Heading out on the water for the weekend has its benefits, especially if you’re cruising in style on a catamaran. If you’re anything like me, you get excited about the adventure and sometimes forget to think of the obvious. Well, if you’re a man and you’re about to take your wife out on a catamaran for the first time, I bet one of the first questions she’ll ask is, ‘Does it have a washroom?”. And that is a perfectly reasonable question, especially if you intend to spend some decent time out on the water.
Most of the time, when it comes to catamarans and bathrooms, you’ll have to ask the person whom you are renting or buying the catamaran from whether or not it has a head. If you are going out on a catamaran cruise, it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll have a head on board. That’s another name for a bathroom on a boat, the head.
General Bathroom Guidelines For Catamarans
So, if you want to know if there’s a bathroom on a catamaran, there is an essential size guide that I’ve created. You see, catamarans only have a bathroom on board when they reach a specific size. I was unable to find any models made by any companies that have a washroom on board, on catamarans below a particular size range.
The magic number seems to be around twenty-seven feet. Every single catamaran I found with a washroom on board was over this size. I did not find any catamarans above thirty feet that didn’t have a bathroom.
The majority of smaller catamarans did not have a bathroom. Three main factors determined if the ship had a head.
- Sleeping Quarters
- Kitchen Facilities
- Size Of Vessel
Sleeping Quarters And Onboard Washrooms
Of all the various catamarans I studied, I found a substantial correlation between the ship having sleeping quarters and having a bathroom. I was unable to find a catamaran that has sleeping quarters and no head. Every single catamaran I found, new and used that has the facilities to spend the night, always had a washroom on board.
Catamarans with sleeping quarters generally also have an onboard bathroom.
Kitchen Facilities And Onboard Bathrooms
Depending on where you live, it might be the law that when you have a place where food is to be served, that there must also be a bathroom for people to use. I know this is the case here in Canada when it comes to our restaurants. Now, I wasn’t able to find any legislation that stipulates that a vessel must have a bathroom if it has cooking facilities onboard.
There was a similar correlation between a catamaran having a kitchen or kitchenette and also having a head onboard. Thus, we can develop a general rule:
Catamarans with onboard cooking facilities usually also have a built-in bathroom.
Size of Vessel And Onboard Marine Toilets
As mentioned previously, I did find a strong correlation between the size of the catamaran and whether or not the vessel has an onboard bathroom. From the data I saw, I was able to extrapolate the following generalization.
Typically, catamarans over 27.5’ have an onboard bathroom.
Types Of Toilets On Catamarans
There are a few different types of bathroom toilets you might find on a catamaran. At least, one that meets our criteria mentioned above and has a head on board. There are a few different types of marine toilets which you might find aboard a catamaran. I’ve described them below, let’s take a look.
These types of toilets are small and usually don’t hold more than six gallons of waste. They work well for smaller boats like weekend cruisers and small cabin cruisers where there is no permanent head onboard, or the existing head is not working. Typically these portable toilets are used when there is no permanent head installed on the boat.
Advantages of a Portable Toilet
- Portable toilets can save a lot of money for the boat owner, who has a smaller boat that doesn’t have the space to accommodate a permanent solution.
- Marine portable toilets are small and compact, allowing for relatively easy storage and use.
Disadvantages of a Portable Toilet
- A portable toilet has to be physically carried off the boat and emptied. It usually means that you have to carry it to a marina and dump it in their washroom toilet.
- Portable toilets sometimes smell. These types of toilets don’t always hold back the scent as they sometimes have a small vent to stop gas buildup inside the holding tank. As this is not a permanently fixed solution, there is no permanent vent directed away from the area of the portable toilet.
The cassette toilet is a self-contained toilet where the holding tank is removable. These are a form of permanent toilet, for a smaller boat, but also can be a portable loo (the term loo, is used in Europe in place of the word bathroom commonly used in North America).
Advantages of a Cassette Toilet
- The cassette toilet is typically small and compact. It allows you to have a bathroom on a smaller boat as these types of marine toilets don’t usually take up much space.
- Removal and disposal of the waste containers are usually more accessible than some of the standard portable toilets. Some portables require you to carry the entire unit to empty it off the boat.
