Anchor Washdown System

When we found our first serious cruising boat, Sea Trek, we did a shakedown cruise on the Chesapeake Bay on our first weekend of ownership. Upon our return to the dock that Sunday we put one project at the top of our to-do list. On our new boat, Beach House, we recently did a day trip with our visiting children and grandchildren. After a day of fishing and anchoring on the Beaufort River off Parris Island, and catching a few Shark and Redfish, that same project came to the top of our list once again. Nothing says you need a wash down system like hauling up an anchor and rode full of black goop that attaches itself to the anchor, rode, anchor platform, windlass, foredeck, anchor locker and anything else within a couple of feet of it. So once the kids were heading back north we began the project in earnest. Since all of the parts were already sitting on a shelf in the boat, starting it was easy. We always try to plan out each project and after careful study determine all of the main components ahead of time and gather them from whatever sources we know to be a dependable supplier. Many of the small items that make up the details are purchased as the project progresses.

With a raw water wash down system the first consideration is where the water will come from. On Sea Trek we installed a dedicated thru-hull but we prefer to have as few holes in the bottom of the boat as possible, so we first look for alternative sources. We have converted our forward head to primarily a shower so the head would be seldom used and that left the intake for the head a good candidate for the wash down intake as well. We decided that teeing in to the head intake would not adversely affect its use and allow us to plumb the wash down without another thru-hull installation. From the tee, the wash down hose runs into a strainer to prevent the pump from getting clogged with debris. The wash down pump we purchased came with its own strainer, which we used, but there are also several small sea strainers that could also work quite well. The strainer should be sized to the pump you would use.

The next decision is the placement of the pump itself and we prefer it to be in a place where it will stay dry and free of corrosion. We also prefer it to be in a spot that is easily accessible for service and will not cause too much of a problem in case of a leak. Our final choice was inside a locker in the forward cabin on the other side of the bulkhead of the head. This also allowed us to run the hoses with as straight runs as possible. We have found in the past that too many bends and elbows reduces the flow from the thru-hull to the hose on the foredeck considerably. This location would also give us a good straight run into the anchor locker and to the deck fitting on the foredeck. We chose the Shurflow Washdown pump since we have had good success with it in the past. There are many pump options from a simple 12 volt system, as we chose, to high pressure dedicated 12 volt wash down systems from companies like Groco, to 120 volt high pressure pumps, if you have the power capacity for these. With the head intake thru-hull closed, the head intake line was cut at the appropriate spot, the tee placed in line, the strainer and pump mounted in place.

There are several option for deck fittings and we chose a stainless steel standard hose bibb with a flange that would allow us to attach it directly to the deck. Once again the final location was given some thought since we did not want it to become a toe stubber, nor did we want it to get entangled in the anchor rode or any other lines on the foredeck. Our anchor platform has a teak grate that spans a good portion of the deck under the platform itself, so a location under the grate as far forward as possible to get it out of the way and still give us easy access was the perfect spot. We had considered installing it in the bulwarks but that would mean a 90 degree fitting on the inside attachment and we wanted to avoid that. A hole was drilled in the deck just large enough to accept the pipe extension that would pass through the deck and into the anchor locker just far enough to make the final attachment point for the hose. Each time we put any holes in the deck, the hole and the core material of the deck are saturated in epoxy to seal the core. This will prevent any moisture from entering the core material should a leak develop. To do this we literally seal off the bottom of the hole, fill it with epoxy, allow it to saturate the core material, then clean out the excess before the epoxy sets off. This is also done for any screw holes. With the core material sealed with epoxy, the deck fitting is installed with generous amounts of bedding compound.

Once all of the main components were in place and we were satisfied with their locations we could proceed with connecting up all of the hose, beginning at the intake tee and working our way to the deck fitting connection which was now inside the anchor locker. The reason we chose to make this connection after the deck fitting was installed was to allow us to drill the smallest hole possible in the deck and not have to widen it just to fit the hose barb and hose with the clamps attached. We also chose a type of hose that would allow wide bends without kinking and would not collapse if some weight were applied. Once all of the hose was installed, we secured all of it using plastic straps attached about every 8 inches for support. The final connection was the wiring from the electrical panel circuit breaker to the pump itself. Like the hose, all of the wiring needed to be secure and the proper wire size is required for the distance the wire is run from the pump to the panel and back to the pump, given the maximum amperage the pump could use. We wired the pump into a circuit breaker on our 12 volt panel so it could easily be turned on and off as needed.

In the past we have found we prefer the pre-coiled type of hose that can be found in most hardware, marine and RV supply stores, over just the garden variety. They just stow better. We can make a canvas bag to stow them in place and they are less likely to get entangled in everything on the foredeck. We also prefer a length that will cover most of the deck so we can use it for clean up when needed when we are not at a dock where fresh water is available. With all of that done, we can check off one more pre-cruising project and won't feel anxious the next time we have to anchor where the bottom comes up in large chunks with the anchor and rode. It is also wonderful for cleaning the decks when underway and getting the fish guts off the non skid when we have caught and cleaned our dinner.


  1. George and Donna RouttAugust 11, 2009 at 10:02 PM

    Nicely done.

  2. Thanks for the write up! We're just about to take on this project. How much flow (GPM) does your washdown pump generate? Are you happy with the pressure?


    s/v hello world

  3. Jason, I believe the pump we used is 5 GPM. It does a fine job unless it's very windy and then I doubt anything would help. I would advise to get as strong a pump as you can find space for and have the budget for. Some bottom muck will just take a bit longer to get off. Good luck. Chuck


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