Wayfairer 30 sail number 25 Perryville,Md.
Gloves will make small stains much less of a problem.
Jan 10, 2009
PDQ 32 Deale, MD
Post instructions. Seriously. You can write things out that would be cumbersome and awkward to communicate verbally. The head on a boat does have different rules, that is the physics of the matter, and ther is no point in being too fussy about something that is simply natural... if foul.

Every new visitor is politely asked to note the instructions, perhaps with some implication that it will be PERSONAL embarrassment that they save. So far, this has worked very well.

What is normal? We can go about 10 days with 3 on-board, using shore facilities some portion of the time and sleeping on the hook some of the time. Daysailing contributes little.

Keeping a small toilet brush handy helps. Gloves should be available, as stated, as well as zip-lock bags for things that cannot be flushed. Disposable silverware also helps, when some stirring is needed. Yes, too much information, but this is real life. All of these things should be discretely available in the head for your guests and family.
May 16, 2007
Boatless ! 26 Ottawa, Ontario
I bought a small toilet brush at Home Depot that came with a 3" s/s tube for storage, looks like it was made for a boat. It sits behind the Raritan, held in place with the hoses. It is used to clean the bowl between users if required rather than a lot of flushing. We have a 13 gal. holding tank and usualy go 7 days with two adults living aboard.
Posting some directions for use is a good idea.
The best place to ask this question is the Head Mistress Forum, also I recommend Peggy book, lots of great info.
Jun 30, 2004
Hunter 340 St Andrews Bay
Perhaps weak pumpers contribute via trickle down affect. Most people are too timid with the pump handle. Don't you think rapid, fast pumping for a few seconds is more effective than slow wimpy pumping for minutes. Perhaps you need to install and electric pump? My fear is that guest would run the motor too long and waste water (as space) but if they can't pump hard you get the same result. Motto: pump like you're sinking!


Feb 14, 2005
Tayana 37 cutter; I20/M20 SCOWS Worton Creek, MD
Instructions for visitors on 'our' boat:
Pee .... just pump it dry, dont 'turn the valve' to the 'wet position'.
Poop .... first, put a few sheets of TP into the bowl as a 'target' and to keep the BOWL 'clean'' & only use 'just enough' flush water to 'slide-the-load' down-the-hole, then pump with valve in the 'dry' position.

I firmly with smile, instruct that those who dont follow those rules will not be allowed to use the head but will be required to use a 'bucket' or 'wag bag' ... and they have the responsibility of storing the 'wag bag' in THEIR sleeping space until the voyage is over ..... works for me.

Those instructions will eliminate 90% of 'excess flush water'.

Similar instructions for showering .... just enough to lather and rinse - PERIOD.
Dec 2, 1997
- - LIttle Rock
Mostly good advice...but not all

Fast vigorous pumping is NOT the most effective way to flush a manual toilet...in fact, it can cause it "choke" on flushes that slower more deliiberate pumping will push through. That's one of the drawbacks to adding an electric motor to manual toilets that are designed to accept one...the motor pumps the toilet faster and with shorter stroke, which causes it to take longer to prime--wearing out seals and o-rings much faster--and doesn't move the flush NEARLY as efficiently as pumpng manually.

When it comes to manual toilets, you DO get what you pay for...the cheapest is the least efficient.

Using a cup to add a pint or two of water to the bowl ahead of soilids is easier a more effective at keeping the bowl clean than lining it with toilet paper first. You don't have to manually clean the bowl after every solids "deposit" in household toilets...you shouldn't have to do that onboard either.

Use ONLY quick-dissolve TP...the Headmistress forum is full of TP discussions about which brands are and which aren't. 5-6 sheets is usually enough...that usually requires retraining women who seem to be genetically wired to use at least half a roll/flush. :D However, even if too much quick dissolve TP is flushed, causing a clog...DON'T PANIC! The stuff practically dissolves in your hand when it gets wet...the clog will dissolve on its own in about an hour. It's only when someone flushes something they shouldn't have that you actually have a problem.

You might want check out the link in my signature...it will help you learn how to use and maintain your system to prevent problems instead of having to solve 'em.
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