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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice

The Ultimate Insurance Policy

Plenty of good anchors and a large capacity hand operated 35gpm diaphragm pump

When cruising the Caribbean all boats should have a minimum of three anchors. The military always desires to go into battle with a mix of weapons. Similarly when cruising the Caribbean you should not rely on one type of anchor. Different bottoms require different anchors.

Thru the53 years  of sailing on Iolaire, our old faithful hung under the bowsprit always ready to go, was a 50 wilcox Crittenden yachtsman, a copy of the standard Herreshoff three piece anchor. The herreshoff anchor was not designed by Nathaniel Herreshoff but rather by one of his older brothers. It featured  broad sharp diamond  shapped flukes, and  a narrow stock so that  it would  really dig in.

It was an excellent anchor as when we dropped it, we knew it would drag about a boat length then set. This was a great asset as sailing without an engine, we wanted to anchor once and be done with it. Other anchors held well, some better than our yachtsman, but would drag before digging in and getting set. This sometimes resulted in Iolaire giving a neighbour a foul berth. This required either running out another anchor in the dinghy and moving, or re hoisting sail, sailing out the anchor and re setting it in a location that  did not foul other boat  or boats.

We always had two anchors slung under the bowsprit. The second anchor varied from year to year depending on what anchor I was testing. CQR was good in most bottoms, the bruce, once it was dug into either sand or firm mud had amazing holding power even at short stay. The  bruce, once dug in, to limit swinging room the scope could be shortened and the Bruce would still hold.

The danforth and the fortress were impossible to stow under the bowsprit but were excellent anchors in that if the danforth is altered see Surviving Klaus, a big danforth will stow in a small space, as will the fortress which disassembles and stows in a bag. When you need to run out an extra anchor in the dinghy or RIB the danforth or fortress with two fathoms of chain and line attached to them, once set they have amazing holding power.

The northhill anchor designed by Northrop to anchor flying boats and float planes, if you can find one second hand, has amazing holding power

The supposed copies of the highly regarded herreshoff three piece anchor, one Australian, the other designed by Paul Luke are both totally useless in the Caribbean. I was given the Australian one to test, the Luke one was purchased with insurance money. We lost the wilcox Crittenden when Iolaire was side swiped by a big Venezuelan ferry. The luke is highly regarded in maine, but we discovered in the caribbean both were useless. They were both so useless I gave them to my long time shipmate and crew Timi Carstarphen to add to his miscellaneous yacht gear junk pile. I told him to give the anchors to someone he really did not like!

In the last ten years there have been over half a dozen new anchor designs that have come on the market. Since I am no longer sailing the Caribbean I have no recommendations. Ask question, experiment, remember the military,thet want to go into   battle with  a mix of weapons . Do not rely on one type of anchor have a variety.,

For normal cruising three anchor, but if your boat is in commission in the Caribbean in hurricane season you need at least two big back ups with chain and line. These should be either an altered danforth, or standard fortress, but two of them minimum perhaps more. Re read Surviving Klaus


Back in the middle 80’s the late Peter Hayward, the inventor of the first safety harness, see his book All Seasons Yachtsman, was considered by Llyods underwriters as the top delivery skipper in the world wrote a short article in Yachting Monthly

He stated, good delivery skippers seldom loose wooden boats on delivery. If it is a poor wooden boats they will turn down the delivery. All wooden boats leak to and extent. If the wooden boat suffers a major leak there are hand pumps of a capacity to keep ahead of the ingress ofwater. However delivery skippers lose steel, aluminium and fiberglass boats as usually they do not leak, but if a major leak starts, it is discovered that either the pumps are inadequate or do not work.

When surviving a hurricane, or boarding a boat when the worst of the hurricane has passed and discovering a semi flooded boat, relying on electric pumps or pumps belted off the engine is the height of optimism. The batteries  will run down before the bilge is pumped, or the batteries are under water. The engine will not start. Even if the pumps do work their strum boxes will clog up requiring continual cleaning.

