stay ahead of the head

When Thomas Crapper invented the first flush toilet he wasn’t thinking about whether it would work on a boat. It wouldn’t. Since then, a lot of clever people have attempted to solve the marine toilet or ‘head’ problem for boaters. It’s been a challenge for sailor and skipper alike, ever since the concept sanitation made its way into the consciousness of proper nautical society.

So today, in the early decades of the 21st century, the boat toilet, or ‘head’ has evolved into a wondrous device of marginal use, but nonetheless, great expense. Neatly fitting into a compartment no bigger than a 1965 child’s lunchbox, it teases the impending user with the possibility it might just work the one time you may need to use it.

The usual scenario goes something like this;

You’ve invited several friends over to your swanky sailboat for Texas chili and drinks, soon to be followed by a friendly game of cards.  As you deal out the first hand, you and your compatriots become acutely aware of Mrs.Smattingly’s unsettled intestinal track, as its volumous audio offerings, sounding not unlike the foghorn at Cape Flattery, boom throughout the cabin.

After a couple of minutes, a deadly silence ensues followed by an equally deadly fragrance. Mrs. Smattingly reluctantly asks to use the ‘facilities’.  Not ever having to attend to such a private matter on such an aquatic conveyance, she was indeed a bit nervous and apprehensive. You, the gracious boat owner, simply smile and say, “Of course, the head is right behind you. ” You say this as you try not to choke on the aroma emanating from her delicate, yet bacterially ravished body.

Since this is a sailboat, you and four of your guests move around the cabin like a self-propelled Rubik’s cube, in order to allow Mrs. Smattingly access to ‘the head’.   All of you hear a short gasp when Mrs. Smattingly opens the head compartment and gazes upon what she thinks is some sort of sorority prank much like the type she experienced from her college days, some forty years prior.

“This is interesting!” She said, trying to maintain some semblance of dignity and realizing immediately that the size of her hips may engulf the entire contraption. Thinking just a bit too far ahead, she also imagined the worst: that she would be unable to extricate herself from the situation or the actual child-sized toilet.

It didn’t matter that you’ve just had the holding tank pumped out earlier in the day, it didn’t matter that all your septic lines were replaced less than six months ago or that Mrs. Smattingly clutched desperately to the $1400 deluxe marine head that your sea-going wife insisted that you buy.   All that mattered now, was whether or not the five-dollar, two-inch exhaust fan locked in the head with the chili-loving Mrs. Smattingly would have enough power to keep you all alive.