I was once told that the more intelligent you are the faster conversation will degenerate to the lavatorial! On that basis cruisers must be among the smartest beings on earth as so much of our discussion centres on 'the heads'...
Electric or hand pump, vacuum or macerator. There is a whole parallel universe out here, and once initiated into the finer points of Jabsco maintenance there is a new dimension to one's life aboard. Sailors develop an especially close relationship with their heads. It comes from what friends who are members of AA(Alcoholics Anonymous) call "talking to the white telephone", if not from "a night on the sauce" then from head winds and cross seas. They don't mention seasickness in those cruising magazines.
I am reminded of this by a grateful email today from friends on SeaQuill whose toilet was leaking. We helped them out with some spares. Though Guatemala is a great place in so many ways, one sad disappointment is the lack of a single Jabsco agency in the entire country (there's a business opportunity for the wannabe entrepreneur!). The SeaQuills were so desperate they'd have paid the full price of a whole toilet for the vital parts. Manufacturers know this and Jabsco parts, like so many marine spares, are vastly over-priced. It very soon becomes an economic proposition to buy a whole new toilet, when on a $115 dollar special at West Marine or Island Water World, rather then to spend very nearly as much for just the pump on its own. The only problem then is what to do with the surplus bowl? Here TBH ponders this cosmic dilemma.
Getting to know your Jabsco (or Lavac, Blakes, Raritan, Raske, Wilcox Crittenden, Van de Myde) is one of the rites of initiation of novice sailors. It is not such a frivolous issue, get it wrong, for example by not mounting your anti-siphon valve high enough, and the whole boat is at risk. Sam and Lloyd on Wind Charger (known ever after as WC) bought a boat which had been on the hard for three years. Once afloat, Sam was pumping their Lavac vigorously when a loud creaking and groaning was heard. Lloyd realised that the toilet was switched to holding tank and launched himself at Sam to stop her. Too late. The cap on the pump-out deck fitting was the weakest point in the system and this blew out with a ten foot gusher that festooned their boat with pink toilet paper and three year old shit. It doesn't get much nastier than that!
It is amazing the problems that something so simple can create. One Jabsco tip is not to over tighten the self-tapping screws or you will strip the threads in the plastic and have to replace the whole base. Having found this out the hard way, TBH rang them up and was told to turn the screws anti-clockwise until they start clicking before you tighten them up. This way you don't cut a new thread. Ace cruising advice. Remember you heard it here first.
Now we have got to know and love it, we've quite happy with our Jabsco. They are the cheapest toilets around and you can get the parts everywhere (except Guatemala). But if money was no object I would plump for the special edition of the magnificent Blakes toilet with a gold-plated handle, produced in honour of the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and respectfully named The Royal.
Although I note that Ellen MacArthur in her record-breaking voyages in high-tech boats relies on bucket-and-chuck-it. Does she know something we don't?
At the other extreme, we've met boats like Minke who carry an earth-compositing toilet aboard which - when you consider the astronomical fines for polluting in their home waters (the ICW) - is not so stupid, either.
Too much information? Well if you always wondered what salty sea dogs talk about when they get together and let their hair down, now you know.