Confession: Dinner party down under ends in dunny disaster

In this month’s Confession a couple finds it never pays to buy the cheapest product on the market

We love our 21ft boat. It’s fast, easy for two to crew, sleep on and berth – but it has one serious failing: no dunny (that’s a ‘heads’ to you Poms).

We make do with the ‘bucket and chuck it’ routine, but occasionally a more solid proposition is required.

The obvious solution was to buy a portable toilet. Some of these are quite expensive but as ours would be for emergency rather than regular use, I figured a ‘cheapy’ would suffice.

I opted for a two-piece design with the top section forming a seat, bowl and flushing water tank, and the bottom section holding a chemical concoction.

A rubber gasket and a sliding floor valve separate the two halves, and can be opened and closed accordingly to seal the cargo in the chemical chamber, where it converts to something akin to Marmite.

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Because the lower chamber has a finite capacity it’s best reserved for serious toilet activities only, but even with the stingiest toilet administration there comes a time when the lower section needs emptying and refilling with some fresh chemicals.

I don’t know why but there is a shortage of disposal sites Down Under, so on the waterfront many people empty their portable tanks into a normal toilet, but our yacht club frowns on people carting their tanks into the club facilities.

So what were we going to do with our first load of partly biodegraded poop during our on-board stay?

A couple with whom we’re close friends with invited us to their house for dinner, so we asked if they would mind if we emptied our portable tank at their place. “No worries,” was the reassuring reply.

We turned up with a bottle of wine in one hand and the dunny tank in the other – best get the housekeeping out of the way before the drinking began, we reasoned, so into the bathroom we went.

Our friend Sarah is incredibly house proud and her bathroom is a joy to behold, complete with fluffy towels, matching floor mats, Italian tiles and gilt-edged mirrors.

Being a cheapy, our portable dunny lacked a swivelling disposal spout and had to be emptied via the sliding floor valve. The instructions said to invert it on top of the toilet bowl and then open the valve, so the contents would drain out.

With the tank in position I gave the sliding floor valve a gentle tug, but it didn’t open given the weight of the contents now resting on it. A little more effort and still resistance. So I applied a lot more effort and it slid completely open.

At first nothing happened but within the blink of an eye the contents rushed out with a fire-hose ferocity that exceeded the toilet bowl’s immediate capacity.

The air displaced by the rushing liquid blew the tank out of my grasp and a geyser of brownish ‘soup’ blasted out of the tank, spraying us and the room. The only non-decorated areas were those masked by the human form.

It was around this time that our hosts enquired, “Are you two OK in there?”

“Yes, we’re fine…er…you wouldn’t have any bleach and disinfectant would you?” came our retort. “Actually, quite a lot would be handy.”

The clean-up took around an hour, followed by several powerful showers with our clothes still on to start with.

Dinner was ruined and we had to ask to borrow some clothes. The fluffy towels and mats never recovered, so we bought them new ones and dropped them round a couple of days later when we thought it might be safe to pop in.

Funnily enough we haven’t heard from them since.

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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