There Are 5 Ways to Relieve Yourself on a Boat…and One of Them Can be VERY Expensive!

There Are 5 Ways to Relieve Yourself on a Boat…and One of Them Can be VERY Expensive!

When you live on a boat, you have five choices for a toilet:

1. A macerating toilet – After you do your business, you push a button or a knob, just like on a regular toilet. Water fills the bowl while it flushes. Yesterday’s lunch then goes through a macerator (think poop blender) and the watered-down remains are pumped through hoses into a holding tank. If you are in international waters, you can let your day-old corn flow right into the ocean, and the fish will thank you!

If you are near shore, you must empty your tank at a pump-out station at a marina, or pay someone to come to your boat once or twice a week to pump it out for you. It goes into a really large, extremely stinky tank on the pump-out boat. Our pump-out guy is named Carl. He’s super nice and he gets the most amazing Christmas bonuses from marina residents each year…for obvious reasons. We can’t live without him!

2. A manual marine toilet – It has a hand lever that you move up and down to pump your doodie through the hoses, and into a holding tank. Carl takes care of those boats, too.

3. A composting toilet – Your waste goes into a reservoir where it mixes with something like sawdust. People who use these can have very stinky boats.

4. A bucket out on the deck.

5. For those really adventurous souls, you can simply stand on the edge outside, aim at the water (or settle your haunches over the side for #2), and let loose. This option is not very popular if you have next-boat neighbors at the marina.

For our sailboat, we have choice #1. Here’s the problem. Macerators can barely handle toilet paper. If anything, and I mean ANYTHING, goes down other than digested food or really thin, cheap toilet paper, you’ll find yourself utilizing # 4 or #5 above until the local marine plumber has time to come by, wag his finger at you for being stupid, and spend a couple of hours literally removing your toilet from the floor of your boat, and fishing in the macerator to see what you dropped in there.

Our old neighbor, Stan, loved to tell the story about the scrunchy (hair tie) that his wife dropped down theirs. One of our boys put a single baby wipe down ours once and it was out of commission for several days. Luckily, we have two potties on board.

The other day, while our Managing Editor, Brian Whiddon, was hard at work on the WritersWeekly issue, I was in the “head” (boat bathroom) after lunch, flossing my teeth. I am an avid flosser. In fact, I think I floss more than anyone I’ve ever met. Yes, I brush my teeth quite a lot, too. After completing my post-lunch oral hygiene regimen, I sat down to do #1 (and only #1 – I swear!). When I started to flush, I could have SWORN I saw a cotton ball in there. Yes, a cotton ball. Once inch wide. One inch long. Round. White. Fluffy. A teeny, tiny little thing. I asked myself, “What could possibly go wrong?” I kept flushing. And….that’s when the water stopped going down.

I kept pushing the button and the water kept swirling around and around in the bowl, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I figured, “Hmmm. Needs more water!” So, I pulled down the shower head, turned it on, and shot a strong stream of water into the toilet while still holding the flush button. The macerator kept grinding and the water kept swirling….except now there was a lot more water in the bowl.

I opened the door, and whined, “Briiiiiiian! The toilet is broken AGAIN!”

After a slew of profanity punctuated the atmosphere of the floating home office, Brian came up behind me to look.

I said, “I think it was a cotton ball.”

He replied, “A cotton ball?! Why were you wiping with a COTTON BALL?!”

I snapped back, “I didn’t PUT it in there! Maybe it fell off the shelf…”

We both looked up. Sure enough, on the shelf above the toilet was a bag of cotton balls. Brian said, “I have to get the issue out today. I’ll take a look at it tomorrow. You’ll need to use the boys’ head.” (NOBODY wants to use the teenage boys’ bathroom – trust me on that!) Brian chuckled and walked back to his computer.

The nice thing about having a boat captain as your Managing Editor is that he doesn’t mind being called upon to do quick repairs on the boat. Well, except for toilet repairs. He doesn’t like those at all.

The problem with repairing an electric macerating marine toilet is that it is three times more complicated than the average toilet in your house. 1) It’s electric. The flushing control is an electric switch. Proper flushing requires an electric fresh water pump AND an electric waste water pump. So you have to have some electrical and wiring knowledge to make sure it works. 2) The hose that takes the waste water to the holding tank can build up back-pressure. So a Shop-Vac is required to remove all of the smelly stuff from the hose while disconnecting it to avoid a horrific mess that NO ONE wants to have to clean. 3) The toilet has a macerator, which is sort of like a blender that liquefies everything while pumping it back to the holding tank. The entire toilet AND macerator must be removed and disassembled to be able to remove an item stuck within its blades.

However, Brian also has to use the head on the boat when he’s working. And he knew it would take days for our plumber, Freddie (the one who had a seizure on our boat), to put us on the schedule. So he was stuck with the job.

Fast forward to the next day. I was at a doctor’s appointment with one of the boys when my phone rang. It was Brian. Before I could even say “hello,” he bellowed, “I found the problem!”

“You found the cotton ball?! GREAT!”

“Yes, I found the cotton ball but that wasn’t the only problem.”


“Yes, really. I just spent 20 minutes on the macerator…untangling a piece of dental floss.”


Read More News From The Home Office

Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of, the President and CEO of and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.

Follow Angela: twitter | facebook | linkedin

Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
Learn more here:


Angela Hoy's popular online class is now available in book format!

Remember Your Past
Write It and Publish It
in as little as 12 weeks!

Angela Hoy's book will get you started!

  • Using Angela's MEMORY TRIGGERS, recall memories that have been dormant for years
  • Record those memories in chronological order in your memory notebook
  • Using the memory notebook as your outline, write your autobiography!
  • Also works for biographies and memoirs!

Read more here:

7.625 STRATEGIES IN EVERY BEST-SELLER - Revised and Expanded Edition

At this moment, thousands of would-be authors are slaving away on their keyboards, dreaming of literary success. But their efforts won’t count for much. Of all those manuscripts, trade book editors will sign up only a slim fraction.

And of those titles--ones that that editors paid thousands of dollars to contract, print and publicize--an unhealthy percentage never sell enough copies to earn back their advances. Two years later, most will be out of print!

Acquisition Editor Tam Mossman shares seven essentials every book needs to stay in print, and sell!

Read more here:

Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning Speed

A systematic approach to writing that generates better quality quickly!

Chock full of ideas, tips, techniques and inspiration, this down-to-earth book is easy to read, and even easier to apply. Let author Jeff Bollow take you through a process that brings your ideas to the page faster, more powerfully and easier than ever before.

Read more here:

One Response to "There Are 5 Ways to Relieve Yourself on a Boat…and One of Them Can be VERY Expensive!"

  1. Pamela Allegretto  November 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    The dental floss?! Oh my stars, what a great ending. I love your boat stories. Cheers to you. You have true grit.