Plug that Chain-pipe

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I was always amazed at how much water could seep through the chain-pipe and into Toscas 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 its 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.

Id love to hear how others have solved this age old problem.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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