My wife and I didn’t like the aft bathroom layout when we bought the boat. It was very nice to have an en-suit bathroom from the aft master cabin, but for some inexplicable reason the washbasin had been built into the bedroom, not the bathroom. This completely obstructed the person getting in and out of bed on the port side. The layout mystified me, I have never seen an aft cabin and large bathroom where the wash basin is installed in the cabin, not the bathroom. There were a few other things we didn’t like as well, like the small wedge shaped built-in bathtub and the old fashioned manual pump-out head.
I decided to undertake a complete remodeling.
I first dismantled the cupboard and wash basin in the bedroom and cut its bulkhead down to the bed level. I then removed the bathroom door and its bulkhead with a view to relocating it at an angle, to allow room for a wash basin to be built in the bathroom, like any normal layout.
The bathtub was neither one thing or the other and no use at all for a six footer like me. I cut it out with great difficulty with a plan to make it into a shower area. After two days complete bathroom was gutted down to the floorboards. At this point it became apparent that if I cut a bit out of the engine room I could probably fit a full size bathtub in the area. I bought a tub from a local spa manufacture, but it was no ordinary bathtub. I had it fitted with ten adjustable jets and a pump, which along with a heater and pressure pump converted the bath into a real hot tub. A more detailed account of how I had this hot tub made can be found in an article to be published towards the end of 2019
While the bathroom door and bulkhead was out of the way there was plenty of room to bring in the new tub into the bathroom. Once in it plonked down exactly where I had planned it, even allowing for four inches of extra length, which slid into the neat alcove I pinched out of the engine room.
There wasn't enough water in my boat's six gallon hot water system to warm 55 gallons with hot water. I installed a second 120 volt shore power cable, and by combining the two 120 volt inputs with a double pole breaker I obtained a 240 volt supply to power a water heater. This heats the bath water to 103 degrees Fahrenheit in less than one hour.
I removed the old head and pipes and after a lot of thought about “electric or manual” I bought a Raritan Elegance electric head and installed it next to the bath. I piped it into the shore side fresh water supply by using none return valves which ensured it remains totally isolated from the boats fresh water tanks. Fresh water flushing totally eliminates odor and keeps the bowl cleaner. When at sea the toilets can be switched to sea water flush, to save water in the tanks.
Installing the head was the usual struggle with 1½” pipes, but only because I did not want any of the pipework showing in the bathroom. I hate to see marine heads with exposed pipes and valves, when with a bit more effort they can usually be enclosed.
Direct toilet discharge is illegal anywhere in American waters, so most boats have holding tanks. We had learned from the initial survey that the large aluminium holding tank in the bilge—which was supposed to serve both heads—was about as efficient as a colander! It had to go, so it was chopped out in five hours of very messy work. We went through ten die-grinder cut-off blades and finally wore out the grinder itself, when it started to smoke. The only consolation was, I did get $50 for the aluminum from a recycle plant.
I hate holding tanks, which nearly always smell, so I replaced it with a Raritan Purisan waste treatment system which injects chlorine into a tank and neutralizes the waste. This is US coastguard approved and quite easy to install if you have room below the level of the head. I now use the space where the holding tank was for storage of spare mooring ropes and lines.
With the toilet in position and working, the next job was to install a new wash basin and faucets. The original ‘stainless’ basin was stained and old fashioned. I bought a basin called a vessel bowl from the local do-it-yourself store, which sits on top of the counter, not recessed into it. This concept allows for a larger bowl than one that is recessed. They are made of thick molded glass and available in many different colors. I bought a beautiful blue and black bowl, with polished brass handles and spout. I rebuilt the pedestal on a split level configuration using two shaped pieces of blue/black granite counter tops with holes to accept the taps and spout.
It took longer to ‘trim’ the bathroom than to fit the equipment. I used a fascia of blue vinyl tiles and also installed a new headliner. The headliner was plastic (PVC) tongued and grooved panels called plank paneling used as waincote panels on house walls from Lowe’s hardware store. Each board is 7 inches wide and ¼ inch thick and available in 8’ feet long boards. I also wired in two 120 volt sconce lights from Home Depot and two extra 12 volt ceiling lights. I found an oval painted glass picture of a square-rigger on Amazon.com, which I inset into the alcove with a light behind it. The whole room was then re-clad with clean white plastic sheet and caulked to make it waterproof. All this took the best part of two months to completely finish, but the result is a beautiful bathroom, reminiscent of some elegant Victorian yacht.
It is absolutely marvelous to be able to soak in the bath after a hard days work on the boat, especially with a pint of Boddington’s pub ale which fits in the folding holder on the wall.
I haven’t yet used it anywhere other than in our marina berth, where the boat hardly moves. Trying the have a bath at anchor could be interesting, when a passing motor boat causes their usual wake..