There are 18 bodies on Adele and 11 loos. Where does 'it' all end up?


Please don’t read this if you’re about to sit down to a meal. I have to
say the standard of cuisine aboard Adele is second to none and there is no let up on passage with three meals served a day. So far on the voyage from South Georgia, that’s about 216 individual servings!

But with 18 of us aboard the consequences of digesting all that food throws up (and there’s been a bit of that) some basic questions. Novelist Mark Chisnell, with whom I have been sharing a cabin for these past couple of weeks, casually asked if I knew where all the sewage went. He quickly apologised for being temporarily short of suitable small talk ?

We consulted the oracle – Nigel Ingram. Right in the bowels (sorry) of the yacht is a 4-ton capacity black water tank sitting on top of the keel. Black water is essentially sewage. Also feeding into that is all the galley waste because it includes some macerated food and water. The black water tank content is macerated first at each loo and then again in another part of the treatment works before reaching the tank. The heads are all flushed with fresh water but once it reaches the black tank it is mixed with sea water and chlorine at which point it is considered fit to be jettisoned. This only happens in open water and obviously Adele’s system meets all the marine anti-pollution regulations.

Paul, Adele’s engineer, added some detail: “With this many on the yacht we empty the tank about once every 36 hours.” It is simply flushed overboard via a through hull fitting. He explained that there were no regulations governing grey water, essentially basin and shower water waste, collected in separate tanks, one forward and one aft, which goes straight into the sea. In all, the yacht gets through about 3.5 tons of waste water a day. If Adele is being used in port, black water waste can be pumped directly ashore.

But what of the waste that can’t get down the plughole? Chef Claire Oliver explained that when in restricted waters like the Antarctic and South Georgia, absolutely nothing goes over the side including biodegradable matter. But outside those waters waste is carefully separated. Any foodstuff, very soft paper and some cardboard is put into a large bucket of water in the galley. This is jettisoned when required over the side and becomes part of the food chain. Two trash compactors will reduce the bulk of the remaining waste, which is bagged up and stored in a special locker forward or even in the three tenders which are chocked on the foredeck. In the cold weather there has been no odour and waste will be taken ashore in Rio.

Occasionally, there are places where one simply cannot take waste ashore – the San Blas Islands were an example. Then the waste is kept aboard until such time Adele is in a port, which can accept it. In the heat it can get a bit niffy.

Claire said that it was important to have the right attitude to waste onboard. Re-using plastic food bags, water bottles and other containers is something of which the whole crew are aware. According to Claire this is not, unfortunately, a universal attitude in the yachting industry and too much is thrown away, sometimes overboard, although she was impressed with one yacht, Limitless, which has its own incinerator to deal with rubbish!