Plug that Chain-pipe

Posted by at 04:28PM - Comments: (4)

Chain pipes leading low into the bow were much more prevalent back in the 1970s when this Morgan 30 was built.

I was always amazed at how much water could seep through the chain-pipe and into Tosca’s anchor locker when a sea was up or we were punching into a head sea—although punching would hardly describe the ungainly motion of a gaff-rigged ketch to weather. Wallowing? Submarining? Regardless, a waterfall greeted whoever dared venture into the v-berth to check on the strange gushing noises. Still, I was happy to have a three-inch diameter hole rather than one of the ice-cream scoops that some contemporary boats have on their bows (see Practical Sailor March 2011).

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 a 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. Remember that wood will swell when it gets wet, so you may have to pull it out 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.

I’d love to hear how others have solved this age old problem.

Comments (4)

I'm about to cut a hole hole in my foredeck and install a hinged deck pipe. I'm wondering if the hole should face fore or aft. I can see advantages and disadvantages with either orientation.

I found a dog toy on amazon which is "chew proof"...basically a ball with a hole in it. I think it will address the water issue. Tried posting a link but the site won't let me.

Posted by: Stoomy | September 14, 2017 2:59 PM    Report this comment

Hi, My hawse pipe is the 90 degree type with the hinged flap. I made a revolving base for it and always face it aft when at sea. It lines up to what ever direction the chain is pulled. Works well. Anchor locker is self draining. Tony

Posted by: spoons | March 4, 2015 12:23 PM    Report this comment

I stuffed an oil soaked rag into the opening and although it was not totally waterproof it kept most of the water out. The deck fitting on the hawse pipe had a hinged lid with a slot to accommodate the chain. This worked well.

Posted by: George Kay | March 4, 2015 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Concerning water coming down the chain pipe...

On my boat, all sink and other grey water drains (refrigerator, shower) connect to a hose that goes to a sump tank. When the tank is close to filled, a pump turns on automatically to pump out the grey water. Up front, where the chain pipe comes down, I have a removable container with a grating on top, so the mud on the chain drops down it will end up in the container. When all the chain is out, I can clean up.

Additionally, and more to the point, I put a through-hull fitting at the bottom of the forepeake bulkhead, and connected it to the aforementioned grey-water drainage system. So, whatever water enters the chain pipe ends up being pumped out automatically.

Posted by: Benedict S | March 4, 2015 10:15 AM    Report this comment

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