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Whenever you think that a project on a boat is going to be straightforward and easy to complete, wait for the alarm to go off so that you can wake up from your dream. That’s what I should have done when I considered swapping the forward head and related hoses on our boat. Leave the yuck factor aside for the moment because to tell the truth, that doesn’t even phase me any more. This was just a challenging job.

Why bother doing this in the first place? Well, for whatever reason, the head stopped working. It probably could have been revived by replacing some internal parts but the toilet was a brand not available around here. We’ve also found that the rebuild kits for marine toilets are a good percentage of the cost of a completely new toilet. For these reasons, we decided to get rid of the old head and start from scratch with a Jabsco manual head, a toilet that is readily available everywhere these days.

The project was made difficult by a few things. First, waste hose, especially old calcified waste hose, is extremely difficult to work with. Getting the old hose out was a bear of a job. Getting the new hose in was equally tough. While more pliable, the new hose diameter was slightly larger than the old stuff making it a very tight fit. That wasn’t the real challenge though. The old toilet was bolted in with no access to the underside of the bolts. Nope, no access, and believe me, we looked. Did the bolts have nuts underneath them or were they glassed in, we couldn’t tell. It didn’t really matter though, we needed to remove them as they didn’t line up with the new toilet that we purchased.

After a lot of searching for access, we gave upon and decided to cut an inspection hole that would ultimately be covered up again by the new toilet. When we did that, we could see that the bolts were actually glassed in, and they were in there good… there was no removing them! While not an eloquent solution, we used a hacksaw to cut them flush. With them removed, we could then get to installing the new toilet. It’s worth noting that there was not a millimeter to spare in placing that new toilet in. It fit exactly. It would have really sucked if it was any bigger!

All’s well that ends well. The new toilet looks great and the old smelly hoses are off the boat. And just in time for our guests who will be arriving this Saturday to go sailing with us. We’ll leave it to them to break in the new head. 🙂


  1. Toilet maintenance is my least favorite part of boat ownership.

  2. Good job Mike, looks to me there is plenty of beef there to hold down the head with screws and as we discussed you can always change out later with bolts epoxied in if needed.

  3. Have a job like that coming up. But more easy since it is a Jabsco to same model Jabsco. Could never figure out why the rebuild kits are so expensive. Prefer to change the complete unit.

  4. Could have told you about those bolts being glassed in as studs. Good you found a solution.

  5. Good to know about the glassed in bolts. I was wondering as I’m planning on replacing ours in NZ in the fall. Luckily ours are Jabsco, so a bit easier, plus I replaced all the hoses about 2 years ago. Have fun!

  6. Well, at least it’s done, and with any luck, you won’t have to do this one again for a while!

  7. Had to do the exact same thing on our IP. Nasty job but worth it once complete.

  8. What a shi!!y job, but it must be done. One thing I wonder about, as I am still evaluating boats, and boat life (and planning for it). Why do they always seem to put TWO heads in a boat? Not a single apartment/house/camper/lean-to would ever think about putting two toilets in a living space as small as 750 sq/ft space (50’x15′, not accounting for boat curves) even with 2 bedrooms.

    How, or why the heck do “they” think anyone needs TWO heads on a 32′ – 60′ boat?

    I think anything that “can” be single-handed, should be single-headed. Just MO.

    BTW, I’m having a difficult time finding a single head boat. Rant over.

  9. Off subject, but I can’t find an email for you on this site. I understand if you don’t want to do that but I have some comments/questions that don’t fit into comment sections.

  10. Built in spare while you are repairing the other!

  11. Hi Kids–

    How you deal with your Black Water? Are there Pump out boats down there?
    I don’t believe you have ever Blogged about this subject..

  12. a. Carry some extra joker valves. Me and my friends (test subjects?) have all switched to Rairitan jokers (red) since they last about 2-3 times as long and are 100% interchangeable with Jabsco. It aint’ just about the money!

    b. Carry a spare pump unit. It isn’t much more than the rebuild kit, and though it is not much cheaper than the whole head, you can replace it in 10 minutes without yoga and it functionally gives you a new toilet.

    You already know about the annual lube ritual. Semi-annual for you, I guess.

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