Orientation of the Head

All cruising yachts have a head (a marine toilet) located somewhere in the cabin. They might differ in size, shape, and where the waste goes, but they all have one important feature: they are mounted in the yacht.

This means that you can't just "move the head around" to suit your needs. You must sit there and use it where it is, no matter the conditions you are sailing in.

This is why it is important to choose a yacht that has a head oriented in an ideal location and orientation to make use at sea more comfortable.

Lets start with orientation. There are two obvious ways to orient the head, and a third that we will throw in because sometimes designers like to be "creative"! The first is to orient the head so it is aligned fore-aft with the yacht. The second is to orient the head so it faces athwartship. The third is some kind of diagonal orientation that exists between the first and second.

In the first orientation, as the yacht heels, so will the head and so will you on the head. Anytime you sit on it while underway, you will lean to port or starboard.

In the second orientation, the head is oriented athwartship and you will be facing the side of the hull, as you are aligned with the beam of the boat. On one tack, you will be reclined on the head, the other tack, you will be thrown off the front of the seat!

In the third orientation, any amount of heeling will result in you being tilted and thrown from the seat as you try and do your business.

Naturally, the third orientation (diagonal) might look nice while at a dock, but it will make life miserable every time you need to go. The second orientation (athwartship) will have you trying to hold on for dear life as you are leaned forward or back as the yacht heels over. The first orientation (fore-aft) is the ideal, where on one tack you lean to the left and on the other tack you lean to the right.

Now, onto the location of the head. While the goal of yacht design is to make everything feel "big and roomy", this is not what you want with the head. A large open head means that you have nothing to brace against as you go. Ideally, you want a head that is oriented fore-aft and something to brace your elbows against on both sides to hold you in place as you carry out your business. If you have a spacious head, you will find it hard to keep on the John as you will be flung from one side of the head to the other.

Remember, what you see in a boat at the pier will be heeled over like a fun house while at sea. Imagine trying to use a bathroom in a fun house. That is how cruisers do.