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Old 02-23-2004
Sue & Larry Sue & Larry is offline
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Deck Washdown Systems


The author tests his new system shortly after getting underway.
Ever had the pleasure of pulling up an anchor that was resting on a muddy bottom? Somehow all that mud, grungy water and little particles of stinking sea life manage to reach every nook and cranny of your deck from bow to stern. What doesnít stay on your deck will eventually ooze out your scuppers and leave its muddy remains all along your hull.

To reduce this onslaught of mud, some sailors rely upon the bucket-on-a-rope method to retrieve water for rinsing off the anchor rode. Others swab tirelessly with a long-handled brush as the rode is slowly retrieved. The end result is that usually quite a bit of mud or muck still finds its way on board.

Itís not just an issue of keeping the boat clean. Walking around on deck with abrasive grit underfoot will shorten the life of your gelcoat or paint finish. To keep that shine and protection in tact, removing the dirt is imperative. Eliminating the mud before a bunch of it makes its way down into your anchor locker also provides several benefits. On many boats, the anchor locker drains directly into the bilge. By cleaning your anchor rode before storing, the smell of stinky mud wafting through your main salon will be a thing of the past. Mud thatís allowed to enter your anchor locker can also become a safety issue. Mud and debris in your bilge can quickly clog your bilge pump strainer and render your pump useless. Even with an overboard draining anchor locker, mud can present a problem when a build-up clogs the drain and the locker fills with water.


There's nothing wrong with the old-fasioned approach to washdown systems, that is if you have plenty of time and energy at hand.
It didnít take much cruising on our part to realize that there is a better way. The addition of a pressurized deck washdown system can be the answer to your muddy deck woes. With a deck washdown, you can quickly eliminate that muddy, stinky, bilge pump-clogging mess before it ever comes onboard. Although a useful addition to any boat, a deck washdown system is especially valuable to the cruiser that rarely sees a dock and doesnít have the chance to hose off with unlimited freshwater after each sail. And cleaning up after landing a messy fish even becomes an easy task.

Most deck washdown systems obtain their water supply directly from the water in which the boat is sailing, be it saltwater or freshwater. Here, the amount of water you can use is unlimited.

A second type of washdown obtains its water from your own freshwater tanks. Often, this has to be used judiciously, depending on how easily you can replenish your water tanks. The optimum set-up if sailing in saltwater is a system that allows you to use unlimited saltwater to clean up the mess, then a freshwater system to rinse the salt off your boat. Anytime you can rinse the saltwater off the metal components of your boat, you are prolonging their life spans. Most cruising boats begin with a saltwater washdown. How you set your own boat up depends on how well you can support the systems in terms of power and water supply.

To add a saltwater deck washdown to your own boat requires just a few components and is an easy installation that can be accomplished in about a day. First, assemble the needed components:


By installing just a few simple components you can simplify your life aboard.

Next, youíll want to work on the system layout and installation. Determine exactly where youíll obtain your water and where you want your deck fitting located. Thereís no law saying this has to be at the bow. Thatís just where most people put it, as it is usually used for cleaning the anchor more than anything else. For a water source, you have a choice of either installing a dedicated through-hull and seacock, or placing a T-fitting into an existing hose. We feel that both options can offer a safe supply of water providing the proper hose is used and all connections are fitted with double hose clamps. From a practical standpoint, if your boat is in the water, youíll probably just T into the existing plumbing. The intake hose from a head is often seen sharing its water with a washdown pump. This may require adapting the hose size from the head intake with simple hose barbed connectors to match the hose size for your washdown pump.

Once youíve located your water source, you can mount the pump between your water supply and the underside of the deck fitting. Keep this as close to the electrical source as possible to facilitate easy wiring. Some washdown pumps are self-priming to two feet, others to six feet, and yet others up to nine feet. Make sure you donít mount your pump four feet above the waterline if it only self-primes to two feet.

Before final positioning of your deck fitting, ensure there is ample room below for your hose connections, and that youíre not drilling into anything you shouldnít be. Armed with your electric drill with a hole-saw bit, make the cutout to receive your deck fitting. Then seal the edges of the hole with epoxy. When cured, bed the deck fitting with a polysulfide sealant like 3M 101.

"Again, remember to always use double hose clamps on all fittings. "
 Run the below-deck hose from your seacock or T-fitting to the pump, and from the pump to the underside of the deck fitting. You may again need to employ your electric drill with hole-saw bit to provide a path for your hose through some of your lockers. This will keep them neat and tidy as well as out of sight. Again, remember to always use double hose clamps on all fittings. Next, wire your pump using the recommended size wire and circuit breaker according to the manufacturer.

Now comes the fun part. Attach your garden hose to the deck fitting, switch the circuit breaker on, take aim, and fire! Believe us, youíll enjoy anchoring a lot more knowing that tomorrow morningís clean-up will be a snap. Most sailors leave a short section of hose attached at the bow for anchor rode cleaning during the raising process, and store a longer hose in the locker for times when a more thorough cleaning of the whole deck is required.

With your new washdown system, you not only have a means to stay mud-free; you also have a secret attack weapon. Imagine youíre at a floating picnic gathering with other boats and you just became victim of a water balloon smack in the middle of your cockpit. No longer do you have to resort to trying to retaliate with a bucket of water, if you can get close enough. You now have a steady, strong stream to completely soak your attackers. And you thought this was just going to keep your boat clean.

Divide and Conquer with a
Mud Diverter 


This athwartships divider and dual drains keep most of the muck from running back on deck aboard the authors' own Serengeti.
In addition to adding a salt and freshwater washdown system on Serengeti, we made one other improvement to our bow area that greatly helps keep the boat clean. We designed and installed a mud diverter complete with drains just a few feet behind the windlass. Our mud diverter serves to contain the dirty water and discharge it overboard. We now stay cleaner than ever.

Our mud diverter is a strip of teak about three-inches high that we epoxied to the deck. This stops the muddy water from leaving the bow area. We later painted the teak strip so it looks like part of our molded deck. We added a cockpit drain in each aft corner of this newly made triangle, just in front of the diverter. Our drains discharge the water overboard approximately one foot above the waterline. These drains could simply be scuppers at deck level, but then the effluent would leave a muddy line on the hull.

If your boat doesnít have a bulwark like ours, or large toe rail, a mud diverter could be as simple as a strip of teak caulked across he deck that channels the flow directly overboard.