Winner of “Holding Tank Horror Stories” Contest
Biological Time Bomb
By Matt Chandler

My wife and I were about to buy a slightly used boat in California from our home in Vermont. I hired a driver, the boat was to leave Thursday and the boat of my dreams was to arrive by the weekend.

Friday morning I received a call from the owner in California explaining that with the forest fires surrounding LA the boat hadn't had a thorough cleaning, but was safely on its way. My concern was for the boat not the dirt.
I figured a 2500 mile road trip was going to dirty up the boat anyhow. “Oh yeah,” he added, “I didn't pump out the holding tank. You'll have to do that when it gets there.”

Upon arrival, I went over the boat with a fine tooth comb. The boat and the holding tank were exactly as described, full of wonderful features. I sat on top of the boat, under the boat and inside the boat, but not for long, admiring everything. It seems the holding tank was undergoing some sort of California transforming now that it had reached Vermont.

I called the boat yard, but the pump stations don't like to work in late November in Vermont - something about freezing and exploding sewage pipes. My beautiful boat was infected with a tumor that I had to remove before it froze and exploded in my driveway.

The neighbors all admired the new boat. One neighbor recommended disassembling the entire system and bringing it indoors to dump. Another recommended renting a wet/dry vacuum. I browsed my mental role model list for someone to emulate - my father. My father would have recommended the siphon. He was a simple man with simple tools. This was a man that used old extension cords as mooring lines.

There was no need to make this any more difficult that it needed to be. I could siphon pools, flooded boats, gas tanks . . . holding tanks should be no different. I decided against the tried and true “put your lips on the hose and suck like mad” technique for the more sanitary “fill the hose with water first” method.

On the third try the siphon worked. The 2-gallon bucket for the 14 gallons of California souvenirs posed a bit of a problem, but nothing I wasn't able to resolve.The neighbors' hose was rinsed and returned. The boat has lived up to everything we were hoping for and much more.