Friday, April 6, 2012

Not Making a Splash

Those eighteenth century people were just wacky!

Everyone poops. This stinky subject is quite taboo in polite conversation, however if you ever speak with a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner, you will not be able to avoid the topic. That's because how we poop, when, and other specifics regarding the final product, are important in determining your overall health. But I digress.

On a boat, there are, as far as I can see four ways (not including the above method) of dealing with this daily ritual. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. 
1.There are holding tanks that store waste and get pumped out regularily.  These take up space, can be stinky or worse leaky! 
2. There is the direct overboard method, illegal except for three miles off shore. Have I ever done it, yes, but I have not felt good about it, as the water is clearly no place to poop in!  
3.There is the holding it and going to the land head method. I think we can all relate to this one, and know how uncomfortable that could be. 
4.The composting toilet.  These must be emptied into a trash bag and disposed of on land. There is the inconvenience factor of having to store a brick of composting material, and the general weirdness of pooping and not hearing a splash.

And we thought multitasking was a 21st century thing!

To us the answer was a no duh. The composting toilet is by far the best option for us. After talking to some people, and doing our own research, we chose Nature's Head Composting Toilet.

Nature's Head Composting Toilet installed 

We talked to  people who have this toilet and they all recommended it.The nifty thing about this design is that it separates the liquids from the solids , which eliminates odors and makes for good (usable but not on edible plants) compost. The liquid is stored in the jug you see with the black strap, and the other deposit falls thru the big opening. There is a handle on the side that is used to stir the peat moss, which mixes everything including toilet paper together. This gets emptied into a bag when the bin is 3/4 full and used or disposed of.  This should be done 6-8hrs.  after the last use, as that is how long it takes for the fecal bacteria to no longer be present. 
Ok, that's all fine, but is this thing really gonna be fresh and clean? Does this separation thing really work? After using it for a while, it does seem, that because of the design, the liquid is directed into the two holes in the front, even while the big hole is open. 

OK this is something I didn't want to ask, wanted to know, and now will answer. What about streaks? Because of the opening is so big, the deposit goes straight down to the compost bin without touching the sides, so no streak issue. Phew.

We have only had this toilet several days, but so far so good. No smell at all. Only the good feeling of making a  real contribution ;)


jomomma said...

My best friend in 5th grade had a gentleman's washstand in her bedroom. I was fascinated with all the little compartments and disappearing table tops, almost like little cutting boards. And then there was the space for the chamber pot. She didn't know what all the different things were used for, but I did. My grandparents lived in a house without indoor toilets until I was about 7. They had a 'chair' in every room.

Hope your selection works for you. All those years camping, not a vacation went by that my dad wouldn't be wearing a splash of that blue stuff at least once. He said it was a mark of affluence in the campground. We could boast that we didn't have to use the out-house.

Drew Frye said...

I do know of 2 sailors that installed Nature's Head units and removed them; one I noticed being tossed in the dumpster, and the other wrote this in their blog:

Perhaps there are a few pitfalls noted you can avoid.

I'm perfectly happy with a holding tank, but there is defiantly a learning curve to each system. For example, "that blue stuff" has been obsolete for some years, though the stores keep selling it.

Travis and Maggie said...

Wow I'd love to see one of those washstands in person! Your family sounds like a hoot Jomama!

Hi Drew. I have read the post you mentioned, and there were several problems there. Anyway I don't think this is for everybody, but it does suit us tree huggers.

I did forget to mention the Electra-San system which somehow electrically processes the waste before disposing of it.

jomomma said...

I could probably handle using a composting toilet too, I'm a 'hugger' from way back. Electrically charged poop! I've gotta see this.

Travis and Maggie said...

Just an update on the toilet. Its only been a couple of weeks but I'm still very glad we got this thing. This one was installed aboard TARA and we are going to install one aboard Me Voy as well. I should mention here, that we have two heads on each of the boats, and have a regular manual flush toilet in the other bathroom. The composting toilet does have a bit of a smell to it, like fresh earth, sweet and musty, mostly noticable after use.

laura said...

A live aboard couple in our marina has a composting potty. I think the mister got great pleasure telling me how much they love it after listening to me b*tch about our head last week. After days of trying to unstop one of the hoses I was literally covered in poop. We finally replaced the hose and yesterday I replaced the joker valve and flapper assembly. We are positive that we have a leaky holding tank (gag) and this whole composting thing is sounder better to me everyday! Do keep us updated.

Travis and Maggie said...

Ugh Laura, I feel for ya. That sux. Still lovin the composter. Like I said though we do have another head that gets used at "special" times. Also today Travis emptied the piss bucket, and said in his most disgusted voice, that it was quite "unpleasant". I think I'd still take that over a leaky holding tank though. Good luck.