Should I install seacocks in the cockpit drains?

Mike Duff, Angelina, #25

Hull #25, "Angelina" sank at her slip due to cockpit drain hose failure, summer of 2001. Damned if you do... if you don't.

When "Angelina" sank, I was at work... Seacocks would have had little effect for his incident. However, every time I'm in a blow, I sweat the hoses. (Now that I know how fast that hose blowing out can put you on the bottom.)

I've often considered cockpit drain seacocks, for the piece of mind. (Being from the school of thought: "A plug for every hole in the hull.") Till I actually get around to installing them, however, I keep the Wood Plugs and a hammer tied near the hoses.

Al Huband, #26, Esprit

What type of sailing are you going to do? Coastal, within a short sail of land? or Passage making? If passage making, you need the seacock. For coastal cruising, not necessary with regular maintenance of the boat being done. I have always used exhaust hose. Snoop around any active yard and you can find "ends" that work nicely, or buy a couple of feet at around $12 per.

I have never thought of installing the valves. A knife, pliers and a plug would be almost as fast as getting to the valve handles and a suicide dive with bungs being the quickest of all.

Tim Lackey, Glissando, #381,

Installing the seacocks was easy enough, but you will almost assuredly run into clearance problems with the hose on one side or the other--it seems that each boat is a little different this way. I installed the seacocks early on in my project when the boat was an empty shell--no galley, icebox, engine, etc. This was a Godsend as far as access goes. In addition, I also cut a large hole in the cockpit sole where I eventually installed a new deck hatch. Without the good access one or both of these factors provided, I don't believe it would be possible. So if you're going to tackle the project, you need to be able to really get at the area in question. It's just so tight back there under the cockpit! It's infuriating.

Getting a leak-free seal on the hoses was a real problem. The starboard side, on my boat, was easy enough, relatively speaking. But on the port side, the angles conspired in such a way as to prevent a perfect clamp job on the bottom of the hose. Frankly, this is a problem that I am still wrestling with today. As a result, I always leave the port seacock closed. Stupid, right? I struggled early last summer to get this damn thing leakproof, without real success. It's high on my list of "must fix" items before this season. I tried all kinds of hoses, tailpieces, etc. and still success eluded me. I have a crappy piece of hose on there at the moment, which at least allows me to open the drain if needed when I'm on board. It stays closed except for these brief moments. The starboard side is fine and I have confidence in it.

There's more info and photos of the scupper drains, the seacocks, and especially this stupid port drain, at this link:

Despite the arguable merits of having seacocks on these fittings, especially for offshore work, don't enter into this project without some serious contemplation! If possible, I would recommend trying to relocate the seacocks other than in the exact location where the original through hulls are. Moving the location further forward ("down" the hull) would be helpful--anything to increase the clearance, even by an inch.

Hope this helps. Witn 20/20 hindsight, I would do things a little differently in this installation--live and learn--but I would still install the seacocks.

Nathan, Dasein, #668

I tried the crossing hose thing in my original installation. As has been mentioned, putting the seacocks in the same location as the original thru-hulls is inadvisable. The seacock is so tall, that I had only about 2 inches or so of space between the end of the drain tailpieces and the seacock tailpieces. That would've been manageable, except for the remarkably sharp angle that needs to be turned between the seacock and the drain--estimated, from memory, at about 35 or 40 degrees.

So my original installation had wire reinforced hose running from the starboard drain to the port seacock and vice versa. DO NOT THINK THAT YOU CAN GO THIS ROUTE!!!! Unless, that is, you like 2 inches of standing water in the cockpit.....I think that if you could actually get the hoses to cross and continually go downward, this system *might* work but even then, if you think about it, when you are heeled, the leeward drain will be trying to drain "uphill" to the weather seacock.... Gravity doesnt really like to let that happen. Additionally, in my case, the hoses formed a sort of "s" shape, going down from the drain pipe, then slightly up as they crossed the bilge, before turning downward to meet with the seacock. So even when the boat was level at the mooring, a certain amount of water would have to back up before there would be enough backpressure to force the cockpit to drain.

My eventual solution required very short lengths of wire reinforce hose and several hours hanging upside down in the bilge, sweating, swearing, and bleeding. But I *was* able to force short lenghts of the wire reinforced stuff to conform to the requirements of the installation. It was not fun. At all. Although, it was still better than being at work, so....

I do like having the seacocks there. All my throughhulls have them, and they all remain closed when I'm off the boat except for ONE of the cockpit drains. Here in Maine I've never seen rain that was so intense that it would overwhelm the single drain... I suppose that one scupper could conceivably get clogged, although on my mooring it seems unlikely, as there just isn't that much junk floating around in the air out there....Obviously, I still have 1 thru-hull that is open and could conceivably fail when I'm not on the boat, but that's 1 fewer than with the old set up....

Rob Squire, Head Over Heels, #96

When I bought Head Over Heels, there were no seacocks, but there were thru hull fittings with adapters and tubes. The starboard tube clamp was missing in action, but the tube had not come off of the fitting. A wooden thru hull plug had been hammered in from the outside plugging the thru hull fitting. I am guessing that the pressure of water from outside caused some amount of leaking, but the pressure from the filled up drain tube wasn't much and didn't leak. Who's to know the why's. As it happened, the port setup was okay, near the failure point, but holding. I know the boat sat like this for 5 years.....and I sailed it from Pt. San Pablo to Martinez (...I don't know,12 or 15 miles) for a haul out, only then making the discovery. By then, #96 had made through a little more than 30 years of San Francisco bay weather, racing, day sailing and serious neglect without seacocks.

...I guess it's better to be lucky than good!

My solution on Head over Heels.... If I wanted to wrestle with the hose, I could have gone straight from the scupper to the seacock. In fact, that is the way it was for the last 15 years. When I sailed the boat with the drains straight through, the low side would have water back up into the cockpit. I crossed the drains to try to stop that. It seems to have worked. I did it all from the cockpit lockers.

Dana Berube, Whirlwind, #99

My fiberglass tubes (original drains) had been removed long ago by a previous owner. The remaining drain tube stubs were retained along with a set of cheesy hoses, several elbows, clamps, etc. connecting to a pair of proper seacocks. It was a real plumbing mess and as a result the hoses never drained completely.

After much looking around I located this Perko bronze cockpit drain. I had purchased a set of Forespar plastic scupper drains- after thinking thru their installation- (which required additional 90° fittings, etc.) - I rejected them in favor of these heavy one-piece units. The outlet is angled nicely and will allow the hoses to cross properly. This setup will be much simpler and should drain the cockpit much better. The grates unscrew should the drains need service.

One downside - these drains are not cheap and do require modification to the cockpit floor. The second photo shows the larger counterbored holes needed. (You will also see the aluminum hatch that I have installed in #99- the original bronze deckplate is sitting on top for size comparison).