Ask SAIL: What Kind of Marine Toilet?

Publish date:
Social count:


Q: I recently purchased a 1979 Cal 2-25, which has a ceramic head. With all the flexible tubing, the plastic tank and the age of all of it, I question the wisdom of repairing the system. Would replacing the ceramic toilet with a Porta-Potti be a good idea? I’m worried that I’ll end up replacing everything and repairing the rest for a cost greater than buying a good portable toilet. What would your suggestion be?

Richard Magoon, Canyon Lake, TX


Your choice should be dictated by how you use the toilet. If any of your sailing takes you beyond no-discharge zones, then a head capable of direct discharge is by far the better alternative. If you do not need overboard discharge capability, then the choice between a holding tank or portable toilet could hinge on the availability and convenience of pump-out facilities. Pumping out is less unpleasant than hauling a full portable tank ashore. Plus your tank is not going to be welcome in any public bathroom.

I view portable toilets as primarily suitable for sporadic use only—a classier alternative to a bucket when you or your guests cannot wait until getting ashore. For regular use on a boat that often overnights away from a dock, an installed marine toilet is almost always the better choice. Marine toilets are not all equal, but if you have a good one, rebuilding it is likely to be a good course. Blocked hoses can be cleaned by removing and flexing to break up wall deposits. They need not be replaced unless they have become permeable, which is evidenced by transferred smell when wiped with a hot, wet cloth. Plastic tanks last forever unless cracked.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to

March 2016


Landing Page Lead

The Volvo Returns to the Southern Ocean

Since the Volvo Ocean Race’s inception, the Southern Ocean has made it what it is. And no part of the race says “Southern Ocean” like Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil. The 7,600-mile leg, which starts this Sunday, is not only the longest of the event, but far more


SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comTeak deck paradise  I had a call recently from the man who replaced the deck on my Mason 44 five years ago. He was worried about the way people are wrecking their teak decks trying to get the green off. more


Gear: ATN Multi Awning

THROW SOME SHADEAmong the many virtues of cruising cats is the large expanse of netting between their bows, which is the ideal place to hang out with a cold one after a hard day’s sailing and let the breeze blow your worries away. Only trouble is it can get a bit hot up there more


How to Sail the Med

“After spending so many years sailing the Caribbean, I was frankly astounded at how much more I enjoy the Mediterranean,” says Scott Farquharson of charter brokers Proteus Yacht Charters. “The culture, the history, the food, the weather, friendly people, crystal-clear water—there more


Know-How: Rigging Emergency Rudders

We were 1,100 miles from the nearest land when we received a text message on our Iridium GO: “Rudder gone. Water in bilge. Worried pumps can’t keep up. Please call!”We had been in contact with the owners of Rosinante, a 38ft Island Packet, since they had first announced over the more


Experience: Hard Aground

This is a story of how mistakes are made and judgment is dulled to the point of catastrophe. It is also about how prudent planning, good equipment and a bit of luck can bring you back from the brink.We departed Norfolk, Virginia, on December 15 bound for Jacksonville, Florida, more


Vestas Discusses Fatal Collision, Recovery

Vestas 11th Hour Racing co-captains Mark Towill and Charlie Enright discuss the collision near the end of Leg 4 as well as the efforts the team has made to get back into racing trimJust over a month after 11th Hour Racing’s fatal collision with a commercial fishing vessel shortly more