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Old 09-20-2012, 01:20 PM   #1
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Boat toilet (marine head). How would you do it?

It's a Wilcox-Crittenden "Skipper". Cast bronze base and pump, porcelain bowl, and a marine grade mahogany seat (to be stripped and refinished).

Doing some research I discovered these used to sell for over a thousand bucks and are lauded as some of the best ever made, lasting decades without issue.

Sadly, when our pals at Thetford bought Wilcox-Crittenden 2003... this is the very first thing they discontinued. No interest in selling a toilet that lasts 50 years when you can sell the same customer a plastic one every 5-10, I guess.

Anyhow, I spotted this one at a southern California marine salvage yard a few weeks ago. *Had* to drag it home to Chicago to see if we could incorporate it into a new wet bath setup in our '54 Safari. I figure if not, I can at least get my $295 back via eBay.

Wondering if any salty dogs out there have experience or advice on how to incorporate this old manual pump unit (with its waste coming out the rear left side vs. the bottom) - into our Airstream. We have a blank slate, but plan on using the same new black tank that Airstream uses.

Here are my hopes:
- that we can position it near an outer wall,
- that we can take advantage of our 12v water pump and eliminate the need to use this long manual handle,
- and that we can connect to the black tank via a tube out the back - allowing the unit to be bolted directly to the floor since it's already at the right height.

If this can work, I plan on buying a rebuild kit to provide all new gaskets. I'll polish and wax the bronze base for now, which might look really neat in an all stainless bathroom.
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Old 09-20-2012, 01:57 PM   #2
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Marine toilets use these pump handles because of unique boat installation requirements.

Flush water is usually pumped from a seacock below the water line, instead of from the freshwater tank in an RV, thus necessitating the large pump handle that drives a diaphragm pump. Also, the holding tank is often at approximately the same level as the toilet bowl and frequently half-a-boat-length away, which requires waste water and solids to be pumped to the tank, instead of draining by gravity into an RV's black tank.

Therefore, while marine toilets may be sturdily constructed, I suspect that without modification they will be "out of water" (unsuitable) for most travel trailer and RV applications.

By the way, if you find cleanup after pulling the black-water gate valve distasteful, imagine discovering a below-deck leak in the flush hose and fittings after attempting to push a sewer blockage to the holding tank by pumping vigorously on the flush handle. Fortunately, I have no first-hand experience, as this happened to another boat owner.

===============

I can envision this working with some modification, although I wouldn't venture a guess on how to do this. Just curious, how much does this toilet weight? It looks like a boat anchor compared to modern, mostly plastic, RV toilet.
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:23 PM   #3
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It may have been set up to use sea water and the valve is designed to work in such a manner that when the valve is closed, the bowl contents are emptied (overboard?). I suspect that it's an easy modification to bring water into the bowl and then emptied into the black tank. Check with West Marine for parts and tech info.
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:28 PM   #4
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That is the head that was in my 1964 Pearson Vanguard sailboat and thousands of other from that time period. Trick was to keep a couple of rebuild kits handy. Mine had to be rebuilt at least once a year. Salt water is rough on rubber seals and onboard visiters had a nasty habit of putting objects down the toilet that they should not have. Rebuild was actually quick and easy and took less than half an hour. I was living and cruising onboard full time and it got quite a work out. They were built to last a lifetime by craftsmen that took pride in their work. You can still buy a similar unit made by another company but the cost is close to $2500.
Brad if you need rebuild kits (and you will) they are still available from West Marine. For $295 you got a very good deal. The bronze base and fitting will clean up nice and bright if you wish to go that route. It was a weekly routine to give mine a once over with Flitz to keep it bright and clean looking. I really would not know where to begin in installing one in a trailer, but it really should not be that difficult. I think it would be well worth the effort. It would certainly add a bit of class to any Airstream.
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Old 09-20-2012, 03:43 PM   #5
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In my experience they will use quite a bit more H2o per flush than a RV setup. Other than that, it will probably outlast even an AS. Sal.
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post
...while marine toilets may be sturdily constructed, I suspect that without modification they will be "out of water" (unsuitable) for most travel trailer and RV applications... just curious, how much does this toilet weight?
Just weighed it: 61 lbs. The fridge we're looking at is probably 75 lbs., and will be on the other side of the axle, and other side of the trailer. My hope was to balance everything out - making lemonade out of bronze.

Thx for your thoughts on things, you may be right about more modifications being necessary than is reasonable.

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I suspect that it's an easy modification to bring water into the bowl and then emptied into the black tank. Check with West Marine for parts and tech info.
West Marine is a great lead, thanks. Just a matter of finding someone old and crusty instead of these 20-somethings that have no clue what their own products do.

