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head replacement- suggestions?


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Looking to replace my ol' faithful.  Leaking somewhere, and I'm not sure I wanna disassemble and replace gaskets.  Plus the bowl is friggin teeny.

Recommendations for standard pump head with marine water intake?  I don't know anything of brand reputation, but want something reliable that will last without paying an exorbitant amount.  But I'm leary of getting the low price model as you usually get what you pay for.

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electric or non-electric?

for electric, I just replaced a head with a Jabsco quietflush. It works great, is quiet, and is 100% better than the single-button unit it replaced.

https://www.defender.com/product.jsp?id=4210788

For non-electric, find an old busted up Trumpy and pull the Admiral head out of it. it'll never die on you. Since you won't be able to do that, a raritan PHII is still in my book one of the best ones. Although Groco does make the marine K, which is very similar to the old Admiral heads and is priced accordingly.

https://www.defender.com/product3.jsp?name=raritan-phii-manual-marine-toilet-compact&path=-1|51|2234284|2234286&id=10301#

https://www.defender.com/product.jsp?name=groco-k-h-manual-toilet&path=-1|51|2234284|2234285&id=137935#

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In a manual head, I don't know why anyone would install anything but a Lavac. I've been told that the Raritans and Grocos will last a long time, you just need to rebuild them every time they start leaking or once a year, whichever comes first. On the Lavac, every 10 or 15 years you may have to replace the pump diaphragm and valves (about $60 for the pump rebuild kit - it is a standard Henderson Mark V). It will never leak, the pump just becomes less efficient. 

In an electric, the powerboat guys swear by the Raritan Marine Elegance. 

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1 hour ago, DDW said:

In a manual head, I don't know why anyone would install anything but a Lavac. I've been told that the Raritans and Grocos will last a long time, you just need to rebuild them every time they start leaking or once a year, whichever comes first. On the Lavac, every 10 or 15 years you may have to replace the pump diaphragm and valves (about $60 for the pump rebuild kit - it is a standard Henderson Mark V). It will never leak, the pump just becomes less efficient. 

In an electric, the powerboat guys swear by the Raritan Marine Elegance. 

My Raritan PHII is 15 years old and I replaced a couple of O-rings and the joker valve last year. Apart from regular maintenance (cleaning, lubing), that's been it.

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2 hours ago, DDW said:

In a manual head, I don't know why anyone would install anything but a Lavac. I've been told that the Raritans and Grocos will last a long time, you just need to rebuild them every time they start leaking or once a year, whichever comes first. On the Lavac, every 10 or 15 years you may have to replace the pump diaphragm and valves (about $60 for the pump rebuild kit - it is a standard Henderson Mark V). It will never leak, the pump just becomes less efficient. 

In an electric, the powerboat guys swear by the Raritan Marine Elegance. 

Some stuff I've read about the lavac is that it doesn't work in a seaway.  Boat heeled and bouncing around causes issues trying to flush it.  Don't know if that's true, comments welcome.

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I've only lived with the cheapest Jabsco ones (16 years living aboard full time on 2 separate boats). Some people have trouble with them. I've had a few plugged up with too much toilet paper/not enough fiber in your diet (guests).

They work fine if you occasionally change the joker valve and little flapper valves. They are cheap. Spare parts are cheap. They are available in compact and "regular" size ass bowls.

I think the Raritan PH II is a better head though.

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Full size Jabsco with a spare pump kept on board. The pumps only cost a few bucks more than a rebuild kit so why assault your senses rebuilding one?

Forget the compact ones - they are horrible for full size people.

If your head compartment is too small for a proper size head then enlarge it.

If I was living aboard I think I'd go for an electric.

A gravity drain holding tank is extremely nice as well as simple.

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22 minutes ago, SloopJonB said:

Full size Jabsco with a spare pump kept on board. The pumps only cost a few bucks more than a rebuild kit so why assault your senses rebuilding one?

Forget the compact ones - they are horrible for full size people.

If your head compartment is too small for a proper size head then enlarge it.

If I was living aboard I think I'd go for an electric.

A gravity drain holding tank is extremely nice as well as simple.

Ya the jabsco with spares is an option.  Just concered- comments I've heard about them leaking and what not after a few months.  Popping new pumps or other parts every few months can get old.

I gotta get more info on the head I have I think.  I'm not sure what it is, but it looks like one of those expensive ones like the Groco, and might just need some gaskets.  It's got the foot pedal valve and the long vertical handle, and it pumps like a sunavabitch. 

