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Thread: "Composting" head user's report

  1. #11
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    ahem.... WE don't throw those sorts of parties... sniff.... But, if we were to accidentally host a boorish and careless guest, I would deal thusly: Very small amounts aren't apparently a problem, but a real beer-emptying would be. Step one: Scold the offender. Strongly suggest that the offender go clean that mess up very much sooner rather than later. Step two would mean dumping sodden material in garbage bag. Step three would be hosing the bucket and housing out or attaching a line and dropping the bucket on a line overboard to rinse it. Sort of like what happens when the pumpout station is done with its job- drops the hose in the water to rinse it, right? Step four, take a couple of paper towels, dry the bucket, put back in toilet housing. I gather this faux pas would take a good ten minutes rather than two, and a waste of three bucks worth of coir. I take comfort: At least I don't have to know what a flapper valve looks like or how to re-install one, right? Again, I hasten to add, "SO FAR!" We have a lot to learn yet.

  2. #12
    Member KC55's Avatar
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    Amelia,

    We just received our c-head yesterday. It has not been put to use but it looks really good, professional even. Your thread here helped me to make up my mind about this. I hope you have continued to have good luck yours. I will stop now before I make a corny joke about toilets. This is probably the first time in Internet history someone didn't make a crappy joke about... I really tried
    1974 Kingscraft 55x15
    1987 Ebbtide 190 Catalina Open Bow w/Mercruiser V8


    http://www.kingscrafthouseboats.com

  3. #13
    Junior Member
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    I have had mine for about three weeks. i have been amazed how well it works. Spent a whole week on the boat ,no smell, no mess and no worries. If it continues I will add another one.

  4. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Update: I finally noticed a couple of people have asked for more C-Head information. Sorry for the delay!
    Short version:
    We are still pleased with our C-Head, almost two years into it.
    Longer version:Although we admittedly still haven't yet given it a month-long midsummer wild-party-cruise trial-by-fire, the way we use it- for afternoons, grandchild overnights in our floating backyard guesthouse, and romantic weekends away for two, it is perfect for our needs. We never have to worry about maintenance, (don't have any idea what a flapper valve looks like or costs, no idea how to unstop a clogged line when somebody didn't read the instructions, don't care where the nearest pumpout facility is. Nothing leaks, makes startling noise in the middle of the night, uses precious fresh water or grows obnoxious slime from the lake. No worries about whether we are out of chemicals. Love it, love it, love it! We have passively vented it through the secondary composting bucket to the aft wall immediately behind it, sort of like U====U=|= , which creates a barely-detectable draft for effective ventilation and drying, but I'm not convinced it was necessary. We haven't felt the need for a fan. In fact, I confess, we haven't even used the secondary composting bucket yet.
    This C-Head has NO odor. None. I find the frequent emptying- every day or two, of the urine container, which, by the way, is a simple gallon water jug, to be reassuring. That's what eventually stinks, honestly. And a quick trip ashore to the restroom with the jug in a bag is easy, quick, and discrete. The flora deep in the woods ashore by a pretty mountain lake might appreciate the free fertilizer, for that matter. If I were an unrepentent scofflaw, I might even be tempted to dump the jug of sterile urine overboard into our vast Albemarle Sound some dark night underway. Perish that thought, natch. And it would be really, truly tacky to dump the jug in the marina right next to your neighbor. If that gallon jug gets discolored and smelly, out it goes with the trash, to be replaced with a well-rinsed gallon milk jug. I like that it isn't a proprietary and expensive and heavy special container like the fancier marine composters have. We always have an extra -and free- disposable screw-cap gallon jug handy for a quick swap-out.

