As "No Discharge" regulations become tougher and marine pump-out stations are getting more scarce, it might be time to consider an alternative to your standard marina head system. A composting marina head eliminates the need for pump-out, has less odor, and provides greater capacity then your standard holding tank.
It is unclear when the very first composting toilet was invented. The Ironmongers' Catalogue from 1881 had an advertisement for a "Self-Acting Earth Closet." The ad read, "Thou shalt not pollute rivers or water-courses." Even back in the late 1800's, people were concerned about our precious natural resources. After the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970, composting toilets began a resurgence for the modern household. Today there are US Coast Guard-approved marine heads that are made to withstand the harshest of conditions.
The composting toilet system has not changed much from the 1881 "Self-Acting" system. The marine composting head uses a two-tank system—one for liquids and one for solids. This separation eliminates the odors associated with raw sewage in your holding tank. The solid tank contains peat moss or coconut fibers to help compost the solids. The only odor you will experience is an earthy smell from the peat moss. Also, since there are no hoses running to a holding tank, which eliminates the "stinky hose syndrome" that many boaters experience.
A composting head also increases capacity. The water used to flush a standard marine head is what takes up the most space in a holding tank. A composting head uses very little water, if any at all. Most manufactures recommend using a spray bottle of water to help clean the bowl after use. The peat moss also works more efficiently when moist, so an occasional dampening may be needed.
The liquid tank holds approximately 2 gallons, depending on the manufacturer. This capacity is enough to get a family of four through a long weekend onboard. To empty, lift the top part of the unit, place a cap on the tank, and take it to the onshore restroom to flush down the toilet. The solid tank will last weekend sailors all season long before needing to be emptied. Live-aboards or more frequent sailors may need to empty it once during a season. The best thing about the system is that the solids turn into a valuable soil additive for your garden.
Other advantages include no plumbing to get clogged, less maintenance due to the simplicity of the system and you can remove your holding tank, giving you much-needed storage space.
Lighten your boat's load for your next sailing event.
Baltimore Sailing Examiner Terry Boram
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