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I installed a "lightly used" Raritan PH II on my last boat (that I got for free).  I think they are the best ones out there, but pricey new in store.  Worked great!

Current boat has a Plastimo head and the bowl is ABS plastic which is super light weight, but I am unable to find a rebuild kit for it.

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5 hours ago, DDW said:

In a manual head, I don't know why anyone would install anything but a Lavac. I've been told that the Raritans and Grocos will last a long time, you just need to rebuild them every time they start leaking or once a year, whichever comes first. On the Lavac, every 10 or 15 years you may have to replace the pump diaphragm and valves (about $60 for the pump rebuild kit - it is a standard Henderson Mark V). It will never leak, the pump just becomes less efficient. 

I happen to agree with you 100% re the Lavac- but, WOW, have I seen customers have issues with them. From not getting the siphon break appropriately ‘dialed in’, to not even understanding the lid needs to be closed, to some spectacular clogs (as in, send the new guy to deal with that)- I’m almost sure I get the most complaints about them- although, to clarify, almost ALL issues are operator-error... I really like the simplicity of the system... but I think that certain types of people just have a hard time getting them to work correctly...

4 hours ago, PaulK said:

Don't forget composting heads also seem to work.

MUCH to my chagrin, I can’t disagree with you at all. We carry/sell a certain brand of composting head and (in stark contrast to above) I hear very few complaints about them, and clearly the science is sound. I just wish (at least the brand we carry) could be a little less obtrusive and plastic looking... but it is actually a real solution that works very well for a lot of people.

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I've routinely gotten 10+years out of the jabsco heads. agree that the compact ones are useless on a boat. have had more issues breaking seats and lids than pumps.

but have successfully replaced both seats and lids with homemade plywood version.. recommend sanding them well though :blink:

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Airhead. One less hole. No more messing with clogged pipes and pump out stations. Bag up and drop off at the dumpster at marina.

 

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If you look around you may find an old boat up for salvage with a Wilcox Crittendon Skipper. Pump kits are $90 at West Marine. The company isn't in business anymore and the current owner of the brand makes a cheap imitation called the Skipper II which you don't want but a used, true Skipper would be a great investment in marine sanitation reliability. The key is the pump and discharge are inline with the bowl as opposed to off to the side (that and the handle is about three feet long for full range torque). Full disclosure: I have gone the replace-the-cheap-Jabsco-pump route and am almost at 4 years on the current one. Do as I say, not as I do.

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9 hours ago, bgytr said:

Some stuff I've read about the lavac is that it doesn't work in a seaway.  Boat heeled and bouncing around causes issues trying to flush it.  Don't know if that's true, comments welcome.

Not true on the ones I have. But there are a few factors in installation that are critical in them working well as noted above by Suider. Also some operator problems. It is an extremely simple system, not much to go wrong or leak once installed correctly and operated correctly (which isn't difficult). All the other heads I have seen have sliding seals, rotating seals, piston seals, etc. These always fail and leak, only a matter of time. 

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7 hours ago, DDW said:

Not true on the ones I have. But there are a few factors in installation that are critical in them working well as noted above by Suider. Also some operator problems. It is an extremely simple system, not much to go wrong or leak once installed correctly and operated correctly (which isn't difficult). All the other heads I have seen have sliding seals, rotating seals, piston seals, etc. These always fail and leak, only a matter of time. 

So you have used it out in the ocean dropping off 15 + ft rollers and it still works?  Honest question, cuz if it does work in those conditions, then it might be worth the investment for me.

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3 hours ago, bgytr said:

So you have used it out in the ocean dropping off 15 + ft rollers and it still works?  Honest question, cuz if it does work in those conditions, then it might be worth the investment for me.

I always have trouble estimating wave height, but yes, out in the ocean in a fully developed 35 knot seaway. At some point just staying seated on a head becomes challenging. Actually I think the worst motion we've ever experienced was going upwind in 35' deep Lake Erie in 30 - 35. Waves probably only 8 or 10' but very short and steep. The head still flushed. The way the Lavac works, the only thing that will keep it from flushing is sucking air in the seawater intake or conditions so extreme that the pump sucks air from the bottom of the bowl. The former could be an installation problem, the latter would be a severe knockdown or rollover. In that case I would have just gone in my pants, toilet doesn't need to flush.....

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Raritan PH-II. 

