April 12th: Where to put the Loo?

Where I keep the loo.

I was contacted by someone thinking about choosing a BC20 who asked, amongst other questions, where one could site a portable toilet. On Seatern the loo is in what was originally designed as a locker under the aft, starboard side of the V-bunk. It makes a useful seat when accessing the fridge which is situated in the opposite, port, locker space. So much so that frequent use on sailing trips resulted in the plastic cover cracking and it now features a plywood top!

The aft cubby where pipes for ballast and bilgewater go to port (right in photo) to the manual pump and left to the electric ballast pump.

Being small, that for me is a good place for the loo; however it would be difficult to use for someone taller or less flexible! Nor would it be possible to store it there and use the space as a V-berth. I’d always assumed that the cubby at the aft end of the cabin under the cockpit floor was designed to hold the loo and indeed, the Practical Boat Owner review (September 2010) stated that “a chemical toilet lives beneath the cockpit next to the battery”.

The step (top right) cuts down the space available.

However, if so it must have been a small loo! When, in answer to the query, I tried to fit my Dometic 972 (12.5” high, 13.1” wide and 15.2” deep) it would not go down between the centreboard case and the aft cabin bulkhead. One problem is the step on the aft end of the centreboard case which is too useful to remove. The other problem is the amount of the cubby which is taken up by the pipes which go to the manual and electric ballast tank/bige pumps.

For reference some measured dimensions are given in the table:

Dimension inches mm
Aft end of centreboard case to aft end cabin floor (start of cubby) 13 330
Cubby depth: aft end cabin floor to aft end of cubby (ignoring pipes) 11 280
ditto but allowing for pipes (approx) 9.5 240
Cabin floor to roof of cubby 12 305
Bilge floor to roof of cubby (i.e. height actually under the cubby) approx 13 330
Width of cubby (note same height not maintained over entire width) 29 737
Centreboard case to edge of side seats 13 330

One place that the toilet could be stored would be the cubby on the starboard side which on Seatern houses the electronics panel. The size (w x d x h) is 19” x 10” x 16” (483 x 254 x 406 mm) where the width is the actual space available for inserting it (i.e. the full cubby width is greater but the seat backrest takes away a bit of the space). If you had day-bed cushions in two halves then you could just slide the loo out from the cubby for use . The distance from the top of the locker which the loo is sitting on to the cabin roof is 41” (1040mm) , the cushion is about 4” thick. Head room sitting on the toilet isn’t too bad because you can lean forward. However you could lower the top of the locker for part of the day-bed and back into the cubby. That would allow the toilet to be even lower, however you would need a removable top to allow the day-bed to still be used with the loo stowed in the cubby.

The toilet will fit in the cockpit locker and could be used under the spray hood, presumably with a curtain for privacy! The latter would definitely be needed on the Solent where you can think you are sailing alone and moments later a rib or gin palace comes by!

In Seatern the electric ballast tank pump takes up part of the space. However without it (or with a smaller “odds and ends” box) there would be room for the loo as well as the petrol tank.  However Seatern has only the one locker and I would be loath to use part of it to keep the loo.

In a BC20 with the original cabin layout there might be room to store the loo under the sink unit. That is not possible on Seatern with the full width port side bulkhead and galley area.

Footnote: 18th April – the prospective buyer emailed me saying that he had found a photo on Julian Swindell’s web site showing the PortaPotti stowed under the bridge deck. It’s in the bottom left corner of the photo which I’ve reproduced here. The PortaPotti looks incredibly squat in the photo – much more compact than either my Dometic unit or any PortaPotti I can identify on the web so I’m puzzled!