No friends, not every day is sleeping in, cocktails on the Lido deck and sunshine.
I think only sailors understand that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach one feels when the head (or toilet for our non-boaty friends) isn't working properly. In an effort to avert the inevitable, lots of frantic googling is done for things like "head won't flush" "blocked marine head" and "how to unblock head", which results in a veritable slew of remedies like running vinegar/bleach/silicone lubricant/tea into the loo and letting it sit for the prescribed amount of time, after which the problem will be solved and one can resume taking ones ease, safe in the knowledge that a large stick and a face mask won't be required to dispose of the evidence. As it was, at the conclusion of each experiment, the two of us squeezed into the bathroom, faces hanging in the bowl, finger on the flush, optimistically talking each other into believing whatever magic potion we used this time was going to work and we'd see the blessed disappearing of the water in the bowl. We didn't. Press the button again. Still no. Stand on one leg and whistle "You Are My Sunshine" while pushing said button. Nope. Nothing.
We tried every remedy we could find. None of them worked.
Damn. Actually worse expletives were used, but my mother will read this and I need to keep it nice.
Anyway, just to "back up" (oh how I make myself laugh sometimes!) a little so you know how we arrived at this melancholy moment in our lives. Over the past few days we've noticed our toilet hasn't been flushing very well. It'd take 5 or 6 flushes for ... ahem... "anything" to disappear and even then the retreat could only be described as sluggish at best. We fervently hoped the problem would resolve itself, you know, that old "ignore it and it will go away" trick. We'd stride purposefully into the head (actually one stride. It's a boat.) with knowing glances, sure this time that whatever ailed the crapper was no longer an obstacle so to speak. Unfortunately, the continuous sound of the pump told the truth - whatever the obstacle was, it wasn't going anywhere and in fact it was getting worse. Each time we flushed it took longer and longer for the contents to clear and I'm sure our neighbors must have thought we had a terrible case of salmonella or something. It was at this point we decided that "taking a walk up the dock" for any further bathroom activities would be a wise choice. As the marina bathrooms are about a mile away, those walks were planned with more strategic precision than Churchill put into the evacuation at Dunkirk.
So here we come to the inevitable we tried so hard to avert. We had already determined the blockage was in the pipe between the toilet and the Y valve. For those not in the know, the Y valve position determines whether the waste goes into the holding tank or directly overboard. Regardless of the Y Valve position, the loo was still blocked so we knew the blockage was "upriver". (Just an FYI, it's illegal to dump directly overboard unless you're 3 miles out to sea where we're at, but different countries have different rules about this). And so with steely determination, a 10 foot length of one inch sanitation hose we found in town, 20 pairs of latex gloves, numerous plastic bags, Lysol wipes, a vast array of tools and 4 rolls of paper towel, we were ready to replace the hose. To say we were concerned would be an understatement. We have no experience with plumbing. Any project on a boat takes 6 times longer than anything on land. Invariably some tiny yet critical item falls into the abyss of the bilge, never to be seen again, the replacement for which is back ordered (approximately 8 weeks) from a small machine shop in the tiny village of Whatsit in Lithuania and will cost $853.92 to bring into the USA because of steel tariffs. The prospect of having the loo in bits for weeks was not one we relished. Still, desperate times require desperate measures, and desperate we were, in more ways than one.
Set to task we began. Picture two old fat people contorting like Olympic gymnasts in a 4 x 4 box. That was us. Upside down, inside out, arms and legs akimbo. It's fortunate that we like each other. We worked very slowly and methodically, terrified that the turn of an errant screw may mean pooey (is that a word?) water spraying all over the boat or worse, us. No one made a move until it was talked through and all the potential hazards identified and a course of action decided upon should the worst happen. If all else fails, keep your mouth and eyes shut.
The toilet end of the hose was removed. A rush of nasty water and a malodorous reeking fug ensued, but it wasn't as bad as we expected and there was no blockage. So now we moved to the Y Valve end. And never in your life have you ever seen anything more disgusting. Six years of calcified poop blocking the hose. I'll spare you the sordid details. I'm sure you get the picture. Threading the new hose was going to be a challenge because it had to go through the bathroom wall, under the closet and under the floor to reach the Y Valve. The aperture for it to go through has lots of other things threaded through it too, so it was going to be squeezy along with awkward because of a few sharp angles to get it to the right spot. So, while Darrin was castigating the designers of boats and why there are no panels to remove to fix things and they should have more consideration for boat owners, I was laying on the floor, pooey Y-Valve spur inches from my face (admittedly covered in plastic, but still) arm snaked through the angles to try to grab the hose. To be fair, considering the close working quarters, the subject at hand and the stench, I agreed with Darrin's sentiments wholeheartedly. Miraculously as he rambled on, I found the hose and pulled it around the angles and there it was, all done! Within a few minutes the hoses were all attached and we were ready to do a test flush!
What a revelation! Never in the time we have owned the boat has the toilet worked so well. Now it flushes completely in a matter of seconds! It's a whole new world!
In all honesty, this little diversion from normal Saturday activities didn't turn out too badly. We had everything set out and prepared and we took our time doing the work rather than a bull in a china shop approach. In fact, the whole replacement only took about an hour and a half and the cleanup actually took longer than the project itself. We're pretty pleased with ourselves for taking on the challenge and working it out!
We celebrated our continued adventures in becoming salty sailors with a lovely dinner at our favourite Italian restaurant, La Forchetta, and indulged in a few glasses of wine as we basked in the knowledge that there would be no 4AM dock dashes to deal with, just blissful instant flushing in the heavenly luxury of our own bathroom.
Saturday turned out to be not so crappy after all!
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