Carry a complete spare pump (about the same $$ as the rebuild kit).  Easy to replace when necessary, then rebuild at your leisure.  Over 10 years on ours, and no significant issues.  Squirt some lube in once a year or so, replace joker when needed.  Only one head on our boat, so minimizing down time was really important to us.

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Re - the Jabsco head - we did wear out the pump shaft lip seal fairly regularly, but 2 females who didn't pee over the side + me gave it more to do.

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8 hours ago, Zonker said:

Re - the Jabsco head - we did wear out the pump shaft lip seal fairly regularly, but 2 females who didn't pee over the side + me gave it more to do.

Catalina ... We picked up this gal as crew. We turned our heads and she peed hanging off the back stay. I was in love.

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21 hours ago, jamhass said:

Raritan PH-II. 

Carry a complete spare pump (about the same $$ as the rebuild kit).  Easy to replace when necessary, then rebuild at your leisure.  Over 10 years on ours, and no significant issues.  Squirt some lube in once a year or so, replace joker when needed.  Only one head on our boat, so minimizing down time was really important to us.

where exactly do you squirt the lube in? We have one that came with the boat, but it's been trouble free other than replacing the joker valve when we changed hoses. 

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18 minutes ago, Slick470 said:

where exactly do you squirt the lube in? We have one that came with the boat, but it's been trouble free other than replacing the joker valve when we changed hoses. 

Open the fitting that holds the duck bill air vent, remove the duckbill and squirt a bit of superlube in there has worked for me.  Valve needs to be in dry position.  If that doesn't work for you, pull the dry/wet flush valve and squeeze a bit of lube into the port going to the pump itself.  

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Another vote for the Lavac.  It just works.  Never had a problem pooping in a seaway, just might have to pump a bit of water out to avoid the bidet effect.

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49 minutes ago, jamhass said:

Open the fitting that holds the duck bill air vent, remove the duckbill and squirt a bit of superlube in there has worked for me.  Valve needs to be in dry position.  If that doesn't work for you, pull the dry/wet flush valve and squeeze a bit of lube into the port going to the pump itself.  

Thanks! I'll add that to my spring commissioning list. 

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On 3/4/2021 at 8:20 AM, Slick470 said:

Thanks! I'll add that to my spring commissioning list. 

The pump/dry selector gets pretty stiff so I take it apart once a year and put new teflon lube in. Also a wipe of teflon on the plunger shaft and a good shot of olive oil in the bowl, two or three pumps and let it sit for a while.

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On 3/2/2021 at 9:41 AM, Ishmael said:

My Raritan PHII is 15 years old and I replaced a couple of O-rings and the joker valve last year. Apart from regular maintenance (cleaning, lubing), that's been it.

 

2 hours ago, Ishmael said:

The pump/dry selector gets pretty stiff so I take it apart once a year and put new teflon lube in. Also a wipe of teflon on the plunger shaft and a good shot of olive oil in the bowl, two or three pumps and let it sit for a while.

See this is what I'm talkin' 'bout. Here's a complete list of what I did to my two Lavacs in 10 years:

 

 

 

Yep, that's it. No failures, no leakage. No lubing, no olive oil, no taking apart or putting together. 

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7 hours ago, DDW said:

 

See this is what I'm talkin' 'bout. Here's a complete list of what I did to my C-Head in 6 years:

 

FG patch on the urine diverter.

 

Yep, that's it. No failures, no leakage. No lubing, no olive oil, no taking apart or putting together. No stink. No thru-hull.

 

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12 hours ago, Ishmael said:

The pump/dry selector gets pretty stiff so I take it apart once a year and put new teflon lube in. Also a wipe of teflon on the plunger shaft and a good shot of olive oil in the bowl, two or three pumps and let it sit for a while.

seems I should be doing more with our head. It gets minimal use, but still. Thanks for the suggestions Ish! 

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On 3/2/2021 at 7:29 PM, kinardly said:

If you look around you may find an old boat up for salvage with a Wilcox Crittendon Skipper. Pump kits are $90 at West Marine. The company isn't in business anymore and the current owner of the brand makes a cheap imitation called the Skipper II which you don't want but a used, true Skipper would be a great investment in marine sanitation reliability. The key is the pump and discharge are inline with the bowl as opposed to off to the side (that and the handle is about three feet long for full range torque). Full disclosure: I have gone the replace-the-cheap-Jabsco-pump route and am almost at 4 years on the current one. Do as I say, not as I do.

