Copper Sink on a Boat

When you think of a boats head, the sink probably doesn’t stand out as a key accent piece. That’s because they are usually made out of some cheap plastic or something that is hidden out of the way where it won’t be noticed. Popular materials for boat sinks are plastic or stainless steel; not because these are exceptionally stunning materials, but simply because they last a long time in the harsh marine environment.

When we refit our head, we decided to take our sink in a different direction:

Copper sink! Pretty!! But will it last? Copper is rarely used on a boat in favor of bronze because copper will corrode away in no time flat! Copper, when exposed to the marine environment will turn into green dust and blow away with the wind. Putting it in a marine head where it is constantly exposed to shower water, waves that come through the hatch, and the dampness of a shower in high latitudes sounds like a death sentence.

We chose to rise to this challenge and see if it could be done! Why? Because copper sinks are pretty! I know that is a dumb reason to try something out, but being a vessel sink, we could always remove it if it died on us and replace it with anything else! This meant that if the test was a failure, we would simply have to buy a new sink; but if the test was a success, we would have a beautiful accent piece in our head!

Challenge accepted! We purchased this sink on Amazon and it arrived ridiculously quickly. We the got it installed in the new head and everything was ready to roll. Let the test begin; slowly.

The sink has now lived in the boat for 5 months and is still looking fine. We have yet to develop any signs of corrosion in the form of green powder, even though we have taken many a wave over the deck with the hatch in the head open. Salt water has been pouring over the copper sink and it has managed not to tarnish!

How? Well, to call this a copper sink would be the same as calling a house “wooden”. The sink is made of copper, but the outer surface is not copper. The outer surface is covered with coatings that isolate the copper from the world around it. This means that if moist air were to rest on the outside of the sink, nothing would happen.

Naturally, over time, these coatings will wear down and the sink will start to pour out green dust of decay, but that is only if we do absolutely nothing to the sink! Metal polish with protective waxes in them will help keep the copper bright while also protecting it from the harsh marine environment.

Our sink has been in use for a while so far and is working very nicely, regret is the last feeling in my heart when I give someone a tour of the boat and show them the head!

Head Refit: Painting Part 1

With the construction of the new head completed, we are finally able to convert the head from a rainbow of colors from all the different materials used to a single monochromatic creation on serenity. White walls, white floor, white everything.  


on the side of the shower that has the shower head, I painted a layer of epoxy just to make sure that the shower water doesn’t work it’s way into the wood. 


On the other side, I did not because the shower water isn’t as intensely spraying onto it’s surface.  

What paint am I using? Why am I not using primer? 

I’m painting the entire head with bilgekote from Interlux. I don’t use primer under bilgekote because I find that it works just fine when painted onto a bare surface.  

Bilges are wet and so are showers, so it makes sense to paint the entire shower with it. Right? 

In a few years, we will all know for sure. In the mean time, I’m going on a hunch that I feel will work out in the end! 

Tearing Out the Head

The head in Wisdom is rather old and in need of some updating. The shower is tiny, and the cabinets are inaccessible when on starboard tack. The space under the sink is completely disgusting and unusable. So, after living aboard for 6 years and cruising for 1.5 years, we decided it was time!

This is the original head in the yacht. The cabinets are pretty with mirror doors that you can’t actually see into, and the sole is so high up that you can’t stand up if you are tall (as your head will bump). 


Hidden behind the cabinet are the chainplates, which were hidden away and forgotten for decades. There was a tiny access hatch that I would use for inspection, but when salt water got onto them, corrosion began and I knew I needed to do more than just “look” at them through a tiny hole.


The plan is to tear out the head and build new cabinets that will open fore/aft, allowing us to open them on either tack. A large usable mirror will be mounted on a wall, and the chainplates will remain exposed, probably painted with a contrasting color to create an “architectural bathroom” appearance; something with a bit of an industrial feel to it.

The head refit began as something of elective origin, something we wanted to do simply to make better use fo the space present in there, but shortly into the tear down, we discovered that rot had taken hold in much of the wood of the head. It is a good thing we decided to start the project because we caught the decay while it was still relatively early and had not gotten too advanced to be patched. 

Trust me, more on the rot will soon follow. 

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.