By Tom Neale, 6/3/2004
There’s an easy way to get mud off your chain without a wash down pump. All you have to do is grab the chain, pull it up a couple of feet and let it go, so that it quickly moves vertically up and down in the water. This removes much of the mud (except the very highest quality stuff). Usually it takes 4 to 7 pulls per section. Do only a section at a time, as needed. Don’t try this vertical dunking if the water is too deep and, therefore, the chain is too heavy because of its length from your roller to the bottom. This could be a back killer. And be careful about catching fingers and toes under the chain. You probably won’t be able to do this if wind or current is moving your boat back, keeping the chain taught.
As I’m bringing the chain aboard, I watch the links come out of the water. As soon as I begin to see mud, I lower it back until all the muddy links are under, and begin the tactic. The length of chain that I pull up a few feet is only the length that runs from the roller to the bottom, plus a small portion that’s lying on the bottom. I just grab the chain on deck, pull in by bending my arms, and let go. I don’t pull up much chain from along the bottom. This would be far too heavy.
Often only a part of the overall chain that you have out will be dirty. Usually this is the short length that’s been lying on the bottom between the point where the chain rises up from the bottom to your boat, and the rest of the chain leading away to your anchor. On a typical night, only that short part of the chain will have moved through the mud as your boat swings. The rest of the chain is acting as an anchor itself and not moving, so it may not get so coated with the good stuff. Therefore, don’t be disheartened if the first chain that you pull up is foul. The rest may be much cleaner.
A sea water wash down system can be great, but there are certain criteria which are often overlooked. Use a strong pump, designed for this use, made by pump manufacturers such as, for example, ShurFlo, Jabsco, Atwood, Flojet and others. The pump should be self priming and capable of running dry for awhile without damage. Even though you may mount it beneath the water line, the intake will probably be near the bow and there is a reasonable likelihood that the intake line will get air pockets in it from the waves as you travel. The pressure switch and motor should be sealed or coated. You need both high pressure and volume to be effective.
The closer the pump is mounted to the bow, the less pressure reduction you’ll have from the run of water line. The longer the water line and the more turns it has, the more pressure loss. Conversely, you don’t want it mounted up in the chain locker in a wet and salty environment. Another consideration is that, often the forward area of a boat won’t have heavy enough wiring already in place for this type of use, and you’ll have to run wire of sufficient type and size for the pump’s amperage draw and the distance from the batteries. A basket strainer before the pump (in addition to a clamshell strainer outside the hull) will help to protect the pump.
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Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale