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How to use a pump-out station PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carlos   
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 20:45

I've seen a lot of people pull up to the pump-out dock and look confused.  I've also seen people spray themselves and their boat with the contents of the holding tank, which is not only horrifying but potentially quite dangerous.  In this article I cover how to make safe and efficient use of the sewage pumping stations found at most marinas.



• Head:  The marine toilet system, either manually operated or electrical
• Deck plate:  A fitting used to connect to fuel intake, water intake, and sewage removal
• Deck plate key:  A metal or plastic "key" used to unscrew and tighten a deck plate cover
• MSD:  Marine Sanitary Device; the system which holds everything you flush down the head


Your marine head flushes it contents into what is called a holding or "black water" tank.  It's all part of the legally-required Marine Sanitary Device (MSD) system found on cruising boats.  It is illegal to flush human waste into the sea within three miles of shore or into any lake.

Pump-out connections come in two basic types; a flexible cone nozzle which you must hold against the deck fitting, and a quick-connect nozzle that has two levers to lock it in place.  I tend to run into the latter type most often.  This type requires you to have an adapter for your deck plate which is screwed into place when pumping and removed when not in use.  There are three sizes of deck plates, so you must be careful to buy the right one for your boat.  Very few marinas will supply this adapter.


Here are the steps I recommend for the quick-connect type nozzle:

1.  Shut down the engine and blowers.  Make sure you are tied securely to the dock.

2.  Retrieve the pump hose and put it on the dock or on your boat so it's near your pump-out deck plate.

3.  Open the deck fitting with a deck plate key.  A large screwdriver or coin can sometimes be used if you lose your key.

4.  Screw in the adapter until the gasket is compressed and it's harder to turn.  Don't over-tighten.

5.  Place the nozzle over the adapter and push in the two locking levers until they are flat against the nozzle.

6.  Open the valve by the nozzle and press the "on" button for the pumping station.

7.  There is a clear window that will let you see when most of the contents have been removed.

8.  When there is little flow, run your head on the "wet" setting for a few seconds to flush clean water through the tank.

9.  Close the valve by the nozzle.  Remove the nozzle, and clean it using whatever method the marina recommends (some have a bucket, some want you to clean it in the sea water or lake).

10.  Most adapters come with a rubber cover.  Use that to scoop sea/lake water and splash it over the adapter to clean it.

11.  Put the cover on the adapter, and unscrew it.  Use the adapter to scoop water and splash the deck plate to clean it.

12.  Put the adapter in whatever storage container you use.  This is covered with bacteria so don't seal it in something that will hold in moisture.

13.  Add your favorite cleaner/deodorizer to the head and flush it.  I'll post some recommendations on this soon!

14.  Replace the deck plate cover, run your blowers for four minutes, start the engine(s), and head off feeling a lot lighter!


If you find yourself facing the rubber press-on nozzle, hopefully your boat has a deck fitting that isn't in an awkward spot.  Follow the steps above, except you'll have to just hold the fitting against the deck plate.  DO NOT lose contact with the fitting as the momentum of the stream of...umm..."stuff" coming out of the tank may cause it to spray out.  When the tank is empty, pull it away carefully and close the valve.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 June 2010 13:49
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