Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cistern

CisternI swear, in total I've spent more time on this toilet than almost any other single thing on the boat.

It's forever giving problems, and usually at the worst possible times.

Captain Bob, who travelled with us a while on the Wanderbird, says he is going to write a book about marine toilets and the problems he's had. At least I'm not the only person suffering.

The setup I have is, I think, very simple. I pump seawater up to a header tank above the toilet. This water can then flow into the cistern in a similar fashion to a normal household toilet.

What could possibly go wrong?

The disconnected white pipe you can see is the freshwater feed, for when I'm alongside and water is in plentiful supply. The wooden block is to hold the broken flusher mechanism in place.

Anyway, I quickly learned that if I let the header tank run dry, I'd get fine silt into the cistern as soon as the header started to fill and the silt got stirred up.

I know a simple filter would most likely fix this, but I've never got around to doing it.

The silt either blocked the filler mechanism, meaning there was no water for the next flush, or prevented a seal being made after someone flushed, meaning all the water from the header would then leak out.

The toilet inlet mechanism had eventually got so full of silt that it took ages to fill the cistern between flushes, then causing blushes.

The silt situation got slowly worse until the inevitable running dry of the header and subsequent complete blockage of the filler mechanism, despite 'gentle persuasion' with the handy piece of wood.

After a spell of bucket flushing, I finally managed to put in a brand new filler mechanism. A better one which should not be as affected by silt. After that and because I'd bought the parts online, I keep getting ads for plumbing supplies and toilet flushers when I visit some of my regular sites. Like I really need reminding of this!

A few weeks after fixing the filler, the pump I use to fill the header tank went on the blink. Standing in the freezing cold cussing some, although satisfying, did not help the situation one bit.

Now, with it being at or below freezing on board, the water in the filler pipes will have frozen - thus forcing me back to using a bucket to flush when I'm next down there.

Ahh, this glamorous millionaires boating lifestyle....

21 comments:

  1. "I swear, in total I've spent more time on this toilet than almost any other single thing on the boat."
    I thought I was going to be reading about some dodgy meal! Seriously, you have my sympathy I have done enough 'bucket and chuck it' in my time to appreciate working toilets!

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  2. It just never stops Tim. Always one thing after another.

    Hang in there.

    Bill K

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  3. Hi Tim !
    Now, when You spent lots of time(=money) fixing the lu (working 1 month ?) it´s time to purchase a new one thats working for ever....
    Or ?

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  4. Toilets toilets toilets.....sometimes I don't sleep thinking and worrying about marine toilets, as to what sort is best electric or manual and which model is best of each type ,and why are they so expensive .Also should I use fresh water or salt.And the very worst thing of all is having to dismantle a toilet that someone else has blocked !!!!!!!!!!
    Oh yes you can't beat messing around in boats literally.

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  5. Wait, so with all this talk of silt - is your inflow coming from the river? Our original Dutch sea toilets (with the horrible "shelf toilet", eww ewww eww) flushed with river water, held in a small tank that had to be filled a few times a day (from an inconvenient spot, of course). Which would be great if you didn't bottom out at low tide for a few hours twice a day and thus have no way to refill the header tank. But we never had problems with it silting up, even though the toilet bowls were brown from the muddy water.

    We switched over to a macerating marine toilet (like [url=http://www.leesan.com/index.asp?m=3&cat1=4&cat2=22&t=Macerator%20Toilets]these at LeeSan[/url], but I can't find our model) when we installed our black tank and it's the best ever. No header tank at all - it's usually dry (fine for number ones), but you can press a button to fill it with water for number twos, and flushes with about 1.5L of water. Which is GREAT. And having no water in the bowl by default means we have to pump out less often, too. Totally worth the money!

    (Also I can't believe I wrote that much about two toilets!)

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  6. Anonymous7:20 PM

    5 gal. bucket is best yet....never breaks, just can't ssit for too long. Cheers

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  7. There used to be a lady who writes on the www.MBY.com Practical boat owner forum who calls herself the "Headmistress"! she would most definitely have an answer to your problems, she specialised in marine abloutions only, and is brilliant at curing all the problems met with relating to them. May be worth a try?

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  8. Anonymous11:47 AM

    At least all your problems seem to be with the clean input side. Most boat head problems are on the output side, which is rather less fun. Yours looks like a standard shore toilet - I guess being so high above the waterline it can just run down by gravity into the water? Luxurious simplicity for those of us who have to pump shit uphill :-)

    Pete

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  9. Anonymous8:33 PM

    I once tied up alongside an old sand boat with a very similiar arrangement but I failed to notice the outboard end about two foot above our pristine teak deck.Yep you guessed it,one very surprised patrol boat engineer munching his morning toast as he emerged ondeck,found himself ankle deep in sweet violets.And believe me,after a night of beer and curry a sand boat crew can produce some sweet violets!!!Even the best of skippers can overlook a vital point??

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  10. Next to the engine and navigation system I'd say the cistern is the next most important piece of equipment on the vessel. Better keep it in good working order.

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  11. I Fran - I didn't think of the post in those terms at all.

    Must be slipping..

    Cheers

    Tim

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  12. Hi Bill

    Thanks.

    Tim

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  13. Hi Ib

    As Bill K says, there is always something..

    Regards

    Tim

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  14. Hi Andrew

    It's a comfort to know I'm not alone in this.

    Regards

    Tim

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  15. Hi Melissa

    I think the problem I have with silt is I'm using normal household toilet fittings.

    I suspect these are much less tolerant of the dirt and stuff a proper marine toilet would be.

    It's an interesting subject, albeit not a pleasant one :)

    Regards

    Tim

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  16. Hi Anonymous

    I'm one up on the basic bucket - at least I get to sit in some measure of comfort, then use the bucket to hide the evidence!

    Regards

    Tim

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  17. HI Rob

    Interesting - I'm sticking with the 'normal' plumbing solution for now.

    Though that may change if this does not work out.

    Regards

    Tim

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  18. Hi Pete

    Hmm - longer term I will need to sort out a proper solution.

    Regards

    Tim

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  19. Hi John

    Ha ha - another of those little boating lessons that you can only learn through experience!

    Regards

    Tim

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  20. Hi Dennis

    In terms of priority, I'd probably put power before navigation and the toilet.

    The toilet is right up there though.

    Regards

    Tim

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  21. Anonymous5:07 PM

    For what it's worth, I have a "normal" marine head on my boat, working as well as these things ever do, but when I'm alone on board I prefer to use the bucket as it's much simpler and easier. And I get to sit in the sun and fresh air rather than shut into a tiny box.

    Pete

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