The inadequate pump situation is still true today. The vast majority of boats afloat today the only hand pump is one or two often poorly mounted 10gpm diaphragm pumps. At some safety at sea gatherings they have set up pumping tests. In all cases it was decided that the standard 10 gpm pump will pump 10gpm but it will be hard work and the 10 gpm can not be maintained over a long period of time. Plus experience shows in action, problems with strum boxes clogging, or small bits getting thru the strum box and holding one of the small flapper valves open. The pump loses suction, pump must be disassembled, flapper valve cleared and pump re assembled.

To prove to yourself that your 10 gpm pump is inadequate, pull the speed guage or fathometer, fill the bilge to the floor boards, then close off the water flow and start pumping. Depending on the depth of the bilge it will take you one, two or possibly three hours to completely clear the bilge.

In contrast in the tests, the big Edson 35 gpm pump pumped 35 gpm and if a long 42 inch handle is used can be pumped for hours without exhausting the pumper.

Pumping hard the standard 10 gpm pump will move 600 gallons in an hour.

The 35gpm edson, will move 2,100 gallons in an hour without wearing  out the pumper.

The Edson is a SINGLE acting pump,  intake and  discharge flapper valves  are  BIG. It has a very heavy diaphragm that is almost impossible to blow.

It is available with 1 ½" or 2" diameter intake and discharge pipe. Most important it  has BIG intake and discharge valves. The late Rod (the great god rod as he was called)Stephens said" use the 2" intake hose and if so, there should NOT be a strum box on an Edson intake hose. On the intake hose, there should be just two 1/8" bronze or stainless bolts thru the intake hose forming an X. This will keep large things from going into the pump and causing problems with intake or discharge valves. All the small crud from the bilge just gets pumped thru." In 50 years Iolaire's Edson pumps have not had strum boxes!!!!!

When permanently mounting an Edson pump it is important that the intake be a hose so that if large block of wood or other thing, like a plastic bag, blocks the intake, the intake line can be lifted out of the bilge and cleared.

The emergency Edson 30 mounted on a board was invented by myself. Back in the 60's I described to Ed Keane, father of the Keane boys that now run Edson, what I had done with the three Edson pumps I had bought in the previous year. The next year in the Edson catalogue, was the Edson emergency pump mounted on a board!

However I always recommend in my lectures to buy the pump WITHOUT the varnished board. Mount it on an un painted piece of fir plywood, secure with COPPER tacks to the bottom of the board indoor /outdoor carpeting.

If this is done your feet will not slip on the bare wood, the board will not slide on the deck because of the carpeting.

Also the standard Edson pump handle is only 32inches long. To pump with a handle of this length requires bending over. This is an uncomfortable position if you have to pump for a long time. When I complained to Ed about the length of the handle, he said the length was fixed at32 inches as that was the longest length that would parcel post(at that time in the late 60's) would take as a standard!!!! I recommend that the pump handle be four feet long, which Edson can supply, so you can stand erect while pumping!!!!

If you are going to mount the Edson 30gpm as a permanent installation, on a fiberglass boat install a bronze one, heavy, expensive but will last forever and requires minimum maintenance. The aluminium model is lighter and cheaper than the bronze model but will require regular manintence. On an aluminium boat, install an aluminium pump, steel boat, the galvanized iron model, on a wood boat the bronze version.

If using an Edson mounted on a board buy the aluminium version as that one will be light and easy to move around.

Re read the first paragraph, do the tests described, figure how to pump the bilge under sail with the pump provided by the builder, if possible mount permanently a large capacity bilge pump. If not rig an emergency pump on a board, that you hope you will never have to use, then go sailing!!!!!

In the light of all this, obviously the vast majority of boats sailing today are not compliant with ISAF safety regulation regarding bilge pumps.

If the safety scrutineers for CCA, RORC ,ARC etc were doing their job, the vast majority of boats they inspect would have to up grade their pumping system. There would be a big shortage of manual high capacity pumps in marine hardware stores.

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