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Emptying Holding Tank at Home with Shop Vac


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I discovered that the holding tank in my new to me boat is not empty. 
 

I’d like to avoid going into town to empty it, so I’m wondering if this can be done with a shop vac. Do I safely assume I’d need to make a dip tube small enough to reach the bottom of the tank? Will one of those Home Depot Bucket Head shop vacs have enough lift to suck out the contents? (I’d hate to use my food shop vac) 

Other Ideas?

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6 minutes ago, IStream said:

If you do this, kindly film it for us. 

Plus you need to capture the smell and share it.  Because a picture is worth a thousand words but the smell will be indescribable.  Not just on the day but every time you turn on the shopvac until the day you take it to the landfill and they grudgingly let you deposit it. 

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26 minutes ago, Quickstep192 said:

I discovered that the holding tank in my new to me boat is not empty. 
 

I’d like to avoid going into town to empty it, so I’m wondering if this can be done with a shop vac. Do I safely assume I’d need to make a dip tube small enough to reach the bottom of the tank? Will one of those Home Depot Bucket Head shop vacs have enough lift to suck out the contents? (I’d hate to use my food shop vac) 

Other Ideas?

Dude, It's other peoples shit...  Don the hazmat suit, trundle down to town, plug your nose and rip the whole damn thing out and replace it.   

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1 hour ago, shaggy said:

Dude, It's other peoples shit...  Don the hazmat suit, trundle down to town, plug your nose and rip the whole damn thing out and replace it.   

I never thought about replacing it. That’s a much better idea - if I can get it out. 

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A Buckethead from HD does produce about the same level of vacuum as any ordinary vacuum. But it goes on only a 5 gallon bucket (or a 7 gallon if you can find one) and the float shuts it off at about 2.5 gallons. So either it would be a bunch of trips or your tank isn't that full. You could attach the vacuum to a secondary vessel, and suck it into that instead. If you plug the intake of a Buckethead, it will begin to collapse a cheap 5 gallon bucket, be aware. 

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1 hour ago, blurocketsmate said:

You might want to dump a bunch of "blue stuff" in there first. The old fashioned kind with plenty of formaldehyde still works best.

This reminds me of a line from Hunter Thompson

There is only one way to get your arm dyed blue on a 747 flying at 38,000 feet over the Pacific. But the truth is so rare and unlikely that not even the most frequent air travelers have ever had to confront it -- and it is usually not a thing that the few who understand want to talk about.

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4 hours ago, CaptainAhab said:

I think this is one of those occasions where you rent a tool even though you own one. You beat the shite out of it and return it. In this case, it will be full of shite.

Moral bankruptcy aint innit, ay?

—and come to think, since fecal matter is effectively  hazmat, you may well come into legal issues. The fact it came from you being easily traceable via the rental contract, y’know


…g.zeus…

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Oddly, very little actual advise. And you'd guess none of these folks shit or have changed a diaper.

---

I'd suggest using a Duststopper (Home Depot) on top of a bunch of 5 gallon buckets. This way you get 3-4 gallons into each bucket, which is enough to carry (5 gallons is really too heavy to carry or pour).  You should not get much in the shop vac (which can be cleaned with bleach when you are finished). Yes, the bockets will collapse if you bock the vacuum, so make sure you are always getting some air.

If you want to kill the smell, I suggest bubbling air from a compressor into the bottom on the tank at a moderate rate for several days. This will mix it up and convert it from anaerobic to aerobic, which will smell many, many times less. Adding any chemical on top is a waste of time as it will not mix in. Obviously. Then dump the buckets in the bog and clean the tank with a weak solution of bleach.

BTW, your shit goes to a treatment plant where people deal with it every day. You should either realize the problem is very manageable, or feel very guilty about shitting. Obviously, you will wear gloves, work neatly, and wash up when finished. It's just poop.

---

Alternatively, call the local septic company. They pump portable toilets all the time for a reasonable fee. They'll even give it a quick rinse and pump that too if you ask. This is the smart answer.

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17 minutes ago, thinwater said:

Alternatively, call the local septic company. They pump portable toilets all the time for a reasonable fee. They'll even give it a quick rinse and pump that too if you ask. This is the smart answer.

This≥..

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43 minutes ago, thinwater said:

Oddly, very little actual advise. And you'd guess none of these folks shit or have changed a diaper.

Alternatively, call the local septic company. They pump portable toilets all the time for a reasonable fee. They'll even give it a quick rinse and pump that too if you ask. This is the smart answer.

This is actually what what being said behind all the smartass responses - the entire concept is just wrong.

This is not a situation where a DIY solution should even be considered. There is a reason why commercial honeywagons exist.

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I remember my second Shark 24. Someone had installed a porta-potty with a holding tank and a gravity feed to the outside. Someone had plugged the hole in the hull with a giant cork. Really. I bought it with a full tank and had to dismantle the toilet and scoop out the tank with a yogurt container or something (thankfully the details escape me). Then I had to remove the tank and clean out the residue. I have no idea what they thought they were going to do with it once the tank was full with the outlet plugged, which probably explains why the tank was full. Consider yourself lucky.

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2 minutes ago, Ishmael said:

I remember my second Shark 24. Someone had installed a porta-potty with a holding tank and a gravity feed to the outside. Someone had plugged the hole in the hull with a giant cork. Really. I bought it with a full tank and had to dismantle the toilet and scoop out the tank with a yogurt container or something (thankfully the details escape me). Then I had to remove the tank and clean out the residue. I have no idea what they thought they were going to do with it once the tank was full with the outlet plugged, which probably explains why the tank was full. Consider yourself lucky.

