Every once in awhile I see a post about the AirHead, and I was always interested. I wanted to post myself since I've decided to do the conversion myself. I'm not the most "handy" of sailors, but I'm learning rapidly.
I picked AirHead because the dimensions fit my boat's head better than the Nature's Head. I ordered it, received it, and I was impressed by the construction and height. It's sturdy and comfortable when I sit on it.
Today, I tore out my old head. It took me about three hours (I was interrupted in the middle because I had a diesel mechanic come to help me with my engine). The holding tank was already pumped out, and before I started I opened the waste plug as an additional vent.
I popped the bolts off the toilet so that I could remove it. Each of the toilet's lines were attached pretty snugly, so it was very difficult to remove them. I made my first critical error - removing the macerator pump's discharge line from the pump itself. The pump wasn't pumping before I removed the head, and I figured that since the holding tank was empty, it should be fine, right?
There was a fair amount of pulpy human waste in that line.
I was halfway prepared for it (mask, rubber gloves under work gloves, long sleeve shirt and pants, and lots of garbage bags and paper towels). The problem was compounded because the line would not separate all the way from the discharge side - and the high part wasn't coming free either. So, gritting my teeth, I grabbed hold of the hose and really twisted. It came free and rapidly voided itself in the garbage bag I had jammed beneath it when the discharge began. Delightful.
I ended up wrapping that toilet in three garbage bags and a sheet to be able to get it out of my boat. That initial hose got tossed in a bag too, after I cut it off the top of the holding tank. And I did a lot of cleaning up afterwards.
The holding tank was much easier. I had a friend help me (he was bored and he wanted to get his hands dirty) while I worked with the diesel mechanic - he had it out in a few minutes and in it's own trash bag (it was 3 gallons). He also removed the waste port hose as well.
After the mechanic left, so did my friend. I was going to leave, but I still had the discharge line for the holding tank to my thru-hull. I really wanted to finish the project today.
So, I thought about it, and I decided that it must be empty. It was a short run. I looked at it, underneath my settee, and I decided to just cut the line off. As soon as I made my initial cut, more pulpy human waste (well, liquid initially) came spraying out.
I did what I could to make the cut area the "high point" of the line, but the hose was too short. So I had grit my teeth again, and get that line cut. I tell you, I have seen the things of nightmares. When I was done, I jammed as much rag in as I could, crammed on a rubber glove over the hose and jammed it through the bulkhead to get it into its own garbage bag.
I then had the pleasure of cleaning up after myself. I'm going to go back tomorrow and make sure that my boat doesn't stink, and if it does, I'm going for 100% bleach. (Not to worry, when I left there was no evidence of the smell of human waste.)
I'll let you know how the rest of the install goes, but as of right now, at least everything that has ever touched poo is off my boat. And that is a huge accomplishment for me.
I'll tell you also that if rebuilding a head or repairing a jammed pump is only half as bad as what I went through today, then it is too much. I know that I have made the right decision. This is the ONLY time that I want to mess with the waste that comes from humans in pulpy form. The AirHead has no moving parts (except the trap) and importantly, nothing that can jam or clog. And thankfully, the waste part just looks like soil after its been composted.