When we took delivery of “Old Nick” with its glistening new Compoost seperator toilet, we embarked on a new and interesting chapter in managing a narrowboat toilet.
Amongst, boat owners, toilets are one of the most talked about subjects and we were very keen to see how this new design of toilet, measured up against the two traditional types of narrowboat toilet; the pump out and chemical/cassette with which we were both familiar.
It must be said that our choice of toilet was significantly influenced by a well known pair of vloggers, plus CRT’s approval of being able to “bag and bin” the solids and dispose of them at their waste disposal points.
So it was a great disappointment when we read, just 8 weeks after “Old Nick’s” launch, about CRTs decision to reverse their previous policy and ban the disposal of bagged solids in their bins.
The timing of their announcement was not great for us and we would certainly not have fitted an expensive separator toilet if we had known this policy change was going to happen. The alternative to the “bag and bin” approach is to fully compost the solid waste. This is quite a lengthy process and we simply do not have the room to do this all year round. Fortunately, we had until the end of 2021 to come up with a solution and we started to investigate alternatives.
The sad thing was, that during our first season of cruising, we were very pleased with the Compoost toilet, which was the easiest and least noxious of any toilet we have ever used on a boat and with no nasty chemicals to worry about. However, the goal posts had been moved and we would have to adapt.
As you can see from the image above, the Compoost toilet is very compact and fits perfectly in our walk through bathroom. With the sink unit on one side and the door on the other, space was at a premium and unless we could find a suitably small toilet, major and costly changes would need to be made to our lovely new bathroom.
Pump out was completely out of the question as we already had no spare space and the modifications would have been significant. We did consider an incinerator toilet, but the electricity consumption is very high and we had no spare roof space between the solar panels to mount the required vent/chimney. This left us with chemical/cassette, and with only a few manufacturers, the choices of suitably compact models were extremely limited.
Our first thought was an integrated Thetford unit (see image below), similar to the one we had experience of in our caravan. We found a very compact model with no flush tank, that would just about fit in the space available. Access to the cassette for emptying would have been “interesting” with us having to lose the bottom drawer in the sink unit, which would become a door for accessing the cassette.
Being “live-aboards”, storage space is critical and the thought of losing a whole drawer sent us in to a blind panic. A new solution had to be sought. A discussion between Kay and Kate Saffin (a very knowledgable and helpful champion of separator toilets and composting) made us re-think things a bit and look at a more basic “bucket and chuck it” type toilet. This would simplify installation, reduce costs and give us the option of “moth-balling” our Compoost toilet, with the hope of re-installing it, should facilties to dispose of or compost the solids become available in the future.
Our research quickly discovered that the classic “Porta Potti” has recently had a bit of an upgrade and the new Thetford 565 Excellence has a very modern and sleek look. It also has good capacity (21 Litres) and some clever design improvements including a quick release fixing bracket that we could use to safely mount the toilet on a raised plinth.
The raised plinth was required to hide the extraction pipe (see image above) that was used with the separator toilet to extract the smells of the composting process. As we hope to re-install the separator toilet at some point this was a key requirement, plus the seat of the new Thetford toilet was a few centimetres lower than the Compoost and we are not getting any younger!
With the decision made, we asked our boat builder Ortomarine if they could quote for the work to remove the old toilet, build and fit the plinth and install the new toilet. They were happy to oblige and after a quick visit from Sean, their experienced carpenter, to discuss the change and measure up, it did not take them long to schedule the work and set a date for the install.
A few days later, Sean arrived with the new plinth and within a couple of hours the new toilet was installed.
With the install completed, all that remained was to christen it, which we have done a few times now and we are very happy with the end result. We were worried that the change would have a detrimental effect on our nice new bathroom, but we can honestly say that the new toilet looks as good as the old one and we are very happy with the solution.