Keeping it clean
Memories of a successful day’s fishing quickly fade when you’re faced with cleaning up the aftermath. If you don’t already have one, install a wash-down pump to lighten the load, advises Norman Holtzhausen.
Despite being surrounded by water, on many boats it’s difficult getting enough water to the right place to help with the clean-up. An afternoon’s fishing can leave a plenty of muck and fish blood all over the transom and cockpit. And after baking
in a sun for a couple of hours the congealed mess can be hard to clean when you get home.
The secret is quickly sluicing away the muck before it dries, leaving little or no residue to sort out later. A wash-down pump is the simplest and most efficient way of doing this, with a permanently plumbed hose controlled by a convenient switch.
A pump has all sorts of uses, from washing hands, rinsing grime away, cleaning your catch as you fillet it, through to it being an effective anti-seagull measure.
Another benefit, even on a trailer boat, is the ability to delegate the cleaning job to your mates who otherwise expect the skipper to do everything. It’s very satisfying to hand over a brush and the hose nozzle as you are about to head home, usually to the person who has thus far done the least amount of work on the trip. And when you finally get home, a quick freshwater rinse-off will usually suffice.
When considering a wash-down system installation, don’t make the mistake of thinking a bilge pump will do the trick. These two types of saltwater pumps have different characteristics, for very different purposes.
A bilge pump needs to move as much water as possible in a short space of time, but generally does not need to lift it very
high. It will have a high output volume (usually measured in gallons per hour or litres per minute) but at a very low pressure (measured in PSI or bars).
To move this volume, it usually has a large, plastic impeller that’s not designed for continuous use. It’s unsuitable for running for long periods. And typically, a bilge pump needs to have the main body of the pump sitting in the water for it to work, which is hard to arrange for a plumbed system.
A wash-down pump, on the other hand, is not only capable of sucking water up from below the pump, but also of delivering a considerably higher water pressure, albeit with a smaller total volume.
So, for example, the pump in the MaXtek washdown kit available from Absolute Marine delivers a very respectable 60PSI, equivalent to the pressure you get from a domestic tap.
As such it can easily drive a spray nozzle to deliver a high-pressure jet of water for shifting stubborn grime. It also delivers 20 litres per minute, a useful flow rate if you need to fill a large container.
These pumps are also designed to run for extended periods, and can be run from dry with enough suction to pull the water up through a skin fitting into the pump. A properly-rated wash-down pump is well worth the higher cost compared to a more modestly-priced bilge pump.
Our project boat is a launch on a mooring that does not have the luxury of getting a freshwater hose-down at the end of the day, so a built-in, washdown facility is even more important. It is also very high off the water, so the old standby of leaning over the gunwale and scooping a bucket of seawater is not even an option. A permanent wash-down facility, installed in a convenient location in the cockpit at the stern, was a priority.
The wash-down kit comes with a coiled delivery hose, a trigger nozzle with adjustable spray pattern, a strainer type filter and the necessary connectors. The pump is self-priming, has run-dry protection and features a pressure switch control. This last feature ensures the pump doesn’t continue to run when the trigger nozzle is released, saving power and preventing the hose blowing itself out. When the user pulls the trigger on the nozzle, the pressure switch detects the drop in back pressure and the pump kicks into action.
The unit can be connected temporarily, with power coming from a cigarette-lighter type socket, or it can be permanently installed, as we planned to do. Our intended location is fully exposed to the weather and spray, so we also needed a fullywaterproof control switch.
Because of the many different installation options, the kit doesn’t come with a switch, so we chose a contour two-way gang
switch panel from BEP marine. This unit has an IP67 rating for external installation, and the second switch will be put into use later for a basin tap.
The last piece of the puzzle is the water intake. A temporary, movable pump can suck its water from a hose dropped over the
side as-and-when needed, but we wanted a permanent supply. So a through-hull skin fitting with a suitable hose would be required.
This immediately poses certain risks, and one should never skimp on materials for anything fitted underwater. A highquality
reinforced nylon skin fitting is supplemented by a reinforced PVC hose that is rated for continuous immersion. Never use a cheap hose – the consequences of a leak could range from annoying to catastrophic. With the water inlet below the waterline any leaks would require the boat to be hauled out, an expense best avoided by using decent-quality components in the first place.
We identified a suitable location for the wash-down pump itself, hidden behind a bulkhead in the stern. From there, the intake hose could snake down into the hull to be connected to a skin fitting in the port side of the hull. In our case this is in a hidden section of the hull so there is no danger of the fitting accidentally getting bumped. Be careful about exposed locations – somebody kicking the skin fitting could cause a leak.
While the boat was out the water we used a hole saw to cut an aperture into the hull, and used Sikaflex and the supplied locking nut to seal the fitting in place. Once cured, we fitted the hose on the inside, with two stainless clamps for peace of mind, and snaked the hose up to where the pump would be located. Don’t forget to apply antifoul to the outside of the skin fitting – mussels love to attach themselves in holes.
The wash-down kit has all the fittings for attaching the hoses to the pump itself, and we installed the filter just in case something is sucked up the inlet. In our case, we chose to,connect the output from the pump to a tap unit mounted to the
bulkhead, but we could just as easily have left the coiled hose from the kit permanently attached. When buying a suitable tap
body we were careful to choose genuine brass fittings to prevent any future rust problems.
Once we’d run a cable to bring power to the pump location, we connected it all up. Crimp terminals made it a five-minute job
– connecting the power, through the switch, to the pump motor. The switch unit needed a small hole in the bulkhead for the wires, and it was then flush-mounted with a watertight seal.
The final step was to locate and secure the pump body inside the bulkhead so it won’t bounce around in rough conditions. We closed up the access hatch and the job was done. Now, when we need to clean things up we just pull the hose out of the locker, connect it using a standard quick-connect garden fitting, flick the switch and we have as much high-pressure water as we need.
We prefer a straight hose to the coiled one that comes with the unit, but both options work equally well.