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.)

anchor shackles

We just bought shiny new ground tackle. Big Rocna and lots of chain. 5/16" G40 ACCO chain, to be exact, with a working load of 3,900 lbs. We spent alot of money on this chain but in a big blow, it's that chain that keeps the boat tied to the anchor.

With some help, of course. The chain will be attached to the anchor via a shackle. I recently walked into my standard boat chandlery and requested a 3/8" shackle as that is the largest shackle that will fit inside the links of our 5/16" chain. Happily, the salesperson handed me a shackle off the wall. Working load limit? 2,000 lbs.

"No," I explained. "My chain has a working load limit of 3,900 lbs. I need a shackle that will match that."

"Oh, we've been selling these for years and no one has ever said anything about it."

Well, in that case, I'll just buy this here Chinese shackle and reduce the strength of my entire ground tackle by 50% after spending all that money to get high test chain and blissfully sleep through any gale at anchor knowing that our local chandlery has been selling these things for years! How could this plan possibly fail??


I could go out and buy a high quality shackle. If you have high test (G40) chain and are shopping [insert chandlery name here] for shackles, you'll likely be disappointed. But under no circumstances should you settle for the crap shackle they'll want to sell you. There are American manufacturers that sell alloy shackles that will fit inside your chain links and match the WLL of your chain.

I went with a Crosby G209-A 3/8" galvanized screw pin shackle. I bought it at Obert Marine here in Seattle. Even at a commercial marine supplier, the guy thought I was nuts. "What kinda boat do you have that you need alloy shackles?" "The kind of boat that doesn't want to end up on the rocks in a blow." But at least he sold me the shackles.

The lesson I'm taking from this? Know what you want. Don't DON'T trust the guy behind the counter at [crap chandlery] to know what's best for your boat.

black box

In software, we have this notion of a "black box". A black box is some chunk of code - either an entire system or a single component - that has understood inputs and understood outputs but no one knows of anyone else who has the slightest whiff of a clue how the damned thing works. "I push this button here and data comes out over there." Nobody likes to crack open black box code. The best thing that could happen is that it will break and never work again. Towards the worst end of the spectrum? Centipedes could crawl out.

When I started this whole boat thing two years ago, boats were these massive floating black boxes. Push that button, switch the lever, turn that key, honk the horn and the pointy end goes forward. Wave to the pretty girl on the dock and hand me a beer. Zincs? Impellers?! Galvanic fer-christsakes corrosion? It sounded like someone speaking pig-latin. In Mandarin.

I started reading about boats. Everything I could get my hands on - books, blog posts, sailing forums. I would devour people's stories and advice as gospel. I would Google words I didn't understand (as an aside, if you type 'define' in front of a word in a Google search, Google will try to define the word for you - cool, huh?) I once downloaded a service manual for a Yanmar diesel engine and read it cover to cover. Slow day at work, that one. Over time, a funny thing happened. The boat black box didn't disappear. Rather, it dissovled into smaller and more granular black boxes. The mystery was still there, all over the boat. But it kept retreating into smaller and smaller spaces.

What started out as our noise-makey-go-forward-rumblebox has evolved into the Yanmar 4JH2E marine diesel engine. It's a naturally aspirated engine, freshwater cooled with a raw-water heat exchanger. Better yet, I understand all of those words. Christy and I have been taking a Marine Diesel Maintenance class at Seattle Maritime Academy that's really lifted the veil off the diesel engine. While the instructor is a tadbit socially challenged (read: cranky-ass boat engineer), he's done a great job teaching us the components. We've yanked out injectors, pressure-tested them, put them in wrong. We've bled fuel lines, re-attached exhaust manifolds and all manner of disassembling and re-assembling pieces and parts. The engine started out as a noisy, smelly black box. Now, we see it as set of interconnected systems. Much of those systems are themselves black boxes. I still don't entirely understand how high pressure fuel pumps meter fuel. Which is fine with me, the inner workings of a high pressure fuel pump is an acceptable level of mystery. But the important stuff - lubrication, fuel systems, air, cooling - all make sense.

We've also been taking a Marine Electrics class at the same place if for no other reason than to find out why electricity has four different units of measurement. That's been bugging me for years. We've learned how to crimp wires, solder, design circuits, and diagram existing circuits. We've had cut wires dangling from our mast since we stepped it in September because the labels fell off telling us which wire belonged to which other wire. Now, we have a shiny multimeter and the knowledge of how to use it to test whether a circuit closes.

I know there's a few people out there that are intimidated by the amount on knowledge required to take on this life-on-a-boat thing. Because I was (am) one of them. Just know that if this is something you really want to do, you do have the capacity to learn this stuff. And until you do, when you talk about the white-flappy-wind-use-go-forward-ma-boppers, at least I'll know what you're talking about.


It's been well documented. Our cat, Shithead*, doesn't like sailing. He hates the engine noise, he gets seasick, cold, scared. There's no place for him to look outside and watch what's going on. We don't like to let him outside much for fear of him falling in the water and not being able to get out. That's not really a life we wanted for him. When Christy's parents offered to adopt him, we nearly fell over ourselves accepting the offer. They live in a big beautiful house in the woods with lots of windows to stare out of, no water and no real motion to speak of.

So this weekend, Christy and I flew him out to Connecticut to his new home. We stuffed him in a small soft-sided cat carrier and he rode under the seat in front of us the whole way. He never made a sound the whole way. We took him to his new house and let him loose. Unlike any other new place I've brought him to, he immediately took to this place. He nows owns the place. We are so relieved to know that he's in a safe place and being well taken care of.

But we're still a bit sad to come to a quiet boat every night.

*Shithead was actually named after Steve Martin's dog in The Jerk. But, as luck would have it, he can on occasion be a feline shithead. If the shoe fits...


We've been eyeballin' the Seattle Boat Show to load up on gear and outfitting. We went for five days and while the wheelin' and dealing started off slow, it ended with a bang. We were underwhelmed with the deals being made. I saddled up to electronics dealers right and left, trying to score a good deal on Garmin radar and a better deal on a great online price I got on a Garmin chartplotter. Denied. We bought the chartplotter online and we'll pull the trigger on a radar dome.

But who should save the Boat Show for us? West Marine. We scored great deals on both a new anchor and 300 feet of chain to tie it to. We also ran across some good quality snorkel gear. We have no idea if we got a good deal on the snorkel gear. We didn't do much research prior. But the masks fit great and all the gear will transfer over to scuba if we do decide to stay underwater for awhile.

Boat show schwag:

We also got some really eye opening quotes on new sails. Ours are sneaking past 15 years old. They're heavy cruising dacron sails but their better days are behind them. We expected new sails to put us back to the tune of $12K. On the contrary, some highly regarded sail lofts gave us quotes in the $7K range. Hello World might be getting some new propulsion.

We've also been scouring the corners of the interwebs for deals and ran across a few.

Internet schwag:

Shopping days aren't done. We've lots more stuff to get our grubby hands on.

Up next:

* These are the single most badasstic LED's we've ran across. They are bright and warm. I put them in while Christy was gone. She came back and didn't notice I put them until I told her. But best of all, they draw less than 200 milliamps. Our halogen bulbs drew 5X more power than these schnazzy little bulbs. They are expensive ($40 each) but should have a long life. We found ourselves shopping replacement halogens a lot and at $12/pop they're not exactly economical.