The menstruation cycle of a woman is a normal monthly occurrence. However, it is not a topic that is readily discussed amongst men, especially not seafaring men. (Let’s be honest here, it’s not the nicest subject to talk about and it does make many people very uncomfortable)
Nonetheless, in the Superyacht industry, it is the engineers (typically men) who have to sort out the problem when women dispose of their feminine hygiene products in correctly.
This article will discuss Why a Superyacht stewardess should not flush tampons down the toilet. It is not the intention of the author to belittle you, rather to slightly educate you as to what will really happen if you do.
The “NO tampons in the toilet” instruction came from the engineering department; where the personality characteristics of an engineer varied as much as the oceans themselves. Some would bark the command… “don’t put tampons down the toilet”, others would approach the subject a little more delicately. However, the message was always the same.
Needless to say, that, throughout my long career as a Superyacht chief stewardess, I always had the mandatory chat with the new stewardesses about not putting tampons down the toilet. My "go to reason" was so that it wouldn’t block the toilet system.
Fair enough, I thought, (I mean, I had not given the subject much more thought than that). It was not until recently when I decided to write about this subject that I actually wanted to know a lot more. So off I went to ask an engineer, and this is what I found out:
Above image via: KeoughsMarine.com.au
A marine toilet is NOT like a normal household toilet. It uses vacuum rather than gravity and is constructed using much smaller pipes, which twist and turn to the yachts’ specification. The pipes which are used can be 6 times smaller than those used in a domestic house.
At the end of this pipe work sits a vacuum pump and a processing unit with a macerator pump, which cuts the human excrement and toilet paper into smaller pieces which then passes through to a holding tank.
Toilet products meant to be flushed do not contain strengthening to keep together when wet, while paper products such as kitchen-towel and tissues or feminine hygiene products are all engineered to stay intact when wet.
- Now, should material other than bodily fluids and purpose made tissue (i.e. toilet paper) be flushed down the toilet and get stuck in the pump, then ultimately this can interfere with the guest’s toilets.
Clearly this will depend a lot on the way the pipework has been routed and constructed, but basically if you flush a tampon down the toilet, changes are the system can NOT process it. At best a section of the system will need to be shut down and opened up, but most likely the whole system will need to be shut until the problem can be resolved.
This will make for a very unhappy boss and guest. Not only that, but your fellow crew member has to then sort out a very unpleasant problem. They will first have to find the blockage, which means opening up the pipe work containing human excrements and removing the culprit responsible for the blockage.
- They will first have to find the blockage, which means opening up the pipe work, and removing the culprit responsible for the blockage. Now, as you can imagine, the culprit will be used tampon or too much toilet paper, or other materials such as dirty tissues or other material.
As I mentioned above, each engineer is different and I have had the pleasure of working with some brilliant personalities and with some undesirables.
One engineer comes to mind; he would bark commands at everyone. However, concerning this topic, he said “if any of you girls block the system, then I will give YOU the bucket and gloves to clean it out”.
Needless to say, whilst he had the most unpleasant personality, no one was ever given the bucket and gloves to clean out the dirty tampon.
Above simple diagram via:Boattrader.com
- A marine toilet is NOT a normal household toilet.
- It is constructed with smaller pipes with a lot more bends.
- The toilet is delicate, with moving parts. It is not built to dispose of solid materials like tampons.
- If the pump gets compromised, it does not only affect the crew area, it can also affect the guest accommodation areas as well.
An eco-friendly alternative to tampons
Should you wish to explore alternative solutions to tampons, then do have a look at The mooncup.
The Mooncup - known in the USA as MCUK - is the original silicone menstrual cup, designed by women to be a convenient, safe and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads.
Loved by women all around the world, and made in the UK by a multi-award winning ethical business, the Mooncup menstrual cup offers an end to the waste, discomfort and expense of disposable sanitary protection.