Some oil barges are equipped with incinerating toilets instead of the more traditional water-filled standard toilet. This is done because marine plumbers (known as 'turd chasers') are expensive and about as rare as a $2 bill at the grocery store, but more realistically, a sewage system that doesn't require putting sewerage in the water or in a tank doesn't require permitting, EPA involvement, or monitoring how and when the system gets emptied in order to keep within the very strict confines of the law, and doesn't require anywhere near the level of maintenance that a standard marine septic system needs. I hope you'll believe me when I say that the septic system on a commercial vessel is, after the propulsion and electrical system, one of the most complex and incident-prone systems on board.
Now, long ago here I told the story of 'Peanuts' the 3rd assistant engineer, a young kid fresh out of King's Point who had to flush out one of the holding tanks on my ship. With a fire hose. A fully charged fire hose. As you may remember or may guess, there was a, ah... backdraft from the tank. The kid got splashed. I was cutting through the engine room at the time, on my way to the bridge of the ship, and, almost tripping over a fire hose, saw the action. Well, after the hose was put away, I approached the engineer, who was, it turns out, under the assumption that he missed being hit by ass shrapnel. I accidentally spilled the beans (sorry), by pointing out that he had something in his hair. A peanut, it turns out. Without a word, the boy bolted upstairs headed for his shower, and ran into the captain, himself cutting through the top of the engine room on his way to lunch. Seeing a wild-eyed boy running full speed up a catwalk, the captain must have been slow to get out of the way. The boy yelled "Fucking Peanuts!" and I swear shot by the captain on the narrow catwalk like a watermelon seed pinched between two fingers.
Well, after that, Peanuts was pretty much this guy's brand to own. In fact, I don't remember his name at all.
Hopefully, you get the idea. Dealing with the most comfortable seat in the house is something of a burden when you're afloat. Now, the incinerating turd burner is not just an ideal way to take care of Big Business, either. In fact, it's both a tool and a political bargaining chip.
Let's say a tugboat fetches up against you, hard. After a long, long day, just as you're dozing off, with only a few precious hours of downtime, you get blasted halfway out of your bunk when some heavy-handed cowbow smashes his tug against your hull. This causes an adrenaline surge, and pretty much kills the impulse to sleep for about an hour. Now, if said bump was caused by inattention (as opposed to weather or poor maneuvering room) or heavy-handedness, the electric super bowl now becomes a weapon. Once the tug is in place, and, if the wind is right, it's time to fire up the turd burner and send a smoke signal to let the operator know that, hey, there are people here. People who need rest in a bed that doesn't act like a mechanical bull. This is called 'voting with your ass' and it's a hell of a lot more satisfying than calling a 900 number to tell Simon Cowell what you think of this weeks' American Idol contestants.
Songs of the Sea: I Hate Boats
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