Do Sailboats Have Toilets and Showers?

Sailboats can come with toilets and showers depending on the size and style of boat you are looking at. Typically, the longer the length of your boat, the more likely you are to have an onboard toilet and shower (though they might be small). Racing catamarans and trimarans generally do not come with toilets or showers because they float on top of the water, and don’t have a below deck area.

An afternoon of sailing isn’t enough to satiate the hunger—you want to spend as much time as possible out on the water, without fully sacrificing all the amenities at home.

Sailboats can come with onboard toilets (called “the head”), small showers, and other necessities. It all depends on what kind of sailboat you’re in the market for.

Every manufacturer is different, but typically, most small sailboats (classified as 30ft or under) do not have a toilet or a shower.

You can come across some sailboats that have a shower and toilet in the same small space, requiring you to sit on the toilet to take a shower.

It sounds bizarre, but it beats the alternative and isn’t that difficult to do.

Racing sailboats tend to be between 30ft and 60ft, and are known to feature small bathrooms that include a proper toilet area and a separate shower.

These are still relatively cramped, but offer more space than smaller sailboats.

However, racing sailboats need to reduce drag and maximize efficiency, so it is recommended to get a vessel with a smaller bathroom.

How to Use a Marine Toilet?

Boat Toilet

We’re all used to the simple flush-and-done method at home, but it’s quite different when you’re out on the water.

You can’t just pour waste into the ocean, so you need to effectively pump it into a waste holding tank.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Once you have finished your business on the toilet, you have to properly dispose of your toilet paper or sanitary towelettes. You should never flush them with your toilet water.

Clogging the pipes that lead into your waste holding tank would be a very costly mistake that could result in hundreds of dollars of maintenance.

Since marine toilets tend to have thinner pipes than traditional in-home plumbing, you can’t just use a snake to force paper/waste down.

Dispose of your toilet paper or towelette in a Ziploc bag. It’s recommended to keep a box of about fifty or more Ziploc bags or other sealable plastic bags in your bathroom at all times.

Once you’ve placed your waste paper in the bag, seal it up and place it in a trash bin with a lid.

This is all in an effort to reduce odors that draft throughout the cabin and the deck. Nobody wants to smell that.

As for the toilet itself, they are usually manually operated. You’ll notice a pumping system on either side of the toilet (depending on your boat setup).

There are two settings: one for water, and one for actual flushing. Take a moment to inspect the tubes and pump positioning to get familiar with the system.

Flip the lever towards the water side. Apply gentle pressure to the lever. It will push down and retract, pumping a small amount of water into the toilet bowl.

Repeat as needed, but try to be conservative. Once there is enough water in the bowl to remove the amount of waste, switch the lever over to the flush side and repeat the process.

You may need to depress the lever five to ten times for the waste to properly empty.

Personal Hygiene in Small Sailboats

Showering On Small Boat

You’re working up a sweat from sailing all day.

Even if you’re solo sailing, nobody wants to sit in their own smell. The best way to maintain your personal hygiene is with extremely efficient and relatively short showers.

When we’re at home, it’s easy to abuse the large hot water tank and stay in the comfort of the shower steam for ten minutes at a time.

You’re not going to have the same level of pressure or heat in your sailboat, so we need to make the most out of it.

For effective showering, place shampoo in your hands and a brief flow of water from the bathroom sink.

Apply the shampoo all throughout your hair and allow it to sit for two to three minutes.

Perform the same action with body wash/soap on the rest of your body before getting in the shower. You’ll be doing most of the washing now, and using the shower to rinse it all off.

Use the shower for no more than three minutes.

This is not only efficient for your system but ensures that the waste tank isn’t going to reach capacity between toilet waste and water waste during medium-length trips out on the sea.

Rinse off until the soap and shampoo are gone, and then quickly rinse off once more for good measure.

There are a few other tips you can use to maintain your personal hygiene while out on the sailboat without compromising your system.

Bring along a few of these lightweight products to stretch those showers a bit further.

What Personal Hygiene Products to Bring on a Sailing Ship?

Packing Personal Hygiene Products

Body wash, shampoo, and the flow of the shower—that’s all you need to keep things clean, but if you want to maintain that same level of cleanliness that you enjoy at home, we can’t blame you.

These lightweight products don’t take up much space and ensure that you’ll be fresh when you hop off the boat.

Dry Shampoo

This little marvel goes into your hair with a bit of moisture and soaks up grease produced by oils in your hair.

This works great in between showers or when you’re going to stop at a port, and don’t have time to take a full shower.

You can apply this and brush it out to improve the cleanliness and appearance of your hair.

Wet Ones

If you aren’t crazy about the idea of wetting toilet paper (it’s just a mess), Wet Ones provides a pretty durable solution for assistance while using the bathroom, and can also be used to quickly wipe down key areas that body odor might arise from.

If you can’t hop in the shower, this one to two-minute fix freshens you up quickly.


The salt air and water can dry out your skin immensely.

Bring along some moisturizer to maintain your skin’s hydration, which helps with irritation from constant contact with the rope and rough materials.

Water Flosser

Hand pump-operated water flossers provide a superior way to keep your teeth clean, especially where you might not have a proper mirror to see everything.

Water flossing post-meal will keep your breath fresher for most of your trip.

Razor and Shaving Cream

Nobody wants to come back looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway. It’s remarkable how three days of stubble growth can really impact your appearance.

How to Dispose of Boat Waste?

Sewage Station

All waste goes to your designated waste tank.

In recent years (and with no sign of slowing down), waste management costs are increasing due to the evolving nature of recycling and acceptable dumping methods.

Your waste tank has to be emptied properly; you cannot offload in the ocean unless you are more than three miles offshore, according to federal EPA regulations.

Even if you are that far out, it’s poor practice to just leave waste in the ocean.

If you do anything other than use the toilet, you’ll be dumping deodorants, soaps, and various chemicals into the ocean.

As far as properly removing waste goes, there are two main ways to get it done.

Do it yourself by purchasing a pump out hose and suction pump.

Once you locate the waste fitting (different on all boat models, consult information you received during purchase or fine an online PDF for your specific boat), it’s time to connect the hose and close the latch.

From there, attach the other end to the pump, and be sure that the other end of the hose is connected to a waste bin that you can bring to a waste processing facility.

Once the waste holding tank on your boat is empty, rinse out your hose by flushing clean water into the tank and pumping it out on top of the waste in the bin.

The secondary option is to use the equipment that is located at waste facilities. Depending on where you’re boating, this can be absolutely free to use, or it can cost around $25.00 for local fees.

Free pumping stations with state-owned pumps reduce unlawful waste dumping, especially in lakes and bodies of water with high seasonal tourism.

The Other Option

If your sailing boat doesn’t come with either a shower or a toilet, you are not limited to day trips.

You can still enjoy days out on the open water while having a sanitary waste and showering system, though it is fairly DIY.

Purchase a small camping toilet for around $50.00. Depending on the number of people in your party, you may need a more expensive one with a larger capacity.

For a shower, you can spend around $25.00 on a portable five-gallon container that hangs up and releases water through the nozzle on the bottom.

This limits your number of showers so you will have to be efficient. These ideas are optimal for three to five days of travel, and ideally no longer than that.

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