May 26, 2016

The graveyard of toilets

SOMEONE ASKED ME the other day how much a used marine toilet is worth. I was able to tell him that a used marine toilet is worth about as much as an ice cube in Alaska. I know this because there was a time when I, too, threw the plumbed head off my 22-foot race boat in favor of the much lighter bucket-and-bag-it system.

I took it down the road to the local marine consignment store.

“I have a porcelain head,” I told the man. “Good working condition.”

He sighed. “Let’s see it,” he said warily.

I led him outside and threw open the trunk of my car. The head crouched there innocently on a piece of blue tarpaulin, clean and bright and trying to look hygienic and attractive.

“OK,” said the man. “Bring it in.”

He guided me through the store and down some stairs to a basement room. And there, to my astonishment, stood rows and rows of pre-owned white porcelain toilets, wall-to-wall as far as the eye could see. It was like the Arlington National of boating bathrooms.

“This is where marine toilets come to die,” said the man, waving an arm at a veritable elephant’s graveyard of maritime plumbing. “Yours might take a while to sell,” he added unnecessarily.

I’ll never know whether it sold or not. That was 16 years ago. The consignment store is no longer in business. I don’t know what happened to my old loo. But I’m sure that wherever it is now, it’s not lonely.

Today’s Thought
Let not the eyes be dry when we have lost a friend, nor let them overflow. We may weep, but we must not wail.
— Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium

A VA doctor was examining a man back from a long spell in Iraq.
“Do you pee normally?” he asked.
“Yes, sir.”
“Don’t go more than usual?”
“Um — no, sir.”
“When you pee, does it burn at all?”
“Don’t know, sir. Never tried to light it.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another  Mainly about Boats column.)


Alden Smith said...

John. Now sit down and listen carefully. If you continue to go into shops and say:

“I have a porcelain head,” “Good working condition,” and it is apparent that your head looks like everyone elses on the planet, someone might lock you up.

John Vigor said...

Alden, thanks for the advice. It reminds me of the time I went into a boatyard office and told the girl "I want my bottom painted." I never learn.

John V.

57 Degrees North said...

Most of the old wooden fishing boats "built between the wars" as they used to say, never had indoor plumbing. Our "head" was typically a five gallon bucket half-filled with sea water. And a mighty uncomfortable perch that was too, especially in heavy seas. (I'm sure you don't need me to paint you a picture...)

When glass construction really came into it's own in the sixties, the majority of boats were now factory equipped with civilized facilities. So you can imagine my excitement when I scored a job on a big (47 feet) troller/long-liner that I was just sure had a by-God-real toilet. "Hot damn!" said I, "a real toilet seat out of the wind and waves, that won't go scooting across the deck with every roll!" But alas, 'twas not to be. The skipper had "decommissioned" the head and turned the space into storage. Bugger all! Back to that bleedin' bucket again.

I'm quite certain that in some locale best left undiscovered, the toilet from F.V. Kestrel is in good company with the beautiful porcelain bowl from your race boat

John Vigor said...

What a sweet thought, 57 Degrees N. I bet they have some stories to tell each other.
John V.

Mike K said...

There may be something to be said for the old bucket. The manual loo (sorry, sorry, head) in my boat once ceased to pump as I (well actually I blame the crew, as she doesn't read this blog) had inadvertently left the pump rod in the down position during a few weeks of unbusyness as Jeremy Clarkson might say. After said few weeks stewing in the briny sump, the nut corroded off the bottom of the shaft. The next time the handle was raised to do some work the nut fell off taking the seal with it along with any chance of being able to flush said loo..I mean head. Naturally this occurred immediately following a deposit of the largest, nastiest, smell... well you get the picture. The only solution was to unbolt the toilet and take it above decks to clean and fix. Toilet was, of course, in cramped area of forward cabin, requiring the ability to contort oneself around it in order to access fittings. Due to lack of time at the time, this process was forced to wait a week. OMG. I ensured I had no stomach contents before I started, by the end I had no stomach at all.

57 Degrees North said...

simplicity has a lot to reccemend it. Besides, my wife thinks the extra, nonstandard creases in my ass are cute...