A few weeks before we started cruising on a boat (about 2 years ago) some long-time cruisers pulled up alongside Cream Puff in St Petersburg, Florida. They were preparing to leave their boat for about 5 months at the marina while they took an extended land vacation. As part of the prep they put all of their remaining food on the free table in the Captain’s Lounge (the free table is common in most marinas and is a place you can recycle something you no longer need or want to another sailor). It was all gone in a few seconds. We had some wonderful short conversations in-between them working their tails off to ready the boat. Boats don’t like to be left alone. Things go moldy. Batteries go flat. They get lonely and accelerate the self-destruction process. During one of our conversations, the subject of toilet seats arose. I don’t remember how it came up but it struck me as strange when they said they went through a lot of toilet seats while cruising. They were quite perplexed as to why toilet seats were not better made. Of all the things they could have commented on from their years of cruising and world travels, I thought this subject to be just a little bit odd. These people were not overly large; they didn’t seem the type to put added stress on the toilet seat, if that is even possible. But nonetheless, the comment was made and my brain working the way it does the comment stuck with me, forever.
This week our toilet seat broke in the master stateroom head. Well, my very first thought was about the couple we met in St Petersburg and how they said they went through a lot of toilet seat during the years they cruised. Ha! Wha-do-ya know, they were right. Could this be the first of many toilet seats we are going to have to purchase during our travels? Are we destined to sail the globe in search of replacement toilet seats instead of seeking exotic isles? Let’s hope not. Then, the toilet seat in our second head broke. Hmm! They are probably the same age so I guess it is only right they should die just a couple of days apart.
Sailors love to talk about toilets. We too have had many toilet conversations over a few sundowners. We discuss in great detail fresh-water versus salt-water flush, manual pump versus electric, compost versus regular, vacuum versus gravity and the main topic; how one goes about fixing these when they are broken. Every cruising sailor at some point is going to have to fix the toilet. It is not a job we look forward to for the obvious reasons. A marine toilet is different from a land toilet. The main difference being it has more moving parts, a lot more. Thus, it is going to break more frequently. Our toilets are made by Jabsco. They are electric toilets with the brand name Quiet Flush. I think the marketing person that named this brand had a serious hearing problem. They are anything but quiet. Or, perhaps someone at Jabsco has a sense of humor. The one good thing about Jabsco toilets is they sell every part individually. If we just need a joker valve or a pump seal, no problem. We can buy them just about everywhere. So, the first thing I did was look at the Jabsco part number for a replacement toilet seat. I Googled the part number.
It should be no surprise to anyone who owns a boat or has read my West Marine rants before that once again West Marine can claim the prize of selling the most expensive toilet seats on the planet at $83 each. I really don’t know why I even bother looking at their web-site when they pop up on Google. I am never going to buy anything from them unless I am in a real bind and utterly desperate. Perhaps I looked because we are in Key West Florida and they have a big store within just a short walk away from the dinghy dock. For the heck of it, I checked the local West Marine store’s inventory online. You guessed it, like most items at West Marine they are out of stock. I looked at a few other on-line marine retailers. They were about 30% lower than West Marine, as usual. But, this is still more than I am willing to pay for a simple toilet seat. Back on the Jabsco website I noticed in the Jabsco picture that the brand of the toilet seat was Bemis. I took a closer look at our seats. Sure enough, the brand is Bemis. I Googled Bemis and Home Depot popped up first. They had the exact seat we needed for $29. Well I’ll be! Is there a Home Depot on Key West? You bet there is. Better still there was a Publix grocery store across the street from the Home Depot. We saw an opportunity to load up on some fruit, bread and milk. Now comes the tricky part, how do we get there?
Uber is our first choice for a ride. Key West kicked out Uber. We are cheap cruisers so we don’t do taxis unless we really have to. We prefer to take the dinghy as close as we can to our destination and walk. Google Earth is my go to resource when it comes to finding a place to land the dinghy. We are currently anchored a little bit west of Fleming Key about a mile north of Key West. We have been using the dinghy dock in Old Town Key West (across from the Coast Guard station) to land and do our touristy stuff. Once I located the Home Depot store, I started to look for the closest place to land the dinghy since from our regular dock it would be a two mile walk to Home Depot. I found a spot that looked good. At the end of a small channel, I could see some small pleasure boats and a facility called Banana Bay Resort & Marina. I called Banana Bay as spoke to a lovely lady named Violet. I explained we needed to go to Home Depot and were anchored out in the basin. I asked her if she would mind if we tied our dinghy to their dock for about an hour while we walked the half-mile to the store. She said it would be okay so long as we were not there too long. I offered to pay for the dock. She refused to take our money. There are still good kind people in this world. The quest was on. Off we went to find us a Bemis.
I am happy to report, the new Bemis toilet seats are installed and are working well. We even got the type of seat that doesn’t slam closed. The special hinge lets the seat and the lid down slowly. We are especially glad someone invented this. We tend to take off on our sails with the lids up. When the first big wave hits us we hear a crash from each bathroom. It is the toilet seat lids falling closed. With our new Bemis’ in place we are hoping they now close gently.
Be sure to mark this day on your calendar. It is the day Cream Puff got new Bemis toilet seats. Let’s see how long they last and hope we are near civilization when they break. We will announce to the world when they break so we can all determine if cruising does in fact involve a quest for Bemis seats as a regular activity.