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Discussion Starter #1
I'm having my first experiences with a boat large enough to house a head (Catalina 25) and the neither the marina neighbors or the Jabsco manual hasn't been very helpful for my serious noob questions. How do I know when the tank has to be emptied? I'm going to do my first pump out this weekend and don't really know what to expect. Unlock the pipe and a machine does it? What sort of regular maintenance should I be doing (I've read about oil being flushed? Air fresheners?) And where exactly does the water come from for the flushing and do I need to fill this tank?

Thank you!
 

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the most fun part of boating. if you have a pump out fitting on the deck. you open it, put the suction hose on the fitting and the contents will be sucked out. there is no flushing, it is a vacuum device. that is it. close the cap before you smell the roses. how do you know when it need to be emptied empty? believe me you will know. I use Raritan K O and it works very well
Raritan Engineering | Cleaning and Maintenance Products/K.O. Kills Odors
 

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Crealock 37
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During routine use the toilet is usually "flushed" with seawater. There is probably a thru-hull and valve with hose to the toilet.
 

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Find your holding tank. In same cases, you can actually open a cabin and see its level. In most, however, its under the sole and you'll really benefit from adding a level gauge. Over filling a tank can cause clogging (worst repair in marine history), smelly waste lines or even leaking at connections.

Emptying a holding tank is design specific. Some empty by gravity by opening a thru hull, others are pumped overboard by a macerating pump. All typically have a deck fitting to be pumped out by a marina, as most water are no-discharge-areas these days.
 

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Tartan 27' owner
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I 2nd the use of Raritan K.O. as a tank treatment.
It makes your effluent smell like cherries...
 

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s/v Tiger Lily
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the most fun part of boating.
Ha! That reminds me of the other day ... I was cleaning our cat's litterbox while my 5 year-old observed. He looks at me with a sincere look on his face and says, "You know Daddy, this is the best part about cats!"

Admittedly, there is something grossly satisfying about hooking the vacuum pumpout hose to the boat and getting it done.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Amazing! I'm definitely going to pick up some Raritan.

I didn't pump out this weekend because when I got back to the marina we had gusts of 16 kts. I didn't want to risk anything spilling anywhere haha. Thanks everyone!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Find your holding tank. In same cases, you can actually open a cabin and see its level. In most, however, its under the sole and you'll really benefit from adding a level gauge. Over filling a tank can cause clogging (worst repair in marine history), smelly waste lines or even leaking at connections.
Totally gross question time! How easy do these tanks clog? If the tank is full can I leave it for a couple days or does it need to be emptied ASAP? Any tips for avoiding a clog?
 

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During routine use the toilet is usually "flushed" with seawater. There is probably a thru-hull and valve with hose to the toilet.
Yes, and if your seawater tank needs to be filled you have a real problem! :eek:

I 2nd the use of Raritan K.O. as a tank treatment.
It makes your effluent smell like cherries...
Only necessary if your effluent does not already smell like roses like mine! I have not used K.O. but it seems to be the only additive that is not universally hated. I would say try it without additive (I never had a problem, but either I was very lucky or it really does smell like roses!) as you should not need one if the holding tank is appropriately designed. Big thing is ventilation and hoses. Most odor permeates from the hoses. Take a warm wet rag and run it along the hoses, if it smells like sewer, then you need new hoses. It would not hurt to run a bigger ventilation line to the holding tank, as you need air to keep the aerobic bacteria healthy and keep away the smelly anaerobic bacteria. Much the same as a septic tank at home.

Totally gross question time! How easy do these tanks clog? If the tank is full can I leave it for a couple days or does it need to be emptied ASAP? Any tips for avoiding a clog?
Well the tanks normally don't clog, but he toilets and hoses do very easily. Normally it is too much paper or too think paper. There is a kind of flapper valve that is called the joker valve. Seems to be called a joker because the joke is on the owner who lets a visitor use the head! Biggest way of avoiding a clog is to use as little tp as possible, and flush with enough pumps and never ever put personal hygiene products in the toilet even it they say flush-able. Get it pumped before it is full, this helps as much as anything. Some people go so far as to say nothing goes into the head that you have not eaten first. They provide Ziploc baggies for toilet paper to go into. That takes it a bit far for me though. It seems to be common practice for long distance cruisers, and is often the case for land born sewer systems in some less developed areas of the world.
 

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s/v Tiger Lily
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Use marine toilet paper that is designed for holding tanks. It's the worst toilet paper ever ... but apparently it is holding tank friendly.
 

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Amazing! I'm definitely going to pick up some Raritan.

I didn't pump out this weekend because when I got back to the marina we had gusts of 16 kts. I didn't want to risk anything spilling anywhere haha. Thanks everyone!
As another said, holding tanks don't typically clog, hoses and heads do. However, sludge can settle to the bottom of a holding tank and make it harder for the pickup tube to evacuate the tank. This is not usually a problem after only a week or two, if you properly care for your tank. Lets face it, a holding tank is a septic field on your boat. You need good bacteria to grow in order to allow for proper decomposition. Good bacteria, by the way, do not smell at all. It's bad bacteria that stink that unmistakable stink.

For good bacteria, you need good ventilation and be sure to flush nothing that you didn't eat first or TP. Chemicals, medicines and most household cleaning agents kill good bacteria. Even flushing oil to lubricate the pump will skim over the top of the tank and deprive the good bacteria of the oxygen they need to survive.

K.O. helps keep this bacteria alive, which is the primary reason it's popular. It's not a deodorant alone. The nuclear deodorant chemicals work for a short while, then fail. Worse, they have to eventually be dumped in the environment.
 
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Use marine toilet paper that is designed for holding tanks. It's the worst toilet paper ever ... but apparently it is holding tank friendly.
Any single ply TP should work fine, particularly if you use it sparingly. We just use Scotts. Maintain your tank to propagate aerobic bacteria and it will break down fine. Primary concern is clogging, which is managed by using it sparingly and flushing sufficient water. Surprising how many people don't flush enough to actually push contents all the way to the tank. Solids settle in the waste lines and you get clogging.
 

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All the talk about ventilation keeping the aerobic bacteria alive is sound advice else anaerobic bacteria develop and those are the real smelly fellows.

But equally important, ventilation will stop your tank from imploding. Make sure the vent is clear before applying the suction line.

We use the same toilet paper in our boat as we do in our home and have never had a problem with the paper clogging everything. Just don't (and ask visitors not to) use 14 sheets at a time.:)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Are exploding septic tanks on boats a thing?! I can't think of a worse way to go down.
 

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Are exploding septic tanks on boats a thing?! I can't think of a worse way to go down.
No he was talking about imploding as in when pumping out there is a lot of suction. You can actually have the tank crush inwards as they suck the goop out. If there is not enough vent, air will not get in.

I have always used cheap paper without much issue as well. If really concerned I think camping suppliers likely have less expensive stuff than the local marine store.
 

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Are exploding septic tanks on boats a thing?! I can't think of a worse way to go down.
Imploding = inwards
Exploding = outwards

No, I've never heard of a blackwater tank exploding but I have seen more that one implode - or maybe I should say collapse.
 
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