Question: [edited for brevity] We have a horizontal windlass with a chain wildcat on one side and a rope drum on the other. How can we handle our hybrid secondary anchor rode made up of 50 meters of chain and 40 meters of rope with this set up?
Answer: This is the big problem with hybrid anchor rodes and I have never really seen a good solution to it. Maxwell makes windlasses with special wildcats that can handle both chain and rode. I have never used one, but I would worry about chafe on the rope, particularly at the vulnerable rope to chain splice. Also, I believe that they only make them in smaller sizes.
Our answer on Morgan’s Cloud is to use a secondary anchor rode (our primary is all chain) that is all rope, except for six feet of chain at the anchor that does not quite reach the rope drum when the secondary anchor is stowed on its roller.
OK, I can hear the howls now, “not enough chain, not enough chain”. And it’s true that most rules of thumb state something like “the minimum chain length should be twice the length of the boat” or some such. But, as so often happens in offshore sailing, I suspect the author of this rule has never tried to deal with the actuality on a boat of over say 35 feet. Thumbs is in fact what you may lose, along with some fingers too, trying to deal with such a set up.
The fact is that we anchored literally hundreds of times without problems with just our secondary rope rode and just six feet of chain in the high latitudes back in the days when we had a CQR primary anchor on our chain primary rode, which was about as much use as a concrete block once we got north of Newfoundland.
One of the reasons that people suggest more chain is that they believe that the weight of the chain will improve the angle of pull to the anchor. But in fact, some very interesting engineering data that we received from a German friend shows conclusively that this benefit is small at best, and just plain non-existent once the wind gets to gale force, since even a 300 foot all chain rode is pulled just about completely straight at that wind speed.
As to how to store the secondary rode: We have our 300 foot (90 meter) rode in two pieces with splices and thimbles in all four ends. It is stowed flaked—never coiled, since it causes tangles—in two bags. One bag stays lashed down on the foredeck (as long as we are not going offshore) and the other can be dragged forward and shackled on if required.
I would be the first to admit that this set up is not super-elegant, but it does work. Although, since getting our 55kg SPADE primary anchor 10 years ago, we have very rarely had any need for a secondary anchor anyway.
Does anyone have a better answer to this difficult question? Is so, please leave a comment.