Start with the back-story, Painful Head-ectomy.
Also, see Second (and Final) Head-Ectomy for a non Nature's Head view of head replacement.
We have a https://natureshead.net composting toilet in the aft head.
We buy coir bricks (for example, https://www.gardeners.com/buy/coir-bricks/40-358.html) to fill the dry container.
These are a bit of a pain to break up and mix with water. They're a mess: the dry coir blows all over the place. It requires some patience, a broom, and more patience to get it mixed with water and expanded nicely. CA uses a small chisel to break up the coir.
The Nature's Head (and Air Head) web pages are pretty good about explaining the process. There are two parts:
- Empty Liquid Waste from the jug.
- Empty Solid Waste from the drying bin.
We'll look at these operations separately.
Periodically (every day or two -- sometimes three) you have to empty the jug. There are a LOT of choices.
When we're at a dock, we only use it at night when we don't want to put on pants and wander around the marina. In the morning, CA carries the liquid waste jug to a head and pours it down the toilet. We avoid using the solid waste side. Indeed, we sometimes don't even put coir in it if we're not going anywhere for a while.
In a mooring field -- particularly in Florida -- where pump-outs are more-or-less mandatory -- we switch to the forward head and have them pump us out each week. I think we've been in mooring fields where we schlepped liquid waste ashore in the dinghy, but I can't remember exactly where. We have two jugs and can go for a few days.
At anchor we play fast and loose with regulations. If there's a current, we'll sometimes (illegally) pour liquid waste overboard. If there's no current, we're back to dinghy trips to a marina with a head. See 2021 South-Bound, Phases I and II for a long list of places with currents and few shore amenties.
CA has a pair of rollup, reusable shopping tote bags that are large enough to hold a jug. This makes it a little more discrete to hit the shore-side showers with a shower bag and a another tote bag with the liquid waste.
More challenging is cleaning out the solid waste. This is less frequent -- about 2-3 weeks.
At a dock, we empty the bin when we arrive, and switch to using the shore-side head.
At a mooring or at anchor, CA watches the calendar and cleans out the bin. See Southbound Day 11 for an example.
On passage, a calm day is a good choice. Since it involves scrambling around on deck, it's an "all hands" exercise, usually at the start or end of a watch.
This is -- of course -- a messy job. It takes two forms. Offshore -- on passage -- you'll be dumping overboard. Near shore, you'll be bagging it.
You'll want to have double trash bags. Or https://www.rei.com/product/823665/reliance-double-doodie-waste-bags-with-bio-gel (which work nicely). And a huge, industrial spatula. Don't scrimp on the spatula; it will live with the coir bricks, and the dust pan by the head.
For off-shore, you'll want to rig an eyelet or two on the container and a line to a stanchion. You don't want to drop it overboard. Same with the spatula -- rig a line to it so you don't drop it.
Here's our Standard Operating Procedure.
- paper towels
- 2 black garbage bags
- large Phillips screwdriver
- small Phillips screwdriver
- cup measure
- dish pan-size tubby
- The giant spatula
- Prep replacement coir. 2 cups water in the dishpan. Use the chisel to break up coir and let soak. Takes about 15 min.
- Unplug fan, take apart and clean filter. Reassemble and reattach.
- Remove urine jug and holder. Set this outside the head, to leave room to work.
- Remove seat and also set this outside the head, upside down. It will have coir brick residue on the underside. It's very difficult clean this off.
- Unscrew sides of box from floor.
- Near-Shore. Wrap Double-Doodie Waste Bag around top of box and turn it upside down to dump. Bang it and spin the handle to loosen the old coir. Don’t worry about getting it entirely empty. You can spatula out the corners a little, but it's heavy and awkward and difficult to aim at the trash bag.
- Off-Shore. Take box well aft to the lee quarter. While it's easier to lean over the transom, wind swirls around back there. Dump. Scrape. Dump. Bang on the toe-rail. Don't rinse with sea-water -- it will have develop a life of its own when you add coir.
- Add new coir.
- Reassemble box, seat and urine jug holder.
- Clean up area with paper towels, including seal around seat.
- Double bag waste and paper towels and bring to dumpster.
Here are the original questions.
Do you like it?
Yes. It's great. The little fan leaves it (nearly) odorless.
It's slightly taller than marine heads usually are. Because it's easiest to mount on the little raised shelf in the head, a little footstool is a handy thing to have in the head with it.
Emptying it. See above.
Also. The vent hose needs to be installed in a way that prevents water ingress. I put the vent almost at deck level in the scuppers. A heavy rain, anything blocking the deck drains, or green water in the scuppers can get into the vent. It took a while to uncover the water ingress, and we routed the hose in a kind of vented loop above the actual vent hole.
What is your autonomy?
Offshore and in remote areas, it's very, very good. A 12-pack of coir bricks -- at 3 weeks per brick -- would last for months.
Nearshore, the emptying of the liquid waste jug is a bit of a trade-off. The holding tank can be be more convenient in places with regular pump-out service. Otherwise, carrying the jug ashore is a daily chore.
Does it take a lot of space?
It's the same size as a conventional head. A little taller.
Where does the solid stuff go?
See above. It requires some care to manage solid and liquid waste.
It requires a little cleverness to locate suitable dumpsters. In some places, the dinghy docks are located near the dumpsters. In other places, you have to carry the trash bag through a nice park or something to find a dumpster.