Disadvantages of a Cassette Toilet
- Cassette toilets tend to smell. Like portable toilets (which technically a cassette toilet may also be mobile if not fixed in place), cassette toilets tend to smell. It can be a big issue if you have a small one-room cabin cruiser. Adding a smelly toilet to a small room might be a bit overpowering to the room. The alternative of moving the toilet to the deck for storage and then carrying it into the cabin for privacy when use is required will be a chore that you will tire of quickly.
- Refilling the rinse water tank can get tiring. You will need to flush. And that means water has to be added to the tank. If you intend to move the toilet to and from a cabin to the deck, as mentioned previously, having an included tank of rinse water adds a great deal of weight to the toilet. It will make it very difficult and cumbersome to move if the reservoir is full along with the waste tank.
Manual Pump Toilets
These types of toilets are permanently installed. They will include a holding tank for waste, which must be pumped out via a marina’s pump-out facilities. It will typically incur a fee at the marina. The water supply for flushing must be attached to this permanent toilet also.
Advantages Of Manual Pump Toilets
- Manual Pump Toilets do not smell like portable or cassette toilets do.
- These toilets are easy to use and easy to empty. All you need to do with most styles of manual pump toilet is hook up your discharge line when you get to an approved pump-out facility at a marina.
- Often the holding tank is large enough that you don’t need to empty the tank every trip. Sometimes, the containers are even large enough to go for weeks without needing to be emptied. It can save you money due to marinas usually having a fee to use their pump-out facilities.
Disadvantages of Manual Pump Toilets
- Pump-out stations typically have a fee. That means you’ll have to pay every time you need to empty the bathroom toilets waste water tank. Not a big deal if you have a container that can hold a few weeks worth, however, it does add to your boat’s operating expenses.
- Clogs can be costly. It isn’t your toilet back at home. You can’t always just throw a snake down the line and unplug it. Sometimes, the system has to be dismantled to get to a bad clog. It can cost you a lot of money to have a plumber come out to work on your boat.
Electric Pump Toilets
The electric pump toilet is the high-end version of the manual pump toilet. These toilets also use the same sort of waste holding tank that the manual ones do. The difference is, you guessed it, they are not manual and use a pump to empty the tank.
Advantages of Electric Pump-Out Toilets
- Very easy to use and empty. Like the manual pump out, all you have to do is hook up your discharge line and use a pump-out station at a marina.
- No manual work is required other than hooking up the discharge line. For the most part, these toilets are almost maintenance-free. There still might be the odd bit of work you need to do, depending on what brand and model you have. However, most of the time, these toilets require only as much work as your toilet in your home.
Disadvantages of Electric Pump-Out Toilets
- Like any other toilet that has a holding tank, you will need to use a pump-out facility to empty it. It adds to your boat’s maintenance costs.
- Similar to the manual pump-out toilets, these toilets can be costly to fix when blocked or broken down. Due to the toilet now having a motor and pump, it will also now include electricity to power the pump. This added level of complexity to the system means you have that many more components that can break down and cost you money to have repaired or unplugged.
A relatively new technology used for toilets on a boat is the composting toilet. These toilets use two separate holding tanks. One tank is for solid waste, and one is for liquid waste. The solid waste tank usually uses an additive like peat to assist in drying out the solid waste.
Advantages of a Marine Composting Toilet
- Composting is always a good thing. Because the solid waste in a composting toilet is dried out, it can then easily be turned into compost for fertilizer use. You will have to check with local legislation to see where it is safe to either dispose of or use. Some people just use it in their flower garden to fertilize their plants. However, this might be against a local bylaw (human waste disposal has specific rules to prevent contamination).
- A composting toilet is typically not overly expensive. If you are purchasing a toilet to install to your boat, this can be a decent option over a cassette or portable toilet.
- Waste removal is lighter than other manual waste removal toilets like cassette or portable toilets. It is because these toilets separate liquid waste from solid waste. Solid waste is dried out, making it quite light. Liquid waste is dumped out of the boat directly (if far enough away from the coast to be legal to dump it, that is). Or, the liquid waste stored in a small portable liquid holding container which will be lighter than a cassette or portable toilet waste holding container. It is due to separating liquids from the solids, so you don’t have the solid waste adding weight to the liquid waste.
