There’s a hole in my bucket…errr, head…errr, what?

When I was very little my mom taught me a song that she later regretted.  It is one of those indeterminable round-and-round things of exhausting length; kind of like 99 bottles of beer on the wall meets Pete and Repeat were walking down the road.  Pete fell down.  Who was left? Repeat! As an adult I can’t sing more than two verses in my head without mentally screaming; as a child it was a delicious instrument of torture…  Get ready to share my glee/anguish.*

(First verse, sung by Henry:) There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza!  There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, there’s a hole!

(Second verse, sung by Liza:) Well fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!  Well fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it!

The song goes on with the following phrases substituted for “there’s a hole in my bucket” and “well fix it”:

  • With what shall I fix it? With straw.
  • But the straw’s not cut.  Well cut it.
  • With what shall I cut it? With a sickle.
  • But the sickle’s not sharp. Well sharpen it.
  • With what shall I sharpen it? With a whetstone.
  • But the whetstone’s not wet.  Well wet it.
  • With what shall I wet it? With water.
  • With what shall I fetch it?  From the well.
  • But how shall I get it?  With a bucket.
  • But there’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…

Told you… (Note: if I were Liza there would be a lot less dear Hernrying and a lot more action!)

Wikipedia, that fount of knowledge, has a few different words.  I writes it ‘um I remembers ‘um.

This long and seemingly off-topic ramble leads me to my point: our head (or toilet, for you dirt-dwellers).  Every sailing blog has to have a post about the head and this is mine…

Why?  (The dirt-dwellers ask.)  Well, I’ll tell you and I’ll try not to get too graphic.  To put it in context: a boat is self-contained.   Our drinking/washing/cleaning water is put into water tanks from the outside.  The tanks run out of water and we need to get more.  Our electricity (simplistically) is contained in the batteries; we get low and need to top the batteries up through the transformer or solar panels/genset/wind gen/etc.  This is to say: nothing is in unlimited supply and storage is at a premium.  With this in mind think about your toilet in your house.  It uses water to flush.  Where does the water go?  Away.  A toilet on a boat also uses water to flush except that it doesn’t go away, it goes into a holding tank with what was flushed.  The holding tank lives up to it’s name by holding everything until it gets pumped out by a special boat with a special hose that sucks everything out and (in this marina at least) charges $5 each time.  There are other methods of disposing of holding tank material but we are in the marina right now and so that’s that.

With that context/back-story out of the way: we had many problems with the toilet when we bought this boat.

The original.  Isn't it lovely?
The original. Isn’t it lovely?

The holding tank is 10 gallons and bad things happen when it get’s over-full.  The hoses leading from the holding tank are old and smelly (guess what they smell like?).  The toilet itself is old and cracked and possibly leaking sewage onto the floor of our head.  The water is not hooked up to the toilet so no flush…  With all the other problems happening while we were tripping down the primrose path the head was the last thing on our minds.  No one used it as the marina bathrooms were just a minute’s walk away.

Never having worked it I think the handle on the left pumps the water in.
Never having worked it I think the handle on the left pumps the water in.

Fast forward to the relocation captain saying: your head’s broken; we had to use a bucket after the first day.  Turns out that pre-bucket first day was a doozy and the boat was delivered with a bit of a gift.  Gross.  Sorry.

I, of course, had to go to work after the delivery weekend (during which time we ignored the problem and used the marina bathrooms).  So my Better Half had the unenviable task of dealing with the toilet. I won’t go into detail but, yes, it was leaking sewage onto the floor.  The base of the toilet was cracked and an adjustment of the screws holding it down caused some really gross stuff to happen.  Ripping the toilet out and getting rid of the lines leading from it made the boat smell better at least.  However, the walk to the marina bathrooms was getting longer and longer…

Our eventual solution was sani-bags and a lidded bucket (see what I did there?  I brought it all back together…).   Strictly a pissoir it solved the problem of the long walk.  How I longed for something more, well, permanent.  And a seat.  I longed for a seat…  Though there were no holes in the bucket, so that was something.

And here’s a picture of a summer sunset to distract you from what you just read.

* This brings to mind another circular story more appropriate to this blog.  It was also fodder for torturing my mother:

It was a dark and stormy night…and the wind began to blow.  The Captain turned to the Skipper and said: Skipper, tell us a story!  And so the Skipper began… (and dramatically repeat from the beginning, ad nauseam until nauseous. )

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