If you didn’t know it already, the head is sailor talk for “toilet”. And nothing will ever give you a headache like a marine head.
Problem is, when you’re at sea, it’s okay to discharge what you ate for dinner last night directly into the sea. It breaks down pretty quickly, so it’s not a problem. But when you’re in port, the idea is to retain the waste in a holding tank until it can be either sucked out (not with a straw), or dumped at sea.
We had been struggling to understand what the head was doing. There’s a bunch of hoses that disappear behind the holding tank and it’s a bit of a guess as to what they’re doing. Basically, you want to be able to pump directly to sea if you’re offshore, and into the holding tank when you’re in port. And then you need to be able to open up a valve from the holding tank to dump the waste when offshore.
We’d already worked out that the tank must be blocked, because the waste was coming out the overflow…. kinda says it’s full right? Went outside and well clear of the harbour and opened the seacock and seemed to be greeted with a big brown cloud of stuff from the boat. Success, yes?
Ummm, No. If you take off the access plug on the deck and shine a light into the holding tank, you can still see the waste, sitting there laughing at me. So, I added some diluted Hydrochloric acid to the tank and allowed it to do it’s thing. Then we tried again to empty the holding tank. Not much. The only conclusion I could come to was that there was an internal blockage which was not allowing the waste to get from the tank to the seacock.
This is not going to be pleasant. Imagine yours truly, stripped to his undies (I don’t want to have to clean my clothes after this) and removing the hose which exits the tank and goes directly to the seacock. Unscrew, unscrew. Carefully remove the hose…. dribble…. not much happening. What if I jam the bucket under the tank and stick my screwdriver up into the holding tank? Perhaps it’s been sitting too long and has become semi-hard?
Stick screwdriver in and…. strike oil. Or something similarly coloured. Not a chance the bucket will hold it all and another bucketful goes all over the bathroom, splashes the walls, and I’m squatting in a big puddle of the stuff. But HEY! The thing’s not blocked any more!
Spent the next hour clearing up the mess, cleaned the shower filter several times to get the stuff out of there (how else do you pump out the stuff on the bottom). Used several buckets full of seawater to wash down the bathroom, several buckets full to wash down me. By this time of course, I’m standing naked on the stern washing myself generously trying to get it off me. (Remember, we’re offshore… no-one around).
Took the hose to the seacock out and cleaned it thoroughly, re-fitted it, flushed the system repeatedly, and it all works.
Continued cleaning up the bathroom including with bleach all over everything. Finally, it’s clean. The head works properly. Even I’m clean, though my language is not. But at least it’s done.
Four hours, and it’s something I hope that I never have to do again, though I bet I will, someday.