- Composting toilets smell less than portable and cassette toilets. It is due to the separation of liquid from solid and drying out the solids. When you combine the liquids and solids, you get sewage. Sewage stinks. With it separated, you only have urine smell (assuming you vent the drying chamber of the solids).
Disadvantages of a Marine Composting Toilet
- You have to empty the toilet manually. Like a portable toilet, the composting toilet requires you physically empty the waste reservoir.
- The composting toilet for boats can smell. These toilets typically have a vent that allows the solid waste to dry out by allowing air exchange. This air needs exchange somewhere, so unless you pipe out a vent, it will vent into where you have your toilet installed.
- Marine composting toilets can be gross to clean. Some models of toilets require you to defecate in one part of the toilet and urinate in another. I have seen models that have two lids. One main lid for the entire toilet bowl, just like your toilet at home. And another inner cover that you open when you need to defecate as opposed to urinating. It means that any splashes from peeing (or a bad case of diarrhea) and you may have to clean the handle of the inner lid. It is a big complaint I have found from people with these types of toilets.
Commonly Asked Boat Bathroom Questions
Where Do You Empty A Marine Toilet?
A bathroom on a boat has to have a way to store your waste. Most ships with a permanent bathroom on board have a holding tank. That holding tank can either be emptied at sea or unloaded at an approved marina pump-out station.
When emptying the waste at sea, you must follow the law. In North America, you need to be at a minimum of 3 miles offshore when in the waters of the United States. Canadian documentation for Canadian waters is challenging to navigate. After spending over an hour on the Canadian government website, I was unable to find the actual legislation that states anything useful. (hint to the Canadian Government – Maybe the Ministry of Transportation could hire a web developer to correct the grossly inadequate and difficult to navigate the website you have!).
I did find legislation about inland waters and the Great Lakes here in North America (again via an American government website, Canada’s site is not great to say it nicely). The legislation I found stated that no sewage is allowed to be dumped in a freshwater lake. And at sea, as mentioned, the 3-mile rule applies to the coastal waters of the United States.
Are Toilets For Boats Expensive?
It depends much upon which model and type of toilet you are looking to purchase. A portable toilet will be cheaper and easier to install than a manual pump toilet, for example. But, a powered pump-out toilet will be even more expensive.
Most serious boaters who have a boat they install a toilet on will pick the manual or electric pump-out permanent loo for their vessel. Below are some charts I created based upon the pricing I found for the 2020 spring season for Canada, The United States, and The United Kingdom. Prices are in the currency of each country, so no conversion is necessary. These prices are generalizations based upon current models for sale in each country and may have a small degree of variance.
Canada – Canadian Dollars
|Toilet Type||Minimum Price||Maximum Price|
|Portable And Cassette Toilets||$150||$300|
|Manual Pump-Out Toilet||$250||$500|
|Electric Pump-Out Toilet||$500||$2000|
United States – US Dollars
|Toilet Type||Minimum Price||Maximum Price|
|Portable And Cassette Toilets||$150||$300|
|Manual Pump-Out Toilet||$150||$300|
|Electric Pump-Out Toilet||$380||$1,700|
United Kingdom – Euros
|Toilet Type||Minimum Price||Maximum Price|
|Portable And Cassette Toilets||€60||€200|
|Manual Pump-Out Toilet||€100||€280|
|Electric Pump-Out Toilet||€200||€800|
Recommended Models Of Toilets For Catamarans
Take a look at my recommendations page for models that I researched and recommend. This article is for your information (not a sales pitch), so I didn’t want to blast you with affiliate ads. You’re welcome. 😉 Jer
Take a look at the Boating Guide Magazine’s
RECOMMENDED Boating Gear
You’ll find everything from Fish Trackers and GPS to anchors and tow ropes. We have either owned and tested or have a close friend who owns and has tested the products and services we recommend. There is no crap recommended on Boating Guide Magazine, we stand by that.
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