Cousin Eddie knew a thing or two about shi##ers. And now, unfortunately, after yesterday, so do we.
It’s no secret that liveaboard boats are prone to peculiar and sometimes unpleasant smells. It stands to reason. Mold, mildew, sweat, diesel fumes, water in the bilge, and in our case, issues in the head and holding tank are all potential culprits of not-so-pleasant aromas.
C and I were fully aware that our boat had a (minor?) odor issue when we bought it, but it wasn’t something we were too terribly concerned about. I mean, the poor thing had been sitting on the hard, closed up and unventilated, for a very long time. When we purchased the boat in April, I think it had already been up for sale and unused for over a year. Boats are not meant to be idle! Under the circumstances, a few yucky smells are to be expected, especially the longer it sits out of the water.
Over the last two months, C and I have made several trips to Deltaville to do small boat projects, clean, and move in our stuff. Until this past weekend, the odor hasn’t bothered us that much. But now, with summer in full swing, we noticed that the unwanted scent was becoming a little more pronounced. So to try to mitigate it, C decided to pour about a gallon of water into the toilet, followed by a head treatment that he flushed into the tank.
That’s when it all went wrong (and my olfactory senses were potentially ruined for life).
Because a few minutes after pouring in the water and treatment, C began to notice an extremely foul odor coming from the boat’s starboard side. He also noticed that liquid had trickled down the side of the boat, seemingly from the air vent. He went to look at the toilet, and that’s when he discovered that it was slowly beginning to backfill. Yes, folks, it turned out the shi##er was full. So full, in fact, that sewage was being forced up into the holding tank’s air vent. The former owners never pumped out the holding tank before having their boat hauled out of the water and putting it up for sale. May I just take a moment and say, “$@&!!!*$#!! WHO DOES THAT?!
Thank God for Clint Almarode, Service Manager at DYC (Deltaville Yachting Center). After we learned that no one in the area provided emergency pump-out service, Clint kindly gave us detailed instructions on what we could do to remedy the very stressful and unfortunate situation in which we found ourselves.
First, we accessed the holding tank (located in the storage compartment under the settee in the salon). Next, C unlocked the valve that is used to discharge waste into the sea (FYI, if you are thinking about sailing, know that there are stringent regulations around where you may and may not discharge sewage). Then he turned on the macerator pump which allowed that old, nasty, foul, malodorous mess to spew out of the holding tank and discharge port into a five-gallon bucket placed on the ground. My job was to hold my nose, gag, curse, and yell up to C when the bucket was 3/4 full. He then quickly lidded and hosed down the bucket, and carried it a crazy long distance, around the backside of the boatyard to the porta potty disposal station.
My poor husband made that journey with the poop bucket no less than TEN times.
We followed up by flushing fresh water from a hose down the toilet and then added a bioactive head treatment that will hopefully help the situation. We Lysoled, we Febreezed, I set out five boxes of baking soda, we closed her up, and got the you-know-what out of there.
Then we showered and drank too many margaritas. Hey, we earned it.
What a crazy, disgusting experience! Sometimes (no, I’d say most of the time), it’s in the trials and tribulations that you end up learning the most. Well, we definitely walked away yesterday with a much better understanding of marine heads. And if I NEVER smell that smell again, it will be too soon. In bed last night, I found C reading about marine toilets. Oh, the things you never thought you’d see, smell, and do.
Next week our girl finally goes into the water, where she will get a proper septic pump out and move to her new marina home. We’ve waited a long time.
Let the games begin.