Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marine Toilets

Sint Maarten
18 02.0N 63 05.8W


The forward toilet broke when we had 5 guests on board. An order for the broken part was placed, delivery arranged and after more than 3 weeks of sharing the en suite toilet (with a few near missed-in-action and lots of mooning-in-the-morning stories) the toilet was successfully repaired. So successfully in fact that it became clear that the back one was a time bomb and would be dying in near future. The job was put on "things to do in Trinidad" list and a prayer had to be made before every flush until then.


During a leisure and discovery trip to Budget Marine in St-Maarten, the Captain found the exact part he had to order to fix the front head at a better price! Excitement shines in his eyes and the job was upgraded on the list to "urgent" status.

After breakfast (and the use of the front head) on a warm and sunny Friday, the Captain put on his plumber suit - a pair of shorts revealing a little line at his back side- and started the preventive and urgent maintenance of the back head. The site of nearly blocked elbows and pipes corroborated his fears and the Captain/Plumber was happy he could do the job on his own terms. (read: not have to deal with a blocked toilet)

Unlike the front head, the back one hadn't been serviced in years and a more drastic approach was necessary. All hoses needed to be replaced in addition to a new service kit. The infamous brass arm though, was in a very good state but it was decided to install the new one anyway and keep this one as spare.

The main hose was refreshingly quite easy to access. A screw down floor had to be lifted and all the rest would then be easily undone. Unfortunately, the last screw didn't want to give up and it took some crude words, brute force and an hour to negotiate with it. When the floor was finally dismantled and the clogged and smelly hose taken off the Captain jumped in his dinghy and went shopping.

Upon his return, the puzzle work started and the spare repair kit, the brass arms and all the hoses were installed in a record time of 2 hours. All went well except for a little grub screw activating the pedal giving up under pressure.

Don't you just like St-Maarten, it's cruisers heaven. Everything can be found within a dinghy trip. Rowing back in the late afternoon heat and incoming tide was unplanned (ran out of petrol) but good to exercise the back getting very sore after 5 hours of bending down.

The ½ inch grub screw ending up being 2 mm too long, the result of metric and imperial systems being confused but it took only 45 minutes and 4 hands to cut it to a perfect fit.

The assembly of the toilet was then resumed and the head put back in place all hoses connected and looking shinier then ever. And why shouldn't it be? It had now evolved into a combined toilet and foot spa (with 2 jets!) giving you a nice refreshing foot clean when flushing... At 6 PM, exactly 9 hours after the start of the preventive maintenance, the plumber put on his sundowner clothes and encouraged the crew to use the front head.


Saturday morning started just like Friday if with a bit less enthusiasm. An hour later, the plumber, his bum crack and the toilet were in perfect condition and live happily ever after. Departure for Guadeloupe was delayed by a day!
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