Had a buddy that did the honey wagon thing in the summers in HS.  No one really asked.....  LOL

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2 hours ago, Ishmael said:

I remember my second Shark 24. Someone had installed a porta-potty with a holding tank and a gravity feed to the outside. Someone had plugged the hole in the hull with a giant cork. Really. I bought it with a full tank and had to dismantle the toilet and scoop out the tank with a yogurt container or something (thankfully the details escape me). Then I had to remove the tank and clean out the residue. I have no idea what they thought they were going to do with it once the tank was full with the outlet plugged, which probably explains why the tank was full. Consider yourself lucky.

I think know I would have rejected buying that boat for the head/holding tank project alone.

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3 hours ago, Ishmael said:

I remember my second Shark 24. Someone had installed a porta-potty with a holding tank and a gravity feed to the outside. Someone had plugged the hole in the hull with a giant cork. Really. I bought it with a full tank and had to dismantle the toilet and scoop out the tank with a yogurt container or something (thankfully the details escape me). Then I had to remove the tank and clean out the residue. I have no idea what they thought they were going to do with it once the tank was full with the outlet plugged, which probably explains why the tank was full. Consider yourself lucky.

Have you been able to eat yogurt since?

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On 10/15/2021 at 12:05 PM, Quickstep192 said:

Will do. It will be especially entertaining if the shop vac explodes. Perhaps I should introduce compressed air into the equation. 

absofuckinglutely!!!!

 

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I’m really disappointed; I thought this group was more adventurous. Not the type that would let a little CaCa stand between them and a good time. 
 

Earlier today I was doing some other stuff on the boat and as I was leaving, I noticed my trusty Home Depot Bucket Head Vac sitting there just looking for something to do…

So, I fired it up and shoved the hose into the deck fitting (perfect fit by the way). Before I know it, the vac had sucked out a gallon of … Anti-Freeze. 
 

One of the easiest boat things I’ve ever done - No Shit!

 

If I get to do it again, I think I’ll just open the deck fitting and apply compressed air into the head. That should be considerably more exciting. 

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I used a commercial pump out at the dock once, seemed to be laboring a little but making progress. When I went to pull the nozzle out of the deck fitting, the contents exploded, covering me and the side of the boat in a slurry. I believe what happened was the vent was clogged, the vacuum partially collapsed the tank, and some combination of rebounding caused it to projectile vomit. It is a smell that is hard to remove. 

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15 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

Have you been able to eat yogurt since?

Yeah, I have had a lot of toilet adventures for some reason. Really doesn't bother me that much any more. Replacing a failed macerator pump with a full tank in the middle of Barkley Sound was probably the worst.

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2 minutes ago, DDW said:

I used a commercial pump out at the dock once, seemed to be laboring a little but making progress. When I went to pull the nozzle out of the deck fitting, the contents exploded, covering me and the side of the boat in a slurry. I believe what happened was the vent was clogged, the vacuum partially collapsed the tank, and some combination of rebounding caused it to projectile vomit. It is a smell that is hard to remove. 

One of the only times I have used a pump out, after spending an hour getting the cap loose, was firing up the pump and opening the valve and finding the previous user had left the unit under pressure.

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1 hour ago, Max Rockatansky said:

This thread confirms that I’ll never go back to a holding tank 

Unfortunately necessary around here, quite a few popular anchorages are zero discharge zones so you can't legally use even a LectraSan. Lots of boats still do discharge in those zones, but they are assholes.

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13 minutes ago, Ishmael said:

Unfortunately necessary around here, quite a few popular anchorages are zero discharge zones so you can't legally use even a LectraSan. Lots of boats still do discharge in those zones, but they are assholes.

I have a composting head, so I closed my thruhulls and do not discharge regardless where I am

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1 hour ago, Bull City said:

I think he should sell the boat. Is this the Westsail?

No.

 

1 hour ago, Max Rockatansky said:

I have a composting head, so I closed my thruhulls and do not discharge regardless where I am

I have been tempted by the idea, I'm tired of dealing with shit like this. The whole front half of the boat would smell better and have a lot more storage with a composting head. When I can walk again I'll check this out seriously.

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9 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

This thread confirms my plan to install a gravity drain system in my boat.

I have a gravity drain system on my cruising boat, and also raced on a boat with one.  I can't see why anyone would do anything else.   From what I can tell, macerator pumps are nothing but trouble - see post above.  However, gravity drain systems require that the holding tank is installed above and reasonably close to the through-hull, and the bottom of the tank needs to be above the water line for obvious reasons.  This limits both the size of the tank and its placement. 

 

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21 hours ago, Ishmael said:

No.

 

I have been tempted by the idea, I'm tired of dealing with shit like this. The whole front half of the boat would smell better and have a lot more storage with a composting head. When I can walk again I'll check this out seriously.

Please let us know what you find out.  It is tempting for sure.  One or two more converts might convince me as well. 

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4 hours ago, Max Rockatansky said:

Google broke, ay? There is a metric fuckton of ‘converts’ out in the interwebs 

Yup, all kinds of converts for all kinds of things out there.

An endorsement from someone I've actually interacted with carries a bit more weight.

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6 hours ago, Quickstep192 said:

Max, Which Composting Head do you have?

C-Head. Sandy, the owner/designer, is a good fella. The unit has been all as advertised. I like the enclosure which contains overflow when you get drunk and forget to empty (happened exactly once). 5-gal fecal bucket is easily cleaned and/or replaced and the urine jug is a gallon milk jug, also replaced when its plastic takes on scent. Depending where I may be, I keep aboard a couple plastic jugs to keep urine until disposal is convenient. Fecal dirt goes in the regular trash with the cat litter.

I always like to describe desiccating toilets as 'cat litter for people.'

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