Features March 2011 Issue

Sealing Anchor Chain Spill Pipes

Pearson 41
Cruising boats, like the Pearson 41 above, often have an anchor well in the forepeak rather than an on-deck locker. The setup is less likely to invite a large volume of water below during offshore travels, so long as the anchor chain pipe hole is plugged or capped in some fashion.

Anchor lockers are a convenience to coastal cruisers but no friend to offshore sailors. Passagemakers often forgo a deck-clearing locker for a belowdecks anchor-chain well. An angled spill pipe leads the anchor chain from the deck to the well, which often is under the forepeak and behind a watertight bulkhead. The setup not only eliminates the flooded-bow worries inherent with an on-deck locker, but it also moves the chain and anchors’ weight lower and further aft, where it should be to avoid hobby-horsing.

To keep water out of the belowdecks chain box, you first must keep water from pouring down the spill pipe. We have heard of numerous methods to seal the deck hole—from Silly Putty and duct tape to threaded brass caps and rags—and most of them work in most conditions. The hole-stopper methods PS contributors have found to be effective in even the heaviest of weather (when a boarding sea can create a fire-hose effect) include:

Teak plug: Sized to fit the deck hole and about 6 inches long, with an eye for attaching the chain to the bottom (after it’s removed from the anchor) and a fitting on top for pulling it out later (which may have to be done with a halyard). As the wood gets wet, it swells to seal the hole. PS contributors and circumnavigators Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard use a Delrin plug in the same way, but they bed it with silicone before getting underway.

Closed-cell foam (from a cushion, Nerf ball, or the Forespar TruPlug): PS Technical Editor and bluewater sailor Ralph Naranjo suggests squeezing closed-cell foam “like a rubber rivet into the aperture.”

Other tried-and-proven methods include leaving the anchor on and spraying canned expanding foam insulation into the hole (this dislodges easily when the anchor is dropped); shoving a tennis ball into the chain-pipe (for a chain still attached to a bow anchor, split the ball half-way and pass the chain through it); cramming a rag into the hole and spraying foam insulation over it.

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