If you think you've clogged a W-C skipper, you're just not pushing on the handle hard enough. Built like a small bronze diesel engine. I love mine and have been tempted tp chrome it like Hinkley used to do. I will say that a very good argument can also be made for a well sorted Lavac and perhaps a Groco K. 

Skipper head - Trawler Forum

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40 minutes ago, Ohmboy said:

If you think you've clogged a W-C skipper, you're just not pushing on the handle hard enough. Built like a small bronze diesel engine. I love mine and have been tempted tp chrome it like Hinkley used to do. I will say that a very good argument can also be made for a well sorted Lavac and perhaps a Groco K. 

Skipper head - Trawler Forum

This looks like the one I got.  Long handle and foot pedal to the right.  Yes it works fantastic, just leaking somewhere, not sure where.  Suggestions on troubleshooting?  I will get down to the boat and verify if this is the unit.

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22 minutes ago, bgytr said:

This looks like the one I got.  Long handle and foot pedal to the right.  Yes it works fantastic, just leaking somewhere, not sure where.  Suggestions on troubleshooting?  I will get down to the boat and verify if this is the unit.

I would check the nuts holding the gasket at the bottom of the bowl first. Because people tend to rock around the gasket can deform, and age, plus the nuts can loosen over time.

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1 hour ago, Ishmael said:

I would check the nuts holding the gasket at the bottom of the bowl first. Because people tend to rock around the gasket can deform, and age, plus the nuts can loosen over time.

Will do, thx.

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Alright- I ended up ordering the Groco K-H.  80+ percent of the decision is getting a larger bowl, hHaving a larger throne is key, me being 6'5", and the wife wants the extra comfort zone too.  Other factors,

-Groco is local to me, right across the Bay from my spot at the mouth of the Patapsco.  I called them this morning to discuss general differences between their two hand pump heads.  I got a person on the phone in one ring, forwarded me to their tech guy who talked with me for 10 mins or so discussing the 2 models and the differences.  Not often you call a company nowadays without wading through 15 minutes of automated phone menus which drives me friggin insane.

-Not wanting to disassemble my current head and troubleshoot leaks.

-Quality of construction, bad experiences with Jabsco on other boats, especially having troubles during Bermuda races, which really sucks trying to monkey fixing the head while bouncing around in the Gulf Stream, and a buncha dudes onboard waiting to dump, or going in a bucket.

-Thought hard about the Lavac, but installation was gonna be more of a challenge, and the bowl is smaller than the Groco K-H.

 

So thanks all for info on here, hopefully others found it beneficial.

 

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I have a Jabsco manual pump. Faced with the same situation I bought a new unit for around $150. I also purchased a gasket repair kit for around $55.

Installed the new unit, kept the box, took the old unit home, dismantled it, soaked all the parts overnight in a very light bleach solution, cleaned it, reassembled the old unit with the new gaskets and put the newly reassembled old unit in the box that the new unit came in. It fit perfectly.

Now when I want to replace my Jabsco manual pump marine head I’m just going to go and put the old unit with the new gaskets in, take the existing unit out and repeat the retrofit process with another gasket repair kit.

This way I will always have a replacement unit with good gaskets ready to go any time I want to slap it in there. Each unit seems to last 3 ½ to 4 years before the gaskets start leaking.

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4 hours ago, Parma said:

I have a Jabsco manual pump. Faced with the same situation I bought a new unit for around $150. I also purchased a gasket repair kit for around $55.

Installed the new unit, kept the box, took the old unit home, dismantled it, soaked all the parts overnight in a very light bleach solution, cleaned it, reassembled the old unit with the new gaskets and put the newly reassembled old unit in the box that the new unit came in. It fit perfectly.

Now when I want to replace my Jabsco manual pump marine head I’m just going to go and put the old unit with the new gaskets in, take the existing unit out and repeat the retrofit process with another gasket repair kit.

This way I will always have a replacement unit with good gaskets ready to go any time I want to slap it in there. Each unit seems to last 3 ½ to 4 years before the gaskets start leaking.

Cap, you're overthinking this.

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Over the years I’ve had several heads. I now buy cheapJohnson Pump manual heads. They last 8 years or more. Unscrew the 4 bolts holding them down and install a new one in about 15 minutes. Current price for one is $108. My only tip is that I keep a gallon jug of freshwater in the head compartment. Never use sea water to flush with

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Agree with the freshwater flushes. Whenever we're at the dock or just out for a weekend we flush with freshwater from the showerhead. Only use saltwater when we're rationing to make 35 gallons last 5+ days. Flushing through vinegar after using saltwater and flushing with freshwater when at the pump-out station keeps the pee rocks to a minimum.

