S/V Hello World's Travel Log

thoughts on ground tackle

I wrote this a few months ago when we were pondering new ground tackle. Other than accidentally posting it to our RSS feed, I never posted it on the blog. We have since bought shiny new ground tackle at the boat show. After much deliberation (read: I hemmed and hawed and Christy just rolled her eyes) we went with the 33kg Rocna and 300' of 5/16HT chain. But perhaps our thought process would be useful to someone else so I'm posting this now. It's super boat nerdy so feel free to move on to posts about kitty cats or poo.

I don't sleep well at anchor. Maybe that will come with time. Maybe I'll grow to trust our ground tackle and our anchoring skills enough to sleep through the night. But right now, I don't. I'm up every hour or two checking out the conditions and eyeballing the other boats in the anchorage. Our current ground tackle is solid. We have a 44lb Spade on 200' of 5/16HT and another 200' of 5/8 nylon three strand. It's definitely adequate for our boat (40' long, 21,500lbs, 12'8" beam). The previous owners cruised the Sea of Cortez for six years on this tackle.

But I'm not going to sleep well with "adequate". "Oversized" will get me some shut eye. "Ludicrous" will buy me that deep puddle-of-drool beauty sleep. And lord knows, I need it.

I'm not going to go into the pros & cons of all the different anchor types out there. Anchors are pert near religion to sailors and they get right bent out of shape if you suggest their anchor isn't up to snuff. So the only thing I'm going to say about anchors is this:

We're getting a Rocna.

We love our Spade anchor. It's never done us wrong ever. Ever. But it's not big enough to be considered "ludicrous" and Spade anchors are wicked expensive. Rocna's get rave reviews from owners and sailmags alike. We're sold. I've been waffling between the 25kg (55lb) or 33kg (72lb) Rocna. The money isn't much different and the weight difference doesn't bother me. I'm fine with an extra 17lbs on the bow. We're not racing here. But I don't have a sense of how the bigger Rocna will fit on the bow roller. But that's the direction I'm leaning right now.

Our current setup:

Spade anchor44lb
200' 5/16HT chain230lb
CQR anchor45lb
80' 5/16HT chain90lb

I've read an interesting idea when it comes to primary vs. secondary ground tackle and it's been confirmed by a few other cruisers out there. Secondary anchors almost never get set. So if they almost never get set, why keep them on the bow where you don't want any extra weight? Rather than keep two anchors and two rodes on the bow, I'd rather take all that weight and sink it into one single oversized anchor and rode that worked for all situations except the real serious shit. I'd still keep the secondary anchor and rode, but store it away in the cockpit locker to be pulled out only in the gnarliest of situations or in a tight anchorage to limit the swing radius.

The setup under which I would sleep the best:

Rocna 3372lbs
300' 3/8HT chain450lb
(45lb Spade and rode kept as spare in cockpit locker)

That's a lot of weight to be hauling around - an extra ~110lbs to carry in the bow. Not the best place to be keeping all that weight. Keeping a 300' all chain rode but paring the chain down to 5/16HT rather than 3/8HT would look like so:

Rocna 3372lbs
300' 5/16HT chain348lb
(45lb Spade and rode kept as spare in cockpit locker)

This still gives us the security of an all-chain rode but keeps the weight in the bow basically the same as it is currently. We'd be sacrificing working load limit on the chain. 5/16HT WLL is 3900lb where 3/8HT WLL is 5400lb. How serious would the conditions be before I become worried about exceeding the safe thresholds of 5/16HT chain? I will say this: I've never heard of someone losing a boat because their chain parted. Anchor dragged? Nylon rode chafed through? Yes and yes. Never heard of chain being the weak link in the system. And to add some credibility to this scenario, I did an informal survey of Caliber 40 owners and the ground tackle they were hauling. All of the Caliber owners that got back to me were using 5/16HT. Not a single one was hauling around 3/8HT anchor rode. We'd have more catenary with the heavier 3/8HT chain but that doesn't concern me too much though. When you really need spring in your anchor system is exactly the times when catenary is going to disappear on you. So you better have a snubber (or snubbers) on the chain anyways.

