How to use the head

The BSA’s High Adventure Bases each have their own unique latrine offerings.

At the Northern Tier you can enjoy the Forest Service-installed fiberglass latrines called “grumpers” on the American side of the border, while in Canada you must resort to some variation of the time-honored squat method and if lucky, you will be assisted by conveniently positioned rocks or trees. Philmont offers a variety of latrine configurations: pilot to co-pilot, pilot to bombardier, single holer, and the deluxe Red Roof Inns. At both Northern Tier and Philmont you must rub a stick around the inside of the seat to chase off the spiders and other critters before sitting down to business.

When you are on the Florida Sea Base Coral Reef Sailing Adventure February 6 – 11, 2011, you will have a different latrine experience – an adventure in its own right!

Marine terminology for a latrine on a vessel is a “head”. The head on your vessel will be located in a tiny closet. The head looks like your toilet at home – round and oval, white and beige – only much smaller. For adults, sitting on a head can be a bit of a juggling act – like sitting on a child’s stool. And speaking of juggling, it is best if males sit on the head to urinate rather than stand and juggle. Otherwise, if the vessel hits a big wave or heels from a strong wind, you will make a big mess. (Actually it is best for the guys to pee over the side – “go where the fishes go”.)

Instead of flushing the head, you have to pump it. You will need to get your face relatively close to the bowl in order to pump your waste away. You will be pumping waste through a 1.5 inch hose so it is important that nothing go into the head which has not been eaten. This includes toilet paper. Putting paper in the head and then pumping can result in blowback on your face, and then you will have to spend time in the tiny closet disassembling the head and cleaning out the hoses by hand. And until the hoses are cleaned out and the head returned to functionality, other members of your crew may be in substantial distress.

Your toilet paper is placed into a small bag and secured. This may sound a little gross, but it is actually common practice in many parts of the world – don’t be disgusted.

Carefully mastery of restroom skills will help insure a great adventure. And the good news in all this is that you don’t have to rub a stick around the head’s seat to chase off the spiders and other critters that frequent Northern Tier and Philmont latrines!


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