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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey folks, new member here seeking some advice on how to un-clog my marine head. I have an 86 Oday 31. It has a year or two old Jabsco marine head. New hoses, macerator, and y valve. I can pump water into the bowl, but it doesnt want to push it into the holding tank. When I have have the switch in the "pump dry" position, I can pump the piston a stroke or two until the pressure builds up, but thats it. I had a great time last evening taking apart the pump. The top valve gasket is fine, the base valve gasket (flapper) is clear and the joker valve (who named that!?) is ok. This leads me to believe the discharge line is clogged up somewhere. I have a Y valve to go discharge overboard or into the holding tank. Of course its set to go to the holding tank. I switched it to discharge overboard and gave it a try. Still no luck, which I believe tells me the clog is before the Y valve. The holding tank vent line is not clogged. I pumped out the holding tank and you can hear the valve sucking in air. I tried plugging the vent thinking I could use the pumpout pump to create a vacuum in the holding tank and suck the clog through, but that didn't work.

So basically, how to I unclog the discharge line? Or what do you think is going on? Is it just a matter or getting a snake down there or is there some sort of marine alternative? I suppose I could replace the hose, but its new and there is quite a bit of it. It runs from the bowl on the starboard side under the sole through the bilge to the port side where it runs up the hull to a vented loop and down to the Y valve. There is a heater/ac in the way of the vented loop bit, which makes replacing the line seem like a project.

Anyway, thanks in advance.

-Shawn
 

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You have diagnosed the issue correctly and my educated guess is that the clog is right AT the input to the y valve. You need to disconnect the hose at the Y valve and clear the clog. If the blockage is not at the Y valve...that still gives you access to the full legth of the hose in both dirctions for a snake.

A warning...this is a DIRTY job and the contents of the hose to the Y valve may be under pressure due to your pumping to resistance!! Get the picture?? Ask me how I know!! :D
Dress well and have a bucket handy ..... good luck!
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Note that the OTHER possibility is a THOROUGHLY clogged hose due to scale but I have discounted this based on the age you have quoted and the assumption that this is not a live-aboard vessel.
If you have that level of scale build up...get 10% muriatic acid at the Home Depot and vent well in the head compartment and pour a couple of cups into the bowl. Let it bubble away till it stops then pump the bowl till it is just dry. Let it sit 10 minutes or so...then pump a bit more water into the bowl and repeat until you are able to pump clearly with no back pressure. Heavy scaling and total blockage may prevent you from doing this treatment. You can also try it bit by bit by removing the hose from the head and draining any existing "contents" the pouring in the acid/water mix and letting it work...repeat...repeat....repeat. Last resort is remove the entire hose and beat it on the docks. which is truly a last resort. Don't forget that the antiiphon valve is probably closed too if there is heavy scale and will need to be cleaned.
Anyway...my guess is that scale is not the issue...but it WILL be for someone who reads this!! :D
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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After hearing all the horror stories of clogged heads, we finally generated our own. Our symptoms were exactly as you described. After pulling the hose off at the elbow, we found that the 1.5" diameter waste line had an inside diameter of about 3/4 of an inch from all the scale build up inside the hose. The previous owner had been liveaboard for 13 years. I don't know how long it had been since the lines had been replaced last.

The immediate fix was to remove the line and beat the chit out of it on the dock to break up the scale. We replaced all the lines a couple weeks later. Welcome to boat ownership. After fixing this problem and going aground, you're an official member.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well I already touched bottom (soft muck) so I have that covered. I may not get the chance to fix this though. My wife is encouraging me to take it to the marina. This irks me two ways. 1. I'm uh, thrifty, and 2. I like to do things myself. Racing tonight. I may give it a go tommorow with a snake from the y valve.

Thanks for the prompt replys!
 