Another option is going with a mixed rode like we have now. I'm throwing this out there as an option but I don't like it. The connection between the anchor and nylon line is one more connection being made - possibly incorrectly - that can cause the whole system to fail. And having nylon line be the final connection between the ground and your boat opens up a host of chafing problems that become very serious very quickly.

Rocna 3372lbs
200' 3/8HT chain300lb
(45lb Spade and rode kept as spare in cockpit locker)

It's lighter than what we're running with currently. We'd have decent catenary with lots of heavier chain near the anchor. The weight of chain doesn't really do any good near the boat except that it's awfully hard to chafe through chain. You've got bigger problems if you do. However, you don't have much catenary on your chain when it's sitting in a pile on the bottom of the sea along with the remnants of your chafed-through nylon rode as your boat hurtles towards a lee shore. (These are the things I think about while I'm laying in bed waiting for sleep to come.)

If you've read this far down in the post, you are very likely an experienced cruiser or perhaps you have a mild fetish for anchor talk. Either way, I'd love to get feedback from you. I'd love to hear some real life out there cruising stories to prove or disprove my theories and book knowledge. Please drop a comment below and tell me why you think I'm nuts/on the right track/devilishly handsome.

(Epilogue - once we swapped out the old anchors and rodes with our new single storm anchor and rode, we lightened up the bow to the tune of an inch and a half of waterline. So now we have ludicrous ground tackle AND a lighter bow. Sweet.)


Scott said...

Sounds logical to me.

I never saw the point in keeping our second anchor up on the bow, either, and we've had no problem with it stowed in a cockpit locker... in fact, it's proven handy in that location a couple of times, where it would have been a pain to retrieve and re-rig from the bow when we needed it at the stern.

As for sleeping soundly at anchor, for my part, it's just something that takes time to get used to, no matter how beefy the tackle. Put us over tenuous, grassy bottom with a 2:1 scope or at a bomb-proof permanent mooring ball in deep water, it makes no difference: I'm restless all night if we're anywhere other than tied up in a solid dock somewhere.

Part of the reason for that (and this may not help your peace of mind any) is that of the things that can go poorly anchored out, only a certain percentage of them are really about your tackle. There's also the next guy over, who isn't as concerned about his, or collections of random logs and debris which will decide on your peaceful bay for a 3AM beach landing that you will find yourself in the middle of, or 12 year olds out joyriding in dad's runabout who think it's a thrill to cut in as close to you as possible. At least you'll hear them coming. The others will live in your imagination as any faint bump or rattle in the darkness, and you'll strain to hear more for ten minutes and then just decide, screw it, I'd better get up and look, and before you know it the sun is up and you're still up on the foredeck with a boat hook and a hollow-eyed look.

Over time I've gotten better about it, but it's been more a factor of experiencing it than being able to intellectualize the strengths of the anchoring system (although that exercise certainly doesn't hurt, either).

Anonymous said...

Phenomenal blog entry and blog. It's funny my wife and I are going through the exact conundrum...We are considering a Spade only b/c we think a Rocna would not fit well under our bowsprit platform. You can find us at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/anastasia/

The Propane Chef said...

XLNT analysis, Jason. And yes, you'll always have a bit of wakefulness during the night - at anchor, or not. It's what happens to cruisers: you start naturally waking up at 0200 to take a look 'round - because international law requires that the wind or any other problem must come up at night. Also that's when the stars are all out & the sea lions go fishin' near yer boat. Heh. But unless the wind's up it's not continuous vigilance; you 2'll get nice rest in all those bombproof NW anchorages w/ flat water & all that sticky mud. Also, Mexico will be a relative piece o' cake; most anchorages tho fetchier than the NW have very good-holding sand. You're there, hombre.
Marianne, s/v Gallant Fox