Buying Your First Liveaboard Sailboat? Learning About Your Toilet Options Is Not A "Waste" Of Time!

If you are shopping for your first liveaboard sailboat, you likely have a detailed "wish list" that you use to research and investigate prospective boats. Obviously, factors like boat length, sleeping capacity, seaworthiness, and price range are all important to consider.

If you are like many first-time liveaboard sailboat shoppers, you have probably limited your search to boats sized between 25 and 35 feet long. Sailboats in these sizes are unique because their sizes make them ideal for a variety of uses, including racing, day sailing, and living aboard, so one important (and often unspoken!) factor that you must consider is your ideal boat's toilet situation. 

Special Toilet Considerations for Sailboat Shoppers

True sailors refer to the bathroom of a sailboat as, interestingly enough, the "head." Now, depending on the purpose and design, boats ranging from 25 to 35 feet may or may not even have a head. Thus, your first step is to find a sailboat that is designed for either day sailing, cruising, or living aboard. These will have head accommodations; two of the most common bathroom setups are portapotties and installed marine heads. 

Sailboat Toilet Options

Do not let sailboat toilet setups confuse you and dissuade you from your dream of living aboard! If you know the differences between available sailboat toilets, then you can determine which style appeals to you and cater your sailboat search accordingly. 

Portapotty. Smaller sailboats still suitable for living aboard frequently include a classic portapotty. As you might expect, portapotties have holding receptacles that you must manually dump. Portapotties are easy to replace and cheap to maintain. Unfortunately, you need to stock up on your rubber glove supply, because you can only dump the tank manually. 

Marine Head. If the thought of manually dumping a portapotty tank makes you squeamish, consider finding a sailboat with an installed marine head. A marine head will allow you to flush waste into a holding tank, which you then empty by pumping it out. Even though this may sound like a more sanitary option, it also requires more diligence. You must clean and maintain the lines in the system, or odors will collect and cause your entire sailboat to stink. Repairing this system is also more costly and time-consuming than replacing a portapotty.

Both portapotties and marine heads can be treated with products that break down the waste and reduce the smell. The rules for dumping are generally the same regardless of your toilet's setup, as well. Every state designates "no discharge zones," so you cannot simply dump or drain your boat's toilet directly into the water, unless you are a certain distance from shore. Then, you can pump out your marine head or manually dump your portapotty.

Your marina will also have certain rules and regulations regarding waste dumping. Most offer pumping services that allow you to hook up your sailboat's marine head system. If you have a portapotty, this is most likely the marina's preferred dumping location, as well. Do not assume that you can just pour it into the marine's courtesy toilets!

Remember that buying a liveaboard sailboat is a big undertaking, and while it is more fun to consider exciting factors like berth size and kitchen setups, it is absolutely necessary that you think about your boat's toilet situation. Sincerely consider the price differences, "yuck factor," and maintenance needs of both the portapotty and the marine head, and make your decision accordingly.

For more information, contact B & E Marine or a similar location.