Product Review: Raritan Fresh Head

By Dave Wisel

S/V The Great Esc

As sailors, there a few things that we rely on when we’re at anchor; a reliable anchor and good set, healthy batteries,  and, depending on your circumstances, a working head. There’s no worse feeling, and I know this from recent experience, of realizing that your head isn’t working at 2 in the morning. The marina was only a short dinghy ride away, but when you don’t have a dinghy, that can present a rather insurmountable problem.

After reading “Get Rid of Boat Odors” by the head mistress, Peggy Hall, I knew that eventually I wanted to switch my head over to fresh water. My unfortunate circumstances accelerated my plan. The most common method of accomplishing the switch to a fresh water flush is to just use the shower head in the sink to fill the bowl and flush. That’s typically a great solution and at no additional cost, however, I find myself repeatedly explaining the process to guests. I had considered installing a bladder tank inside the vanity or in the storage compartment behind the sink to provide freshwater to the existing head and to keep it isolated from the existing pressurized freshwater system. I had read many warnings not to combine the two as you risk contaminating your freshwater supply.  But since I had already been through two rebuild kits and a joker valve replacement on my current Jabsco head, I felt like it was time to bid the old head farewell and do a forklift upgrade of the system. I had read in “Get Rid of Boat Odors” about the Raritan Fresh Head. It is one of few manual flush heads that is designed to work with a pressurized freshwater system. I had read reviews about some of the electric flush freshwater heads and opted against those due to the high cost and not one was without issues. Another positive abut the Fresh Head was that it would fit the exiting bolt pattern of the Jabsco, so no need to patch or drill new holes in the boat.

I found the Fresh Head at Hodges Marine for $340.00, which was the best price I could find. I ordered my new head on Monday and opted for the free shipping. Because Hodges drop ships most of their products from their distributor located in New Jersey, it arrived via UPS on Tuesday around midday. Inside the box was the head, a seat with soft close lid, two plastic covers for the pump mechanism and the filler valve that is located behind the bowl. Other accessories that I needed to supply were:

  1.  1/2 flexible water hose (approximately 4 feet)
  2.  Nylon 1/2 threaded to 1/2 barbed adapter for connecting the freshwater line to the head
  3.  Nylon 1/2 barbed “Tee” for tying the water line into the cold water supply
  4.  1/2″ hose clamps

The installation went reasonably well; the most difficult part being removing the old head. I double clamped all hoses and, as advertised, the bolt pattern matched the pattern of the Jabsco that I had removed. I reused the existing hole in the vanity where the raw water hose came through for the freshwater hose. The vanity has a shelf in it for additional storage, and the hole was below the shelf and the freshwater lines were above, so I did need to drill a hole in the shelf to pass the freshwater hose through. I removed the existing freshwater hose from the water line attached to the sink faucet and put a nylon “Tee” in. The other side of the “tee” was reconnected to the faucet and the third side attached to the new line to the head. Once everything was attached, I installed the soft close seat and, after fighting with the plastic pump cover for a few minutes, (the instructions on how to attach were apparently provide by Ikea) I was ready to test.

I turned on my fresh water pump and let the air out of the lines and checked for leaks. Seeing none, I proceeded with my test. There is a small lever on the left side of the pump handle that user presses to allow fresh water to flow into the bowl. It functions much like a raw water or household toilet where the water comes out evenly from under the rim. Unlike the hand pump on the Jabsco units which require an up and down motion, the Raritan has a pump with a handle that moves from front to back. The handle is telescoping and can collapse when not in use. Pumping the water out of the bowl into the holding tank was smooth and effortless and took about three pumps to empty the bowl completely. When not in use, there is a lock that prevents the pump handle from moving but also prevents the lever that allows freshwater into the tank from moving as well. They recommend that this lock be engaged whenever the head is not in use.

So far, I am happy with the installation and the operation of the Raritan Fresh Head. The first real test was the Summer Solstice Cruise. The only issue that I have had is some back flow into the head that would indicate an issue with the joker valve. Being that it is almost brand new, it shouldn’t be an issue so I am planning on reaching out to the manufacturer. In the end, if you are looking to move to a freshwater head without having to fill your bowl using you hand shower, I would definitely recommend the Raritan Fresh Head.

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