You don’t have to look very far in your local marina to find someone with an on-board odor problem. In fact, sometimes it seems that those with the worst problems have a knack for finding you. Author Peggy Hall (a.k.a. The Headmistress) has taken the delicate issue of boat odors and broken it down into easy-to-understand parts and presented it with clarity and a sense of humor. Peggy is recognized as one of the few experts in marine sanitation, and it shows in this book. She brings together everything you have ever wanted to know about your head but were afraid to ask.

The book begins with a summary of the legal issues that pertain to small boat sanitation systems presenting the issues plainly without legal lingo. This information will keep you on the legal side of the Coast Guard but, understandably, does not cover all the state or local regulations that may apply to you. Peggy goes on to describe how many popular marine sanitation devices (MSDs) do their jobs. Refreshingly, she names models and manufacturers and includes prices.

The chapter, “Choosing and Installing a System,” diverges somewhat from the book’s title, but I found it to be very informative. Each type of MSD system is explained, from the simple Porta Potti to electric vacuum toilets. Standards of installation, such as hose diameter and even the thread count on the pump-out fitting, are described. Peggy also gives advice on how to get the old system out with minimal mess and headache.

She explains exactly why your holding tank smells bad (the answer isn’t as simple as you may think) and what to do about it. Do you know how to tell if sewage odor has permeated your system’s hoses? Peggy does, and she tells you how. Onboard odors are not restricted to the head, and neither is the content in this book. She offers advice and information on managing a smelly bilge. Also covered is how to properly flush your marine toilet, something many sailors seem to have forgotten.

Reading this book is like having an expert sit down with you and explain the how and why of marine sanitation while sparing you the gory details. If there is an aspect of marine sanitation not covered in this book, I don’t know what it is. Particularly if you have persistent odors on your boat, this book is for you. If your friends or marina neighbors have a problem, this book would make fine, if not-too-subtle, gift.

Get Rid of Boat Odors by Peggy Hall (Seaworthy Publications 2003; 90 pages)