Monday, August 17, 2015

It's All In My Head...

by George


For as long as we have owned Breeze On and maybe longer, Bev has wanted a composting toilet in the head. I didn't see the logic in replacing either of the perfectly functional, brand new, electric flush toilets that came with Breeze On so we kept both existing toilets.

Not that they didn't have some drawbacks. The holding tanks on each are ridiculously small - 9 gallons (which equates to about 18 flushes each). They are programmed to add seawater to the bowl and flush with sea water after each use - no option to skip the pre-use water or adjust flush volume. The joker valves seemed to require replacement too frequently - as evidenced by occasional back flow into the bowl. And then there was the smell. I am apparently not as sensitive to this aroma as Bev is - selective smell, maybe? I did try to replace the discharge hoses that Bev suspected were contributing to the aroma. This Spring I spent a couple of days in close quarters fighting to replace the hoses. I'd probably still be working on this if our friend Ray had not pitched in to help. I finally managed to install the recommended back flow valves and a portion of new hose but some of the old hose removal was just too daunting to tackle (and it was sailing weather).

The final straw for the toilet in the aft head started with a loud grinding sound. After sending a digital recording to Jabsco/Xylem, they recommended that I get a pulley and belt replacement kit for the macerator. I took the toilet apart and found that the top of one plastic pulley had sheared off.

Inner workings of Jabsco toilet
Broken pulley


I installed the new pulleys and belt, reassembled the toilet, hooked up all the hoses and found there was still a loud noise during flushing. It was not quite the same as it had been, but it still wasn't normal - certainly louder than the identical toilet in the forward head. After emailing with my new buddy at Jabsco, he recommended that I take the toilet apart to ensure that everything was assembled correctly - maybe parts were vibrating or rubbing to cause the noise. So, once again I stripped the toilet down to just the outer bowl and reassembled it only to have the same noise present when it was flushed. On reporting the latest findings, Jabsco offered to send me a new toilet. Unfortunately, "my" toilet is undergoing a redesign (hmmmm...) and isn't currently available. They offered an upgrade, but it is a slightly larger toilet. In a last ditch effort to solve the problem, I took the toilet apart once again (didn't have to refer to the directions this time!), put the old belt back on (yes, I was grasping at straws), rechecked everything and reassembled the toilet. It still made the same loud noise. Grrrrrrr. So it looked like a new toilet was in our future. At this point I decided that if I was going to remove the toilet and install a new one, I might as well make it a composting toilet. We had looked at the two main models (which do not differ much) at the Annapolis Boat Show last Fall. We checked all the measurements on Breeze On and ordered one from Nature's Head. While it was en route, I read the installation instructions and watched a couple of installation videos.

I removed the Jabsco toilet, this time taking out the entire outer bowl. We had decided to leave the holding tank in place for now. Since it is behind the shower wall, we wouldn't be freeing up any usable space by removing it. I capped off the hose going into the empty holding tank, and sealed the breather outlet at the top of the tank. I secured the sea water intake thruhull closed with zip ties and capped the end of the empty intake hose.

Jabsco head after it was removed

The new toilet needs 12v power to run a fan that constantly vents air from the "solids" bin of the toilet. I used the 12v service that I had disconnected from the old toilet. I connected the Nature's Head vent to the vent that was for the old holding tank using a couple of pvc fittings - after a few trips to the local Ace Hardware to get just the right ones. I was most concerned about mounting the toilet base to the floor. Our toilet sits on a fiberglass step that is about 5" high. There is no access to the area under the step, so there was no easy way to use bolts with nuts on the underside. I decided to use machine screws that I hoped would thread into the fiberglass if I drilled the pilot holes slightly smaller than the screws. When I drilled the 4 holes, I found that there was a stainless plate glassed into the underside of the floor. Thank you, Hanse...that was brilliant! The screws are quite snug and tight - the toilet very secure.

We have added the peat moss to the solids bin and the toilet is ready for use. Once Bev finishes her radiation treatments next week, we will have some extended cruises to test our new composting toilet.

Nature's Head composting toilet all ready for use





Sunday, August 16, 2015

Eight to go

Since my last post in mid-July we have anchored out four times and day sailed a few times a week. Our sailing has been limited by my radiation treatments. I have now completed 28 treatments and have just eight more to go. The end is in sight!

I am so looking forward to being able to anchor out for periods longer than a single night. I find it so relaxing. Day sailing on Breeze On is a lot of fun but not very relaxing when we factor in getting the boat ready to sail and then buttoning the boat up after we return to the dock. My energy level has been fading during the past few weeks so day sailing hasn't been worth it to me. Once I have my last treatment on August 26 we will be free to do longer trips. Hallelujah!

This photo was taken as we were returning from a day sail. Breeze On is on the far right. It was a beautiful day.