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If there is one maintenance job that is most despised by boat owners it has to be repairing the toilet. Our MSD (Marine Sanitation Device), or head as it is often called, inconveniently decided last night to cease functioning. Fortunately what wasn’t working had nothing to do with getting rid of waste. What we couldn’t get the toilet to do though was bring in any water to flush. My troubleshooting went something like this:

  • Stare at toilet. It just sat there.
  • Pump handle. No water came in.
  • Stare at toilet again. Same result as before.
  • Go get some coffee.
  • Look through large quantity of product manuals that David left me until I find the one for the head.
  • Read manual. It pretty much says nothing about troubleshooting.
  • Go back and stare at toilet. It looks the same as it did pre-coffee.
  • Pump handle some more. Big surprise… no water came in.
  • Glare at toilet.
  • Go drink some more coffee.
  • Google “Jabsco Marine Head Troubleshooting”
  • Results of internet repair wizard: 1. Ensure water intake isn’t blocked, 2. Ensure gasket is making good seal.
  • I am not a rocket scientist, nor even a toilet scientist, and it was a late night last night. How to check the above two things at this point has me stumped.
  • More coffee!
  • Take apart pump portion of head.
  • Stare at inner workings. I think the toilet is laughing at me now.
  • Put it all back together.
  • Go and search through spare parts that David left me. Hmmm… a bunch of toilet parts!!! One of them even looks like what I imagine a gasket would look like!
  • Disassemble toilet once again and swap spare gasket for its slightly floppy cousin that was inside the head’s pump
  • Reassemble for the 3rd time.
  • Voila! Water!

If cruisers collected badges like Boy Scouts I feel I should now have earned my “toilet troubleshooting” badge! Boy am I proud of myself. 🙂


  1. If you use fresh water to fill and flush it will keep your holding tank odor down

  2. Well Done fixing the ***** head. I hate Jabsco glad the spares worked. I should have taken your suggestion on being paid for the boat in CNDN US $ is in the tank (although haven’t changed to CNDN. I know that won’t make you feel any better but, misery loves company and it seems we both ended up on the wrong end of the currency market.

    The turnbuckles and cotter pins were left open for the Survey, we covered themm as you have. Sounds like you have some good and experienced people around. Hope docking after your sail went well.
    Best Jackie and Dave Boatless!!

    • Hi Dave. Thanks. I went to West Marine to see how much a spare set of gaskets would be. Now I know why you purchased an entire toilet!

      I remembered that you told me to tape up the cotter pins as soon as he told me. You are right in that I do have some experienced people to bug for info and advice. I think we will be able to learn a lot there.

      The docking episode wasn’t too pretty but it didn’t result in any unplanned boat to dock contact! With a bit of practice I am sure both Rebecca and I will have the process down.

      I am sorry to hear the currency thing isn’t working for you. I promised myself that I wouldn’t look at the rates for the next year. So far I have managed to stay away!

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