Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Now Officially Own the 'Terlet Queen' Sash...

...For Life; and I dare anyone to take that one small and smelly accomplishment away from me. The fact that it's all my fault is beside the point.

All those white hoses belong to the Knotty Cat's 'septic system', and what a joy they are to work with. NOT!

Honestly, I never thought that only two years after replacing most of the hoses to our head that I'd be right back at ground zero.

But, I was.

First of all, I have to tell you, I've revised this particular post so many times during the past week I've literally lost count.

Initially, when we first noticed that the head we use most often (the one adjacent to our berth) wasn't flushing in the same friendly manner we'd become accustomed to, I was puzzled. You see, in May when we yanked our holding tank out of its new home (we needed access to the space beneath it), the hose that fed into it was perfectly clear. And don't think I wasn't feeling just a bit smug. "I bet we have years before we need to worry about replacing these hoses again." I stated.

Four months later, while everyone else was enjoying their Labor Day Weekend, I was eating (and smelling) my words because once again I was at work in the bowels of the Knotty Cat.

I was a little surprised at how long it took me to get the hoses apart, even when I took a heat gun to them

Oh, man! The hose was full of water which meant something was blocking it

As a lifelong fan of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, I dearly love a mystery, but I'm pretty sure Nancy never had stinky potty water spew over her feet, and Agatha used much prettier smelling poisons than the odors emanating from our hoses.

This much I knew; either there was a huge blockage in the hose I thought was the culprit, or else the Joker Valve (who comes up with these names?) right beside the toilet was coated with calcium deposits. Well, bless my stupid soul; it was neither one.

In the end, I tried to use the process of elimination (honest to god, I should give a prize to the person who can point out all of the unintended puns I've interjected in this post), and just like I did two years ago, I wasted too many days trying to clear hoses, when instead, I should have concentrated on replacing them from the get go. This time around I decided to forego using muriatic acid (which scares the crap out of me) and opted instead for a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice (which, I find, cleans stainless fixtures better than any leading cleanser on the market).

Labor Day weekend rolled around and eager to spend some time at the pool, I reconnected the one hose I'd focused on, bolted everthing back in place, threw the lever on our salt water intake, and bending over the toilet so I could see if water was leaving the bowl, I pumped the flush lever like crazy. For a few wonderful seconds I thought I was home free and then I felt that damn 'spongy' resistance you get with a blockage.... and WHAM! the toilet retaliated by erupting like a volcano. Directly in my face. How I didn't get whiplash I'll never know and I swear it was like I'd channelled the Seinfeld episode The Pothole .

I guess I should be happy Hans will still kiss me.

The hose I thought was going to be okay and clog free, was not


Even worse, these two connections are where the hoses connect to either pump into the holding tank or overboard. No wonder I couldn't flush

Scraping that crap out was all kinds of fun

Prior to yanking the hose off this sucker, I put paper towels underneath because I didn't know what might run out

So on Monday afternoon after a full week of messing around, we finally finished installing new hoses and once again I bolted and clamped everthing in place. I poured some fresh water into the toilet bowl and even without a drum roll I felt very dramatic when I started pumping the handle (although I leaned away this time). And; SUCCESS!! I was so happy I kept repeating the process of dumping cups of water in just so I could flush without any resistance or volcanic eruptions. Even Wilbur did a little happy dance.

Lesson learned. Fresh water flushing from now on.


Poor Wilbur didn't know what to think about the whole thing.

While I was working in the engine room Wilbur would lie on the floor in the doorway to the head, and when that got old he'd climb into our berth and nap. That way he could still keep an eye on me.

Actually I should add here that when I say all hoses have been replaced, I'm talking about the head on our starboard side. This is the one we use the most.

The port side head is another story. It's the one we used while ours was incommunicado and there are two major hoses I haven't replaced yet. Why? Because I just don't want to. They're heavy black hoses, they stink, and one of them goes behind the shower wall and will need to be 'fished' through. 'If it ain't broke don't fix it' is my motto, and I keep my blinders firmly in place.

But right after we pronounced our head to be cured of its ills, we peeked at the hoses on the port side and once again I said let's leave them be. Just as I was closing the door I noticed something though; a spongy bulge right at the top of a hose and directly under a hose clamp. An aneurysm. In a toilet hose. I can't even imagine the nightmare mess we'd have if that thing blows.

I guess Dr. Laura's job is never done.



  1. OMG!

    Those PICTURES!

    It's like staring at a wreck at the side of the road: you know you shouldn't look but you can't help yourself! Very brave of you!

  2. I sometimes wonder if I like to punish myself. But, actually, this time around wasn't nearly as bad since the hoses were only 2 years old and we'd already imposed some certain sanctions on them. But I'm still dreading the port side!,

  3. Holy cow!

    Seriously though, I'm missing something. It looks like a blockage no? (you stated that it was not)

    You seem to blame the use of salt water flushing. If the blockage is salt, is it possible "salt-away" or a similar product might have helped? Is it salt combining with something else to produce a hard compound? I've never heard of this. Do other boats all use fresh water for flushing?

  4. There was a blocked hose, but it wasn't the one I messed with. When urine and salt water are combined, over time the combination 'calcifies' and builds up. Since our head pulls in salt water, we now have a bucket of fresh water nearby to flush with. Vinegar will get flushed once a week too.

  5. 30 years of boating experience and I'd never heard that! After reading other experiences I see your strategy. (though some doubt the benefits of vinegar) Stories about this kind of build up in the tank itself and its air vent, for me, would make no salt water in the system a religion. I use portapotties.

  6. Fun times aboard! Guess we need to learn from this and use fresh water flushes. BTW, I nominated your blog .. check it out!