    The C-Head has held up very well, remains quite sturdy and new-looking. Every inch of this thing is super-easy to clean with a damp rag from time to time, as necessary. Except to wipe off the sawdust (we are still building this boat) it is just as clean as when we unpacked it. If anything were to overflow, (but hasn't ever) it would leak into the totally-waterproof base, again, easily cleaned, no mess on the floor. Again, the only thing we insist on is that EVERYbody sits to pee. This is standard protocol among real sailors, of course, and this head's shallow bowl is not designed for inattentive guys who stand and whistle, gaze off into the distance, and splash off the back wall. Ick! The one thing maintenance thing WE do, is eventually, not very often, scoop the dried solid lumps and paper out of the peat/coir/sawdust like a kitty litter box, into a plastic grocery bag, and flush it inside. That's what happens if we're having a bunch of people over for the afternoon, and that is just us. Others will dump the whole bucket into a kitchen trash bag and heave it into the nearest dumpster, takes about the same amount of time and energy as taking out the galley trash. Still others will, as C-Head recommends, tamp a permanent 5-gallon bucket lid onto the secondary bucket when it's full, store it in the bilge until time permits taking it to the nearest recycle center, thence to the landfill to compost itself for a millennium. This wouldn't be necessary but every month or two of constant use, I think.

    Sandy's customer service is most excellent, response is prompt and thorough. Advice is free and frank. I am still gratified by how well what I feared would be a risky venture has turned out, and am a little smug about how smart I was to make this decision.
    Last edited by Amelia; 01-18-2014 at 02:23 PM.

  5. #15
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    I M the first to re invent the wheel on here, your system is working for you congrats, its the challenges we fix or fine tune, that makes HB ing such a passion.
    keep us tuned as you sit there an ponder the next MOVE

  6. #16
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    Thank you so very much for posting all the information on your C-Head. I personally HATE having to pull up to a marina to pump out...and the worry of not getting it pumped out in time!

  7. #17
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Just spent a wonderful day on a gorgeous trawler with a traditional head.

    Good surprise: It didn't stink, but then, the boat had just come out of storage, had been thoroughly cleaned, and hadn't been used all winter. Interesting things I learned: It pumps seawater, or in its case, brown swamp water, and has a 300 gallon holding tank. Wow. That is a TON (and a half!) of stuff to haul! To use it, you flip a switch, pump, pump, pump, pump, pump. Use. Ahhhhh!...then flip switch, pump, pump, pump, pump until the brown water plus whatever disappears... more or less. Hope you weren't in a hurry! And be very careful what goes into it. And have spare parts on hand for the near-inevitable equipment failure. The pumpout costs at least ten bucks, plus time waiting for your turn, plus time to do the pumping, if you find a convenient municipal subsidized one, and don't mind doing all the details yourself.
    So now I have seen three sides of this what-to-do-about-waste question, and there are doubtless more. My dear friend's portapotty in the companionway of his wee sailboat doesn't even make the list of reasonable possibilies. Reading threads posing plumbing puzzles, stink solutions, chemical questions, I am so happy we didn't go that route. It was a near thing.

  8. #18
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    Anyone else jumped on this wagon? These things seem to be pretty popular in the sailing community. I can't seem to find any complaints or negative comments which is a bit hard to believe...

    I have to replace my holding tank and plumbing, so the price would just about be a wash. The only thing I hear is that putting toilet paper in the unit is not recommended. This is kind of a deal killer for me; we currently flush all our single ply into the holding tank and I am dead set against putting toilet paper in a waste basket.

    To give you an idea of what kind of usage it would get.... We are a family of 4. Kids are young. We spend 3 nights per week cruising in the summer. I really hate planning our weekends around the pumpout dock hours, and having to wait in line at times. It's also $15 + tip per pumpout. A composting toilet seems like it could be a good alternative for us.

  9. #19
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    OK, fair enough. Nothing is perfect. Poop happens. The question is how to deal with it, as deal with it we must, one way or another. Ours, a C-Head, cost us $500, and we are entirely content with it.

