Ah, my favourite line from Chevy Chase’s ‘Christmas Vacation’ movie and delivered ever so eloquently by Randy Quaid. ‘The shitter’s full’. I can hear him now. I watch it every Christmas. Can’t help it. And I found myself saying it the other day just before emptying ours from the new narrow boat. It has become my least favourite job. That is an understatement. If you are squeamish in any way, you may not want to read on. If not, just hold your noses and dive in….here we go.
There are three ways to empty human waste off a narrow boat. One is to have it pumped out at a marina or along the way by a boat that does that sort of thing. Your tank is considerably larger than the other methods and you can go up to 8 days without having to have it pumped….depending on the number of times you go each day and how many are on the boat. My neighbour, at this marina, says she prefers the pump out. She sees nothing and smells nothing.
The next method is our method. It is the cassette way of handling poo and pee. Under the boat’s toilet, which is rather small and requires a new-found dexterity on the part of yours truly, is a large plastic box (cassette) that fits in a slot, opens a hatch that lines up with the toilet bowl opening and receives what ever is sent into it once you push a lever at the side of the toilet to flush your waste. Lost your appetite yet? No? Well, good. Read on then.
When it’s full….a little guessing is in order, usually after three days of normal use by a couple….you unclip the cassette at the back of the unit which is accessed from a cupboard in the bedroom (at least it’s hidden away) and you drag it out. As you do so, the open latch closes and all is trapped inside. Believe me, it’s heavy after a few days of….well, you know.
Too heavy to carry all the way to the tipping point. Fortunately, they provide a wheel barrow to haul it to the poo station, where the contents are emptied, the cassette rinsed out and brought back to the boat to insert once again. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeazy. That is, once you know what you’re doing. Which I didn’t, seeing I’m new to the game and a male who thinks he needs no instruction. We actually had the chap who gave us the keys to the boat go over a few things, but that was quick and forgettable. So, I went on male instinct.
I got it mostly right. I didn’t know about the communal wheel barrow. I thought everyone had their own and wondered for days where they stored them on these small vessels. Duh. So I carried it to the cleaning area. It weighed at least a ton. The first time I dumped the stuff into this cone-shaped receptacle in a wooden lean-to with a bench and a hose, I had the emptying nozzle the wrong way around and it took ages to clear out. I gagged twice at the smells but soon recovered. I have a fairly strong stomach. I flushed out the cassette twice with water from the hose, spraying myself only once. Then I put in some blue, a liquid that helps take away any odours from the waste. Turns out I put in far too much and had the stuff shooting up out of the cassette the first few days. Lots of clean up going on until I learned what to do.
I put the cap back on and headed back to the boat. Carrying it back was easy because it was now empty. I slotted it back into place, praying like mad to Ozymandias that it was in fact in place and the next dump would go straight into the cassette and not all over the bedroom floor. It didn’t, so I breathed a great sigh of relief. Turns out you only need a dash of Blue added after the cassette has been put in place.
Thanks to Annie for that. She has the boat a few away from ours. Very helpful. “Why didn’t you just ask one of us how to do it you daft man.” she said when I finally did ask. Annie knows everything about boats. She’s lived on one for a number of years. Tugboat Annie I call her….but not to her face. She talked me through every step of what to do and took me on her next run to show me. I was calm and didn’t gag once….not openly anyway.
Oh, the third way. A new kind of toilet my best friend is interested in because it is environmentally friendly. It is the composting toilet. Apparently it hardly smells. But anything to do with body waste that’s environmentally friendly ain’t gonna smell like roses. And they’re not cheap. Can’t remember exactly how they work. But I have enough to think about with ours, so the third option shall have to wait a while. If ever.
So, now I’m an expert on poo removal using the cassette method. One down and many more things to learn about living on a narrow boat on the canals of Britain. I have learned a few of them already. I’ll leave them to another time. They shall be a little more pleasant than this Blog has been. Somewhat more pleasant indeed. But I thought I had better get this one out of the way. For the first few days here, I used the marina toilet because I was very apprehensive about using the one on the boat for obvious reasons. I knew I had to eventually, though, and delved in head first after a few days (not into the toilet, just the process) because I knew I had to. Learning curves get steeper at my age.
All that is past now and I move on. But you will have to excuse me. Must go. The shitter’s full.