Filed Under (Boat/Trailer Maintenance) by Debbie on 31-05-2007

Our Newport 30 sailboat was very much used when she came to us and there have been many systems we’ve had to fix up.  At the end of last summer we took her on the longest trip so far.  We went to Beacon Rock.  Which was a great destination which you can read about it here.

We had hoped for a north wind so we could sail up the river but Murphy’s Law prevailed; the wind blew from the east and beat on our nose.  As a matter of fact it beat very strongly!  We thought about trying to sail but the river’s pretty narrow and it would have been tack…tack…tack and beat…beat…beat.  After much thought plus the admission of our newbie-dom to sailing, we broke out the iron genny (this means we motored).

The Columbia River Gorge was beyond exciting!  Windsurfers and kite skiers flew and danced around us with their brightly colored equipment and the howling wind blew the froth off the tops of the whitecaps.  We beat over the three to four foot chop and discovered how important a dodger can be.  Dodger…appropriate name as it allows you to dodge out of the way of the water spraying up and over your bow.

We beat up river for six hours!  A trip we could have done by car in about 30 minutes.

Our four days at Beacon Rock was wonderful.  We enjoyed every minute.  The wind continued from the east the entire time we were there.  Until the morning of departure, when it swung around and came from the west…on our nose again!  Over the chop we beat up and down back and forth.

As we neared Portland we turned our thoughts to the potty holding tank.  Surely we should stop and pump out as we’d used the potty after dark so we weren’t walking up to the Beacon Rock potty by flashlight.  Yep, we’ll just stop for a quick pump-out.  Gritting our teeth we prepared to tie up to the closest pump out facility and its surly owner.

After tying up to the dock we removed the holding tank cap and frowned.  White toilet paper sat in the opening, how odd!  Having had RV’s for years too, we have always used RV/Marine toilet paper.  You know, the fast dissolving kind?  Shrugging shoulders we drug the pump-out hose to the boat and inserted the nozzle…turned it on …hum….nothing happened.

We looked again at the paper and then my hubby turned into the ‘dock ape idiot’.  He began to yell quite loudly at our daughter and I, that tampons were in the holding tank.  I assured him this was not the case.  We tried to pump out again.  I poked at the piece of paper trying to dislodge it but couldn’t get it to budge.  The ‘dock ape idiot’ is still yelling as we pull away from the pump out facility.

It’s a short distance to our club and in a few minutes we’re back in our slip.  D.A.I. is still yelling.  I poke and prod the paper with a screwdriver a few times, thinking I just need to get below this plug of paper.  We know we didn’t use the potty enough to fill the holding tank so it must be a piece that ‘flew’ up during the beat up or back.

My hubby then says… “You go below and pump water into the tank, I’ll tell you when to stop.”

So there I am below in the head pumping water into the tank.

“Is that enough?”  I ask through the port after a few pumps.

“No, keep pumping till I tell you to quit.”

“Ok…”  I’m pumping and pumping and slowly the handle starts to become resistant to the downward motion (which is when the water moves into the tank).

“No!  Don’t stop until I tell you to.”

A couple more pumps and I become aware of a creaking sound.  Pump, creak, pump, creak…  Now I’m really starting to feel uncomfortable.  I have visions of the holding tank exploding inside the head and I know I’ll be the one to have to clean up.

“Keep pumping.”

I frown, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep pumping.”

“Keep pumping!”

Obviously dock ape idiot/deaf man can’t hear me.  I leave the head and come up into the cockpit.  I leaned around the dodger and just then I saw my hubby shove the screwdriver down the holding tank clean out, clear up to its handle.  In less than the blink of an eye, the blocked up holding tank now super charged by all that extra water pressure, erupted!  This stuff shot up easily ten feet into the air, made a perfect arc and descended squarely to my hubby’s head.

This was a sight I will never forget!

I raced forward, grabbed the hose and totally rinsed him off.  He didn’t say a word.  We put the cap back on the holding tank, rinsed out the air vent, put his clothes in a big plastic bag and I cleaned up the dock around our boat while he went below to shower.  We then went back to the pump out station and pumped out without a problem.  I ran lots of water into the tank as my hubby manned the pump.  We were really surprised by the volume of paper to come out of the tank.

I thought about the type of paper which had blocked the holding tank opening and I realized that I hadn’t been looking at RV/Marine toilet paper.  This stuff was that soft, fluffy, two ply toilet paper that has no business on a boat.  Obviously the guy we bought the boat from felt he didn’t need to use the correct paper.  Thanks guy!  The beat up to and back from Beacon Rock churned up the tank and showed us another problem caused by a past owner that needed attention.

Grandpa always said, “Experience is the best teacher as there’s no drop-outs.”  So, stock up on RV/Marine toilet paper when it’s on sale and use it.

If this doesn’t explain the issues you’re have with your marine toilet then you might like to read about common problems in marine toilets.  If you found some help here please click below to ‘help out’, thanks!

Read more how to pump out your holding tank ‘click here’

Read more on how to winterize your head ‘click here’

3 Comments posted on "The Perilous Potty" » Blog Archive » Welcome on October 2nd, 2007 at 7:49 am #

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Winterize a marine toilet on December 17th, 2007 at 11:07 am #

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