Toilet tips

SWALLOW has no fixed head. I use a Thetford 550 porta potti that sits in the forepeak. The 5 gallon holding tank has enough capacity, one person usage, for a week to 10 days.

The challenge is finding a location to dump the potti. Dumping locations are rare in comparison to fixed holding tank pumpout stations. In the Gulf Islands, British Columbia, Canada, dumping stations are impossible to find and pumpout locations are very rare.

Overall I find having a porta potty is better than a fixed head with a holding tank; as I can dump when a waste station isn’t to be found; I can carry the Thetford to restrooms and pit toilets; a task impossible to do with a fixed holding tank.

Dumping a potti isn’t ‘fun’ but can be mostly painless if you follow this tip – only things having passed through the human body are allowed into the tank. This means NO toilet paper.

TP makes dumping a portable toilet difficult as it clumps. Paper can clog in the dumping spout and shaking that leads to splashing and splashed waste is no fun. The TP clumps also splash they fall. No paper going into the tank also increases the number of days till dumping is required.

What to do with the soiled toilet paper? Put it into a plastic bag and dispose with the garbage. What!? Plastic?! Dave you are a bad person because you use plastic bags!!

Yes plastic is a big, GIGANTIC, problem. I only use plastic bags that have been already used in another way – I reuse bread bags, a Ziploc that was holding leftovers, and the many other bags that come in plastic. I already use bags in this way when cleaning Momma Kitty’s litter box. I actually use ‘my litter box’ and then clean Momma’s – so a ‘two for one’. Using a plastic bag twice is a ‘reuse’ part of recycling.

In many places outside North America the septic systems are unable to deal with TP. Bagging used toilet paper is standard practice in these locations. It really isn’t all that different than dealing with dog poop.

The next tip is don’t fill the holding tank with just solid waste (aka #2). You want urine (aka #1) in the mix. Don’t use fresh water to flush as this wastes valuable space (volume). Again – only things that have gone through the human body go into the holding tank. Reminder: dumping urine overboard, unless you are more the 3 nautical miles offshore, is illegal! Puget Sound and San Juan Islands ARE NO DUMPING zones! B.C. is a bit more complicated so I’ll discuss Canada in another post.

Some may ask about flushing afyer using a porta potti. Well, you really shouldn’t be flushing as filling the bowl makes a mess. Once seated open the portable toilet’s flush handle so waste falls straight into the holding tank. After a few uses you will know where to sit so you correctly aim. FYI – always sit when using any toilet on a boat!

Now back to why you want enough liquid in a porta potty holding tank – if the waste is a mass of solids it isn’t easy to dump. Lots of shaking is required to get the poop to leave the tank and this causes splashing and a high yuk factor. When you get the liquid proportion right the waste flows, or pours, smoothly during disposal. Having urine sloshing around in the tank, energetic sailing to weather also helps, will assist in breaking up the solid matter making the disposal pour an easily(er) task.

To close this discussion I’ll add that I’ve been increasingly disappointed in the State of Washington State Parks as increasingly their pumping and dumping locations are not maintained and closed. Examples: Blake Island (over a year), Jarrell Cove (shut down sometime summer ’19), and the pumpout barge at Stuart Island Reid Harbor (over a year). If the State of WA wants a clean Sound the stations need to be maintained!!

For more on why correctly containing and disposing of human waste is important here are some informative links –

Next ‘potti talk’ I’ll outline my thoughts on composting toilets.

Update 12 Nov. ’19: added a fourth link showing problems with human waste being dumped into Puget Sound