Tartan 27' owner
Join Date: Jan 2008
Thanked 112 Times in 104 Posts
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I'm not the Head Mistress or Master but I will tell you what I think I know.
K1vsk is correct that the translucent tanks can give you an idea of how full is 'full'. If all the plumbing is done correctly you will see and/or smell brown fluid coming out of your holding tank vents when someone uses the head and the tank is full.
The best advice I think I can give is to use a pump out station as soon as you can once someone has made a 'deposit'. The other advice I will use is to use your nose and discern if there is a nasty sulphurous smell to the air in your cabin. This kind of smell does not allow me to sleep to readily but your mileage may vary.
I'd advise using the Raritan holding tank treatment called 'KO' only and not using bleach or strong chemicals as per Peggy Hall's book "Eliminating Boat Odors".
I think the same rule that applies to reefing the sails applies to the holding tank; reef early and often. The more you keep it pumped out the less crap can sit in there and cause you problems later. The biggest problem I have with all of this is that the folks who leave the 'deposits' behind are not the ones who will have to clean it out later. Pump out early and often and you wont need to use the brown sludge coming out of the vent lines as an indicator that the tank is full.
This is perhaps the dark under belly of the sailing life as I think I know it. Pumping out the tank ain't all that charming but if you do it often enough and it is convenient then it is just part of the life.
Peggy Hall's book available at SBO is worth the investment.
"The cure for anything is salt water~ sweat, tears, or the sea." ~Isak Denesen
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