Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rain Chains

This rain chain is nearly identical to the one I first saw at Foxys Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the Caribbean. 

The first time I saw a rainchain was at Foxys Bar on the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. At that time about 100 people lived on the island. 

A light rain had begun to fall. Folks rushed from the beach, to the open-air bar for cover. In those days,  the bar had one wall and a roof held up by posts.  This was so you could enjoy the tropical weather as well as the fabulous views of the Caribbean sea. I was mesmerized watching the rain fall down the rain chain. 

Electricity wasn't introduced to Jost Van Dyke until Christmas of 1989. Even then, only the main settlement received electricity, many folks in the country continued to live without electricity, or used generators and solar panels. 

In the Virgin Islands, it's very important to collect rain for water use. At that time, Jost Van Dyke had no public water sources. You simply caught rain on your roof, then stored it in a cistern beneath your home or business.  Some folks stored their rain water in barrels. A water pump (manual or electric or battery powered) was used to pump the water from the cistern or barrel back through the building for modern day indoor plumbing. 

I marveled at Foxys rain chains the day I first saw them. They were used instead of a downspout.  I had never seen anything like it. His was simple, just a bunch of identical metal loops, about 2-3 inches in diameter,  chained together.  It led from his roof to a rain barrel. The water ran down the loops quite beautifully, then into the barrel. I thought it was an ingenious invention. 

Later I would learn that the Japanese, long known for their love of  aesthetics, had been using rain chains for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. They called them kusari doi, which literally translates into "chain-gutter".

Just like copper is a popular choice in plumbing, ditto for these chains rain (as some folks call them) or chains of rain, which I prefer. You can also get them designed like little cups or buckets.  Each cup then empties into the next cup beneath it. Rain chains are an inexpensive way to add a semi-natural waterfall feature to your home and garden. 

Alternatively, if your gutter has developed a hole somewhere, simply hang a rain chain there to divert the water like a downspout. The magical waterfall created by the rain chain can go a long ways to calming the nerves and delighting the senses. 

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  1. This is a charming and practical idea, and I like to see charming and practical ideas thrive.

    Now, I ask the obnoxious question: Is there something magical about these particular chains that warrants an 8.5' length of aluminum costing $60? I'm seriously asking. Maybe I'm out of the Ace Hardware chain loop?

  2. I would love to spend some time at anchor in that harbor and head to shore to Foxys bar:)

  3. For the Good Luck Duck:

    I suppose you could build your own out of wire coat hangers, some wire cutters and a fat dowel or something to wrap the wire around to make the hoops and loops.

    For Chuck and Anneke:

    I loved Jost Van Dyke. I probably sailed there 100 times. Foxy is a good friend of mine. Oh how I miss the islands...


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