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Well I already touched bottom (soft muck) so I have that covered. I may not get the chance to fix this though. My wife is encouraging me to take it to the marina. This irks me two ways. 1. I'm uh, thrifty, and 2. I like to do things myself. Racing tonight. I may give it a go tommorow with a snake from the y valve.

Thanks for the prompt replys!
DIY Is the way to go... Because if you are offshore and the head clogs up, your better half will want, either to have it fixed imediately (you're a hero) or return to shore and have someone else fix it at big big bucks.
A Coastal or Offshore sailor learns quickly on how to repare just about everything on the boat.
 

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I would not use a snake to clear a plug in the hose. Usually a snake just dislodges all the scale as it moves along and then you've really got a plug!! The best way to fix this is to remove the hose, there are no short cuts. After removing the host you can try a snake. My hose is about ten feet long so I remove it and lash it to the lifelines with both ends up. Fill it with vinegar or a weak solution of muriatic acid and leave overnight. The next day most of the scale will be loose. Flush by dipping it off the swim platform and bashing the hose. (these instructions are for those that don't live in marinas). If you've got a pole spear they're very handy for freeing up what's plugging the hose. Of course all these techniques require removing the hose first.

If you want a short cut that might work, take the hose off the head, stick a hose nozzle in it wrapped in a j-cloth to prevent the water squirting out, turn on the hose and try to blow it through. Be ready to stop very quickly if the pressure builds up without clearing the obstruction. Do this in your underwear. You'll soon find out why.
 

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I actually had this problem myself when a new girlfriend used the head. I bought one of those balloon type fittings for the hose, and turned on the faucet. Maybe you could wear a dive suit? Booties, gloves, head cover, and all. Oh, and don't forget the goggles.....i2f
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Brandy new hose here and no visible buildup of anything for about three feet into the dishcarge hose from the toilet end. Im pretty damn sure its toilet paper or maybe even a wet-one. Havent been using marine tp (although the owners manual says to use "good quality household toilet paper") and I dont think I advised anyone to go light on the tp.

Is there any other reason why I cant search around with the snake to get the mouse? I wont be inserting the snake through any valves or anything like that.
 

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Also important to have a waste basket with a lid in the head... And a sign that says: If you haven't eaten it, IT does not go into the commode!! :rolleyes:
 

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Just to make sure, are you certain that the switch to empty the bowl is pushed all the way down? I have the same head and I have to push the switch down hard or it will not open the valve. I know it sounds stupid, but I hope for your sake it is this simple.

I would not use a snake; boat plumbing is not that rugged. If you have to take it apart cover what you can with an old towel to catch what comes out with the sudden release of pressure.

It is noteworthy how much interest we take in other's plumbing problems...
 

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S/V Antares
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You may want to reconsider checking the vent once more to be sure that a "vent exhaust event" (e.g. pumping the head where the flow is from 'in' to 'out') might be being blocked while an "vent intake event" (flow moving from out to in when pumping out the tank) might be unrestricted.

Just a thought before you suit up and start tearing out hoses etc...

Good luck,

Bill
 

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I have the same project tomorrow afternoon. :puke

A week of sailing with two young women (25 and 34) resulted in a block in the "Y" valve. I've waited a few days for the pressure to release and will remove hoses tomorrow afternoon.

Actually I've been patiently waiting for the good fairy to appear, wave her magic wand, and for the clog to disappear. I must have been a bad boy 'cause she's a no show.:(

I'll guarantee that I'll be ready for an ice cold 'sundowner' and a hot shower when this is done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for all the advice folks. It is fixed. The discharge line was clogged with.........scale. I guess "new" hose can clog up in as little as two or three years. So it was plugged up between the discharge elbow and the vented loop. When you flush with seawater and pump the bowl dry, whatever doesnt make it over the loop just sits there in the hose and I guess the minerals precipitate out of soulution pretty easily. Anyway, I think I will give my bosses suggestion a try and only flush with freshwater. Also marine tp only and guests will get a short lecture on using the head. Great learing experience!

Thanks again.
 
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