Looking to install a head on the boat in the next couple weeks for charters to feel a little more comfortable. We are looking at manual heads...can anyone recommend one? Or is electric really the only way to go?
I have a raritan. It's simple and easy to repair. Look at the selector valves also that let you go to a holding tank or through hull. Some have a hand pump that will let you empty your tank when offshore.
Groco Model K, expensive first cost but the 3" bronze piston will move anything that you can All of the other heads have rebuild kits that cost almost as much as the head, the only maintenance on the Model K is to replace the joker valve as needed, two screws, pop it out pop in the new one. If you have room you can get a household size bowl.
On my last boat I had a simple Jabsco electric head with a built in macerator / Y valve to the tank or overboard. 11 seasons later when I sold the boat off she went with no issues. That thing could handle anything thrown through the hoop. I put a Sealand charcoal filter on the vent hose to stop the nasty air from filling the cockpit when anyone flushed .. worked well, but it's an annual $ 75 replacement if you want it to work.
New boat has a fresh water VacuFlush head with the same vent filter. I've heard good things, but time will tell.
I am guessing that most of you offshore northern clime guys don't have many holding tank issues, you have the option to pump over board when offshore and keep your tanks empty or much cleaner than the inshore folks, if you are confined to inshore waters, its a whole n'other ballgame. If you want to avoid odors, cross ventilate the tank ( that means two vents, side to side or fore and aft ) and only use fresh water to rinse the bowl. I wish I had a nickel for every weekend sailboat charter boat that came back to the marina and complained about head odor or told war stories about pumpout explosions when they opened the deck fitting to pump out after a long weekend (with a clogged filter or vent hose that they did not know about) and el capitano was greeted with a raw sewage washdown from a pressurized waste tank that blew the juice out of the deck fitting into his face. Put the biggest vent hose in that you can, 1" minimum, make sure there are not dips or low spots in the line and you will not need a filter which is almost guaranteed to clog when the tank is overfilled and then it becomes the big smelly, cloggy thing and causes pressure to build in the tank. Good airflow will greatly reduce any smell, its the anaerobic stuff that smells to high heaven.