Head games.

August 22, 2009

When I mention that we are headed off to the Bahamas on our sailboat for 8 months or so, a common reaction is, “Can I come too?”  I think for a lot of people the idea of “sailboat” and “Bahamas” somehow conjures up a major cruise ship, with luxuries galore.

Let’s be candid for a minute, shall we?  I guesstimate the total living space we have aboard our beloved Calypso is

Main salon

Main salon

close to 160 square feet.  That is not per person, mind you – total.  For all 4 of us.  Including kitchen, bedrooms, dining room, living room, and bathroom.  Yes, yes – we have the great outdoors.  Yes, we have beaches and glorious sunsets.  But when it is raining (as it is right now) we are in . . . a very small space.

In such a small space, you learn to use every inch you have.  Almost every horizontal surface has great storage underneath it, for starters.  The galley (kitchen) counter doubles as the engine cover.  The dining room table is also the bar and hold the only 2 drawers on the boat.  The settees (couches) double as Maddie’s bedroom and dining room seats and general lounge space.  Julian’s bunk is also the chart table seat.  And our bunk, up in the v-berth, turns into the bathroom by day.

I’d hazard a guess that for most people, toilets are not something you spend a lot of time considering.  You use it, you flush, end of story.  On a boat, things get a little more complicated.  For starters, at home, you don’t consider where the water comes from to flush the toilet, or what happens to the stuff once you flush. (Or if you do consider it, I don’t want to know about it.)  On a boat, you sure as heck better consider what happens to it!  There are a lot of laws that govern this stuff (really – there are. Trust me.  You ever wonder why Congress can’t tackle things like health care?)  Basically, unless you are 3 miles offshore, you may not legally pump it into the water.  So what do you do with it?

1.  You hold it in and never go on the boat.  Fine if you are a day sailor, but not so great for the rest of us.

2. You disregard the law and pump it overboard anyway.  Big fines if (when?) the Coast Guard finds you out.  Not advised.

3. You have a bucket or a port-a-potty and find a place to lug it (and dump it) ashore when you go ashore.

4. You install a holding tank on the boat, with all the associated hoses and vents and ways to pump THAT out.

The whole head thing was complicated enough to begin with before Congress started legislating how boaters can get rid of waste.  You have to get water in and get water out of the head (or buy a composting toilet).  You have to get the right hoses that don’t stink.  You have to make sure the water coming into the boat to flush the head doesn’t come in when you don’t want it to.  And I could go on and on and on. Aren’t you glad I won’t?

So why am I writing this in this blog?  Because today’s project is the holding tank.  Back when we left the first time, we installed a dinky (3 gallon) holding tank to meet the letter of the law.  In 1994, despite the fact that the legislation requiring holding tanks had been on the books since 1976, there were 2 pumpout stations in the entire state of Texas.  So you had to have a holding tank, but there was no place you could pump it out – rendering the whole thing useless.  In 2009, however, things have changed drastically, and there are pumpout stations almost at every marina or fuel dock.  Time to get serious about this stuff.

Head - insert for the bunk goes over it.

Head - insert for the bunk goes over it.

We bought a 13 gallon holding tank and Jeremy is now working on how to fit it into the space.  He is being very patient and not swearing out loud at me – I measured and fit the space and ordered the tank, which is all well and good – except that I didn’t take into account the space needed for the hose fittings.  And the hull curvature there.  Lesson to self – MOCK THE DAMN THING UP BEFORE ORDERING THE TANK.  Completely.  Let’s see if I can learn my lesson.

Other projects today – the autopilot is wired and ready to go.  I successfully installed a cabin fan in the v-berth (yay cool, and I didn’t even electrocute myself OR hook it up backwards).  Jeremy is investigating belts for the engine.  New cushions are in the port side (GORGEOUS!!!).

Whew.  The rain has stopped.  Might be time to get dinner organized for the kids.  Oh, and the sun is DEFINITELY over the yardarm.

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One Response to Head games.

  1. KTorg says:

    The photo of “the head” isn’t loading. 😦

    You are very brave. My idea of roughing it is a hotel with 3 stars…..

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