    Drawbacks to a composting head?
    1. Some people have had problems with little flies or gnats. We haven't, but that doesn't mean we won't. We use our own homemade cypress sawdust and shavings, left over from the interior paneling project, and it works fine, doesn't have the bug eggs commercial peat may have. Coir is also well regarded, comes in compact little bricks which one reconstitutes in a plastic bag with a little hot water until it forms a crumbly peat-like consistency. The fiber/sawdust dries out and shrinks the solid waste so stinky bacteria don't thrive.
    2. As previously emphasized, EVERYBODY sits to pee. Some men find this an affront to their very special abilities. The bowl is quite shallow, though, and splattering would be a problem, even if the aim were perfect toward the front-facing funnel into the liquids bottle. Offshore sailors are accustomed to sitting to pee, anyway, so they don't seem to find this a problem.
    3. TP-- we try not to use much of it, as it does tend to 'float' on top of the peat/etc. mixture. Please don't find this odd or repulsive, but after three or four days of use, we come home, and eventually get around to scooping the solid-waste bucket, as if we were scooping a kitty litter box, and flush the lumps and used dried paper in our indoor toilet. We don't find that there's any odor to speak of, as it's all dried out, and there's no ammonia or stale urine smell. It's that mucky combination that causes the typical head stink. That's what WE do, so far, but it's easy to lift the lids with one hand, pull the bucket out with the other hand, dump it. Some people dump fiber, poop, paper, everything, into a sturdy plastic kitchen trash bag and, shhhh, chuck it in the dumpster when they stop at a marina for fuel, pointing out all the soiled diapers and doggy bags also therein. The recommended procedure, especially for distance cruisers who are out of pocket for extended periods, is to dump that primary bucket into the exterior-vented 5-gallon secondary composting bucket that came with the head we bought. We haven't found that necessary, but if we were a whole family traveling together, we might well. The secondary composting bucket, also odorless, can, every few months, be dumped in the garden in its own compost pile, and used for fertilizing ornamental plants as it breaks down. Or, as the manufacturer suggests, add some chlorine bleach, tamp a permanent lid on that full 5-gallon bucket, and chuck it in the garbage can without feeling guilty. Replace the secondary 5-gallon bucket with another from the big-box home-center.
    4. As for the collected pee, we do try to dump and rinse the gallon jug of (sterile) urine every day or so, usually in a shoreside restroom when we stop for fuel, but sometimes well into the woods if we're out in the middle of nowhere. Nobody suspects a thing, when you aim for the marina bathroom carrying a recycled grocery tote. Our composter uses a common one-gallon jug, not a proprietary thing. When the jug is full, we screw its cap on, and replace it with an empty jug. The jug, if it begins to look discolored or scaly, goes in the rubbish, to be replaced with another empty milk jug.
    So, yes, there is maintenance, of a sort, but it's not a burden for us. We can take care of it at OUR convenience, rather than hoping there's a working pumpout very soon, oh dear, that valve is broken again, do we have a spare, and what's clogged it this time? These aren't problems we have!
    5. Consider only the marine composting heads... the ones that require massive electricity or gas to incinerate the sewage are big, heavy, impractical and very expensive. Some of those lock themselves after use and cannot be used again for an hour. If you go with one of the more expensive boat-brands, the Nature's Head or the AirHead, both popular, know that they occupy a bigger, taller footprint than the C-Head. In a houseboat, this won't be much of a problem, probably, but the C-Head is very compact, about the height and width of the ones at home, needed no special carpentry or platform, was ready to use within the hour of its arrival. Hope all that TMI helps... feel free to ask if you have other questions. We may have figured out an answer. Or call the manufacturer of your chosen product. All three I talked to were splendidly knowledgeable and frank.

  10. #20
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    Thanks Amelia; I was hoping you would chime in.

    1. Doesn't concern me.

    2. No problem. BUT, have you found you C-Head to be difficult for small children/toddlers to use?

    3. How long can you go before filling the solids container? How many people on board? Some user reports suggest folks are going an entire season without emptying. Maybe they're using a different brand with a larger container?

    4. I do like that the C-Head uses regular ol' water jugs. I figure I can 'collect' full jugs over the weekend and take them home to dispose of if I have to.

    5. I'm only considering the big players in the marine market: C-Head, Nature's Head and Airhead. Our boat has a very small bathroom so footprint is a big concern. There's also a 4" raised platform where the head needs to sit which creates a height issue. C-Head makes a model with a cutaway base which might work but I'm not sure I'm sold on C-Head due to the smaller holding container. I could always use a small stool to deal with the height temporarily, and modify the floor (remove the platform) down the road for a permanent solution.

    I have to say that in 7yrs we have had no mechanical issues with our Raritan PH-II head. Had to replace a joker valve but it failed over time, so it was no surprise. What I dislike the most however is planning our weekends around the damn pump out hours. There's been more than one occasion where we had to come in early to pump out, or sleep in the slip just so we could pump out in the morning when we could have been sleeping on the anchor instead.

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