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So now that we have Heads sorted out, my 45yr old boat which is 3ys old with me has a holding tank 'stink' . Ive replaced the head and the hoses, its a polyethelene tank under the V berth that seems to have a funk, no amount of rinses or chemical treatment seems to help.  Its an older C&C , I think the tank only comes out with a rercipro saw. 

thoughts?? 

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If you did all the hoses it may be permeating from tank.  The vent hose should also be new, once they get the stink through gotta go.  If accessable you could try coating the tank.  Don't laugh bit real saran wrap is a great barrier.  We wrapped our old pvc hoses in it before replacement and it took away the odor.  Could do a test with some on the tank to see it it helped then look at a coating.  A brush on rubber something or other might work.  Just have to find something to stick.

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I suspect the price and relative rarity of the Lavac is the reason only two people mentioned it. I swore I'd put them on my next boat, but it won't work for our aft (primary) head due the pump location. They are the best situation I've ever seen.

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  • 2 weeks later...

On my jabsco, I just bought the handle/pump setup complete. Took about 20 minutes to swap over and it works perfect and look new. The old one was still ok but after 12 years the top handle seal was weepy so just preventative maintenance. Even though I have a spares kit its only for emergencies. 

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On 3/7/2021 at 4:43 PM, Ohmboy said:

If you think you've clogged a W-C skipper, you're just not pushing on the handle hard enough. Built like a small bronze diesel engine. I love mine and have been tempted tp chrome it like Hinkley used to do. I will say that a very good argument can also be made for a well sorted Lavac and perhaps a Groco K. 

Skipper head - Trawler Forum

Skipper Number 6 is the head that most commercial vessels use. They are the cadillac of heads, there is no second place in this category.
I have lived on a couple of boats. I put a Skipper Number 6 in the first one and never once questioned the decision. 
My next boat had a Groco K on it. It was a decent head and easy to rebuild. The single largest problem with the Groco is it has nylon rings on the piston. They wear out in time. After you swap them out a couple of times you come to realize that the cylinder the piston rides in has worn to the point that you need a new head.
Go with a Skipper. Built like a brick shithouse!

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Here's the installed crapper finally, Groco.  Very smooth and quiet, plus a bigger throne.   My only complaint is the bolt-down locations are partially obstructed by the head itself hampering the installation a bit.  They could have moved the base wider and made bolting down much easier.

newheadsmallerphoto.jpg

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9 hours ago, inneedofadvice said:

You installed it on a piece of rotted wood?

No its solid, it was already there, just stained from prior installation.  I was pressed for time before launch, will replace the base this winter.

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On 3/2/2021 at 4:08 PM, Black Jack said:

Airhead. One less hole. No more messing with clogged pipes and pump out stations. Bag up and drop off at the dumpster at marina.

 

Air Heads cost over $1,000.

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On 3/24/2021 at 11:08 AM, SASSAFRASS said:

If you did all the hoses it may be permeating from tank.  The vent hose should also be new, once they get the stink through gotta go.  If accessable you could try coating the tank.  Don't laugh bit real saran wrap is a great barrier.  We wrapped our old pvc hoses in it before replacement and it took away the odor.  Could do a test with some on the tank to see it it helped then look at a coating.  A brush on rubber something or other might work.  Just have to find something to stick.

I wonder if rhinoliner would work.....

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/2/2021 at 2:01 PM, bgytr said:

Some stuff I've read about the lavac is that it doesn't work in a seaway.  Boat heeled and bouncing around causes issues trying to flush it.  Don't know if that's true, comments welcome.

Never experience that with my Lavac after living aboard with it for a year and a half.  Given the way it works (diaphragm pump sucked dirty water out of the sealed commode, thereby pulling in "fresh" flush water).  Unless one's seawater intake was sucking air somehow or movement was so violent that one couldn't hold the lid closed for the first pump of the handle (to create the vacuum), don't see how it can fail.  OK, I guess if you are holding heeled at 60 degrees or so, there might be a problem...

I think before things get so bad that the head won't pump out, I'm going to have trouble staying on it long enough for it to need pumping. :o

Had a Raritan PHII before.  Also a good head, but didn't work as easily as the Lavac, and had to replace rubber parts much more often.

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