My hope is that rather than doing a pumping motion with that big arm, we might be able to shorten it and simply use it like a faucet, tripping the pump and filling the bowl. We'll see if that logic holds up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AWCHIEF View Post
That is the head that was in my 1964 Pearson Vanguard sailboat... I really would not know where to begin in installing one in a trailer, but it really should not be that difficult. I think it would be well worth the effort. It would certainly add a bit of class to any Airstream.
It was my hope that someone who'd used one would chime in - thanks!! Glad I didn't get screwed on the price, so I'm covered if it doesn't work out.

Thrilled the rebuild is a quickie, if a bit pricey ($100+ I think). Not using sea water, I imagine this may require a bit less frequent maintenance than in the usual setting.

Now it's just an issue of finding someone who's either done it, or can identify just what'd be needed to connect this to the rest of the standard plumbing system.

I suspect I may just wind up being my own "someone".
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:38 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by noreen&sal View Post
In my experience they will use quite a bit more H2o per flush than a RV setup. Other than that, it will probably outlast even an AS. Sal.
Hadn't thought of that. Probably not a huge deal with our intended boondock-to-campground ratio, but good to consider.
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:50 PM   #8
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I suspect I may just wind up being my own "someone".
Looks like you have some help here: http://www.usna.edu/SailingTeam/Lect...headrepair.pdf

I googled the brand and model as you posted them and the PDF was the first result.

Based on looking at the PDF the piston handle will be required to operate the toilet.

After taking a look at the PDF from Thetford I noticed a warning about not connecting the freshwater supply line to a drinking water tank. This toilet may contaminate it's freshwater inlet. If you were to use this toilet I'd add a vacuum breaker and backflow preventer before I connected to my trailer freshwater system. http://goo.gl/7shpR
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Old 09-20-2012, 05:17 PM   #9
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RV and boat toilets operate completely differently. An RV loo opens a valve and the waste drops by gravity directly into the tank. In a boat toilet the waste is mixed with water and forcefully pumped into the holding tank. A boat potty can be used in an RV but the waste plumbing is quite different and the water consumption will be much greater. Don't forget to put a U in the waste hose (bottom of the U pointing up) with a vacuum breaker at the apex of the U so that the waste will clear the line and flow into the tank. The last time I bought sanitary discharge hose (10 years ago), it was $8.95/ft.

I had a Blakes Baby head in my boat and I took it apart and polished all the bronze and chrome on a buffing wheel and it looked stunning. Sailors have been known to dive on sunken boats to retrieve these toilets for future use.
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Old 09-20-2012, 05:57 PM   #10
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Looks like you have some help here: http://www.usna.edu/SailingTeam/Lect...headrepair.pdf
Fantastic, hadn't seen that PDF. Good advice about the backflow preventer as well - thanks!

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RV and boat toilets operate completely differently....

I had a Blakes Baby head in my boat and I took it apart and polished all the bronze and chrome on a buffing wheel and it looked stunning...
Good advice about the "U" in the waste line, I'll print out all these comments and keep them handy when it's time to attempt to hook it all up.

Your Blakes Baby sounds fantastic (if imagining someone else's toilet is capable of such a thing). I believe there's a larger model by Blake called the "Victory" on eBay. Truly a Rolls-Royce of a toilet. I'd love to see a photo of yours in its polished state... if you happened to have one.
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Old 09-20-2012, 10:25 PM   #11
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I had a similar head in my Cape Dory 25 sailboat for some years.

I had a sign in the head that said "Put nothing in this toilet unless you have swallowed it first."

A friend had a sign in his head that said "Erase your own skid marks."

Water use (and skid marks) can be minimized by wetting the bowl and putting a cross of toilet paper in the bottom of the bowl (3 sheets each way). The paper folds over the s*** and keeps the bowl nice and clean.

That said, the marine heads work fine. I had mine pumping into a portable tank under the cockpit seat, actually higher than the toilet. I never had a problem with back flow. As stated above, operating the pump is a necessity as these heads do not empty by gravity.
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:16 AM   #12
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[QUOTE=Pahaska;1205601]I had a similar head in my Cape Dory 25 sailboat for some years.

I had a sign in the head that said "Put nothing in this toilet unless you have swallowed it first."

A friend had a sign in his head that said "Erase your own skid marks."

Our sign read "if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down". Sal.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:10 AM   #13
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I can see one potential problem with the installation. Your RV has a pressurized water supply, either from municipal water or from your fresh tank's water pump. The marine head is designed to hand-pump unpressurized water into the bowl.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:22 AM   #14
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Another tip I remembered with the sanitary discharge hose which usually is very difficult to get onto the head outlet fitting. Hold the end of the hose in boiling water for 10 minutes to get it good and hot then using gloves you'll be able to force it onto the outlet.

On boats, we put two hose clamps on every hose but that's not required in an RV.

I don't think I have any pictures of my Blakes Baby because at some point I decided that I was getting too far out there with my attention to the crapper.

Here's a picture of a similar baby somewhat polished and without the mahogany seat and cover.

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