Thursday, September 29, 2011

But what about...um...you know...going to the bathroom?

One topic Eric and I are rarely asked about (only because our friends and family are much too polite) is our bathroom setup; or more specifically, our toileting situation. Now, just because we aren't asked about this topic directly doesn't mean the subject never comes up. Here is how the conversation usually unfolds:
Inquisitor: "So, does the marina have bathroom facilities for you to use?"

Eric/Krissy: "Yes, it does, but we don't use them. Our boat has bathrooms."

Inquisitor: [surprised] "Oh, it does? Bathrooms you say? You have more than one?"

Eric/Krissy: "Yes, we have two; each with a full-size shower."

Inquisitor: [surprised] "So it is a 2bed, 2bath?"

Eric/Krissy: "Well, actually it is a 3bed, 2 bath."

Inquisitor: "Ahhhhh....3 bedrooms, nice. So, that means...when you...um...you must have running water then, right?"

Eric/Krissy: "Oh yes, we are hooked up at the dock; lots of fresh water on the boat."

Inquisitor: "And then, so....the bathroom...it...the toilets...you can flush them?"

Eric/Krissy: "Yes, they flush. They're like airplane toilets. They have a vacuum flush. Very powerful. Great toilets. We love them."

Inquisitor: "I see...airplane toilets...interesting...very nice. So...once you flush...I guess it just...it goes...there must be...is there a...um...how...you know...afterward--how does that work exactly?
You see, what the inquisitor wants to know is what happens to our toilet contents upon being flushed. Of course, no one wants to ask this directly, as it involves bringing up the subject of latent meal-byproducts, which, for most people, is much too crude of a topic to discuss. Regardless of the appropriateness of the subject, we are happy to share the specifics about our toilets (and are not offended by your silent inquiry).

Once flushed, any and all materials previously residing in the toilet's porcelain belly are sucked into our boat's 45-gallon holding tank (picture a miniature home septic tank). Much like a land-based septic tank, our boat's holding tank must be emptied periodically (albeit, more frequently than an actual septic tank). We have two (legal) options for evacuating our tank:
Option 1: We move Sea Gem to the marina's pump-out station. Once there, a suction hose is attached to our boat, and the tank's "cargo" is removed from the boat and deposited directly into the city's sewage line.

Option 2: We sail at least 3 miles from shore and empty the tank's contents directly into the ocean (something to consider the next time you're selecting a swimming spot).
So how do we know when the tank is full? Easy, we just wait for our toilets to runneth over with waste. It's that simple. I'm kidding, of course. That's disgusting. In reality, we rely on our trusty Tankwatch:


This monitoring system allows us to know how much of our tank's capacity remains empty. While this instrument is helpful, it isn't as visually informative as, say, a car's gas gauge (not that those are the most accurate things around). Our Tankwatch only has 4 levels: Empty, Low, Mid, and Full. How many flushes is it from one level to the next? Well, that depends on the volume of each flush. Unfortunately, since that number varies flush-to-flush, there is really no way to accurately pinpoint when the meter will change from one level to the next. Although I have no idea what happens once our tank reaches maximum capacity, the (horrifying) possibilities seem endless.

In summary, yes, we have working toilets on our boat; however, our inability to accurately predict our holding tank's remaining capacity is a real stinker of a situation. Nevertheless, other than this minor difference, our toilets are nearly indistinguishable in form and function from the kind of toilet with which you are likely already acquainted.

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