The head on Seaglass was state of the art when the boat was manufactured, but that was 25 years ago and things have moved on a bit since then. The original head was a Groco unit which started it's life as a manual toilet and then was upgraded to electric operation by adding an electric motor at some time in the past by a previous owner. The head worked but there were a couple of things that I did not like about it, all the pipework was on display below the bowl giving a rather industrial look and making it hard to clean, and secondly it used sea water for flushing. As part of the general refit of the boat, a Grand Banks 32 trawler, I wanted to install a toilet that was somewhat more streamlined and more importantly used fresh water for flushing. Boat toilets have gotten a bad rap in the past as being smelly with a propensity to clogging. Correct use and maintenance are critical for the proper operation of any heads afloat, the plumbing needs to be top notch and nothing should be flushed down the toilet that has not been eaten first. The sulfurous smell is often mistakenly attributed to waste in the tank and pipe work but it is often actually caused by the seawater used for the flush. Seawater contains millions of tiny micro organisms and when these sit in sanitation hoses they die and as they decompose they start to give off that rather evil smell that sadly is all to often considered a necessary part of life afloat . That is not to say that sewage smells of roses, it doesn't, but providing it is sent properly and completely to a holding tank there should be no issue with any unpleasant odors as these sent to outside through the tank vent.
Walking the aisles at the Miami boat show earlier this year I spent a fair bit of time looking at the offerings from various manufacturers but one caught my eye. Raritan are a well known name to many boat owners primarily for their water heaters but they also manufacture a range of toilets. The Elegance is an apt name for the model that I chose to install. It has a stylish look that will blend in well with many boat interiors. Available in seawater, fresh water or a combination of the two. Other options are for a straight or sloped back, high or low seat height and a choice of white or bone color. As these toilets are electric flush control there are options here too from a simple push to flush switch to a programmable control. All these options mean that there are few vessels where these toilets could not be used. The macerator pump is built into the back of the toilet concealed behind the china and as if this were something from a Star Wars movie it has what Raritan calls Vortex Vac flush technology which chops up any waste and pushes it into the holding tank most effectively.
After some careful measurements I opted for the white low seat model with fresh water flush and programmable control. The other thing that I had not considered until my wife pointed it out to me is that the toilet looks and works just like the one at home and does not require an engineering degree to flush, visitors aboard especially like it because you simply tell them where to press the button and the electronic control takes care of the rest and there is no more 'move the little lever to this position give five strokes, close the lever then pump ten more times.'
Installation took me three days in total which included stripping out the old head and pipe work, making good the fiberglass pedestal base that the head sits on before finally installing the new toilet, plumbing and electrical connections. This is a fairly advanced DIY job for sure and you need to be confident of your skills but providing that you have a decent tool kit, patience and a methodical approach it is not out of the reach of a skilled amateur. Every boat is unique of course and circumstances differ so although the final result may be similar the method may be slightly different to what you see here.
Here's I did it.
The old head worked but it leaked,was noisy, used sea water for flushing and I disliked the exposed plumbing so it had to go.
Step one was to turn off the power and close the sea water intake.
As I was installing new plumbing and electrical wiring I simply cut these out of the way. The raw water intake pipe was cut off adjacent to the intake seacock which was later repurposed for a anchor sea water wash down.
The waste pipe was disconnected from behind the bowl. Although this was being replaced I did not want to simply cut it as I had no idea what treats might be lurking inside!
With the bowl free of all connections I unbolted it from the pedestal and removed it from the boat.
I now had a free space and although the new head would be going into the same position as the old toilet the holes through the fiberglass for the water intake and waste hoses were in the wrong place and had to be filled and gel coated.
The new toilet was sat into position so that I could check that there was proper clearance for the seat to open correctly.
Once I was confident that the toilet was in the right place a pencil mark was made around the perimeter and at the centerline of the bolt holes which is required to correctly align the stainless steel mounting bracket.
After double checking my measurements I bolted the bracket in position in accordance with the enclosed instructions. The pencil line previously drawn around the base and at the hole centerlines is required for this step as a set back measurement is required from these marks.
Extra holes had to be drilled for the water intake, waste and electric wiring. Sizes are given in the instructions and a sharp hole saw makes short work of this job but if the pedestal is close to the hull be careful not to drill to far and go through the bottom of the boat!
Connecting up the electrics is straight forward but you must follow the instructions with regard to wire sizing. The electronic relay is installed close to the head but out of sight. Mine fitted very nicely in the cupboard behind the head. This black box is wired differently depending on how your particular toilet is configured. There are connections for a tank level monitor and automatic start for a Lectrasan or other sanitation treatment tank if your vessel is so equipped.
As I was installing the fancy programmable control I chose a position on the side of the vanity. A 11/2'' hole was needed for this so I drilled a 1/16th pilot hole first to give the center drill of the hole saw something to follow. The vanity is very polished and drilling pilot hole ensures that the large drill will not slip and mar the finish.
The control was then screwed into position using the supplied mounting screws and then the cat 5 cable was run to the black box and plugged in. I was careful to ensure that all wiring connections were well made using crimped connectors where appropriate and neatly clipping back cables to prevent them from sagging and getting snagged.
With the wiring complete you can then turn your attention to the plumbing. As I was installing a fresh water flush I had to tee into the cold water feed to the faucet. My boat is plumbed in PEX style piping so his was a fairly easy job. Had I been using a raw water flush model it would have been even simpler and I could have simply replaced the hose that runs to the seacock.
I had to wrestle the waste hose down through the pedestal then through a bulkhead into the engine room before finally connecting to the waste holding tank. A helper would definitely have made this job easier but I finally prevailed. On a side note I used new sanitation hose from Raritan which I ordered with the toilet do not be tempted to use flexible corrugated hose for water tanks. It may be easier to run in but it will smell and the undulating internal bore will trap waste.
Connect up the hoses to the back of the toilet using new pipe clamps then turn on water and check for leaks, it is tight for space here and you can just about make out the screwdriver tightening up the water supply hose clamp. At the this stage the toilet bowl is also finally bolted to it's bracket but you need to be careful as over tightening will crack the china. Next turn the power back on and if all is well the toilet should flush.
The finished job, neat and tidy with no ugly pipes on show.
Many thanks to the folks at Raritan especially Dale Weatherstone for assistance with this feature.