FIRST, a word to the wise: if you easily feel icky or urgh-y, jump this post now. As any sailor and small-boat owner travelling on the tiniest of budgets, I have to do everything on the boat myself. Truth be told > there are many 'pleasurable jobs' on-board - I like cooking and entertaining guests, for example. But this tale comes from exactly the other end of the food chain (with a surprise..!) Here's how it goes:
Don't ever disregard the number one rule when using 'the head' (nautical term for marine toilet), which is not to throw 'solid things' in it. Those who ever did, regret it terribly and forever! We were fairly new to sailing when she absent-mindedly discarded what simply doesn't belong there - an used tampon. And tried to flush. Sure as Sunday - Lady Luck would have it block the main out-pipe completely.
JUST FOR STARTERS We had been, for a few days now, anchored off a good half mile+ from the nearest (and expensive) marina in the south of England, and it was already about 8pm - just after dinner. The fog was as deep as a blanket outside.
IT DOESN'T GET BETTER Of course she never told me (it wasn't on purpose & I don't think she even realised at the time - they never do) and so we only realised the head was blocked after using it - again. For a number two. After dinner. Definitely not a good time (if there is one) to find these things out... Now, don't take me wrong - I'm the world's biggest procrastinator - but Something HAD to be done - IMMEDIATELY!
I BET YOU CAN PRETTY MUCH GUESS WHERE THIS IS HEADING... :/
Having unsuccessfully tried the obvious things first - I decided to bite it and disassemble to whole toilet there and then. I had never done it before and boy was it a lesson!!!
First step was to get rid of the 'floating debris' - THAT which didn't even want to flush... This was duly done with thick gloves and plastic bags. And a wooden peg in the nose if memory serves. >>PRO TIP: Persuade your guests to eat less Broccoli onboard...<< Then, on to disengaging the main pipe and dealing with all sorts of leaks. THIS is the part you remember your boat is about 30 years old you see (not sure about the pipe), and the until-then happy memory of the previous owner shaking your hand post-sale comes to mind.. and makes you question everything in life.
I don't believe, as Hollywood tries to sell us, that your whole life flashes before your eyes moments before certain death - BUT ' OH-IT-DOES ' - - in moments like these - -
Anywho... I was left fully convinced I'd found leftovers from all the previous owners in the middle of all that red mess! You get the picture - and you are welcome/sorry about that.
Well, to cut a very very long and detailed story short, fast-forward a couple of hours and I was to be found standing, near naked in the cockpit, violently banging 3 meters or so of 'otherwise-flexible-but-now-hardened' pipe away, chock-full of excrement, trying to unblock and clear the ways...
And you won't believe it but please do when I say I was ALL THE WHILE 'enjoying' relative safety and thanking my lucky starts for having the dense fog providing cover - until of course it decided to dissipate at the crux of time - leaving me exposed to any and every passing fishing boats and yachties that I'm sure have had the time of their lives trying to work out the scene...
YES It was all put back together and worked a charm eventually (thank you for asking), and as cold as it was, I don't think I had to think twice before hosing the whole deck, cockpit and myself down before calling it a day. Breakfast or meals did not exist on-board for a week after that... there was just no appetite. And a 'kind reminder' in the form of a meter-high sign was placed in the toilet area to mark the occasion. The pleasures of living off grid! Sailors everywhere - don't mess with your head(s)!
**And feel free to spread this story as your own... I find it works best when you send it via email to people inviting themselves aboard on a short notice.