The cassette toilet versus the pump out toilet is a debate that has gone on for decades. For some it seems to have become a personal crusade. Like so many things to do with boats, and anything else in life for that matter, it is down to personal preference
The cassette toilet
In the good old days the boat toilet was the bucket ‘n chuck it, and before health and environment concerns came to the fore, the canal was where it was chucked. Now consigned to the rubbish skip of history. This crude form of effluent disposal was superceded by the Porta Potti, which is still widely in use today. The base is a cassette container which can be emptied at one of the many sanitary stations on the waterway system. The Thetford cassette took the Porta Potti idea up market – the unit looks far more like a conventional wc, the cassettes are smaller and therefore lighter to carry when full. Now there is the remote cassette version, where the wc contents are flushed through pipework to a cassette located elsewhere in the boat. The emptying process remains the same however.
Pros: they are free to empty.
Cons: some people find the process of emptying them too unpleasant to countenance.
The pump out toilet
The Mansfield Traveler was at the forefront of this system and is still widely used today. The toilet sits directly on top of a holding tank which is sealed from the bowl by a lever mechanism. The seals do gradually deteriorate, which leads to smells emanating from the tank. Replacing the seals is, as you might imagine, not a job to be looked forward to. Now a wide array of more sophisticated pump out wcs are available – with electric flushes, macerator units, and a remote tank. You can buy your own self pump out kit and dispose of the contents in a sanitary station. Increasing numbers of sanitary stations now have notices prohibiting this practice, and you are also at a halfway house with the cassette type of toilet if you choose this method.
Pros: much more like the conventional land based toilet.
Cons: You have to be able to move the boat to a pump out station – tricky in icy weather.
The compost toilet
This is the new kid on the block both on land and afloat. They are more environmentally friendly than ordinary toilets producing no waste and excellent compost. On boats they have not been widely tried and tested, but I have met a couple of people who swear by them, saying that they only need to be emptied once a year, don’t smell at all, and the contents can either be added to a vegetable plot with great effect, or disposed of in a hedgerow. Fitting one retrospectively into a boat could be complicated, as the units occupy more space although are getting smaller. The number of companies producing suitable compost toilets has grown considerably over the poast 5 years: just type “compost toilets for boats” into Google to get a range of products.
Pros: You can feel smugly green
Cons: Most models suitable for boats run a 12volt heating element to assist the process of composting.
The pub loo
A highly popular choice with many boaters where the enjoyment of a decent pint is enhanced by the savings made on not filling up their own toilet tank or cassette.
Cons: The price of a pint