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?
Q&A: Hybrid Rope And Chain Anchor Rodes
by John HarriesReading Time: 2 minutes
Next: Anchor Swivels, Just Say No
Previous: Anchor Rode Questions and Answers
- 4 Vital Anchor Selection Criteria and a Review of SPADE
- SARCA Excel Anchor—A Real World Test
- SPADE, SARCA Excel, or Some Other Anchor?
- Rocna Resetting Failures and evaluation of Vulcan and Mantus
- Some Thoughts On The Ultra Anchor, Roll Bars and Swivels
- Specifying Primary Anchor Size
- Kedge (Secondary Anchor)—Recommended Type and Size
- Third Anchors, Storm Anchors and Spare Anchors
- Anchor Tests—The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Silly
- Making Anchor Tests More Meaningful
- We Love The Way Our Anchor Drags
- Things to Know About Anchor Chain
- Selecting a Chain Grade
- Anchor Chain Catenary, When it Matters and When it Doesn’t
- Anchor Rode Questions and Answers
- Q&A: Hybrid Rope And Chain Anchor Rodes
- Anchor Swivels, Just Say No
- A Windlass That Makes The Grade
- The Perfect Anchor Roller
- Install A Wash-down Pump—And Save Money!
- Anchoring—Chain: Stoppers, Termination and Marking
- 20 Tips To Get Anchored and Stay Anchored
- Choosing an Anchorage
- Choosing a Spot
- 15 Steps To Getting Securely Anchored
- One Anchor or Two?
- Two Anchors Done Right
- It’s Often Better to Anchor Than Pick Up a Mooring
- Yawing at Anchor, The Theory and The Solution
- Yawing at The Anchor, an Alternative Cure
- How To Use An Anchor Trip Line
- ShoreFasts—Part 1, When to Use Them
- ShoreFasts—Part 2, Example Setups Plus Tips and Tricks
- ShoreFasts—Part 3, The Gear
- Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring
- Storm Preparation, All Chain On Deck
Do I have a better answer? No. I really have no idea how one would safely transfer a rode across the windlass with 50 metres of heavy chain still hanging off the bow.
But this is an anchor post, and boaters can’t resist chiming in on an anchor post 😀
As John rightly points out, any supposed caternary benefits that you might get with heavy chain are nullified when the wind picks up and the rode is taut. IMHO, one is often better off using a light, strong rode and putting the weight in the anchor itself: 100 kg of anchor plus 50 kg of rope or wire cable rode ought to hold better than 50 kg of anchor plus 100 kg of heavy chain. Chain is, of course, still needed for chafe resistance in the first few feet of rode… but the best solution I can think of, from an ease of handling standpoint, is to just not mix materials within any one anchor rode.
I think you are absolutely right. Put the weight in the anchor, not the rode. Steve & Linda Dashew have had very good results using schedule 70 3/8″ high tensile chain and massive (200 lb) anchors on their 65-80 foot boats.
My anchor rode setup is like yours. One is all chain. The backup is rope with a little chain.
Most anchor rodes need a lot of space to coil down/stow away. I didn’t have room for this & have only one thru-deck pipe which is dedicated to the chain.
I needed a 2nd anchor rode that was instantly deployable. Here is how I solved the problem.
To minimize stowage I use Octoplait (UK name) or Multiplait (US name… I think..). The stowage space required is 1/3 that of equivalent 3 ply nylon. My Octoplait rode is 400′ and 7/8″ diameter. The bag I store it in, at 5′ long and 10 inches diameter, easily accomodates this. Huge savings in space.
Like you I store this rode in a bag. My bag’s narrow diameter of 10 inches makes tangling within the bag unlikely, and it has not happened to me. The bag is open mesh for drainage. Its mouth has a stainless steel wire hoop sewn in to hold it open, which facilitates bagging the rode by myself.
This design comes straight from Beth & Evans Starzinger’s website, with photos.
In addition, the bag has a hole in the bottom. I keep 2 feet of the tail end of the rode hanging out of this hole, and can pull out all I want. This allows me to set up the rode properly before deployment. It also allows me to cleat off the rode before deploying, to prevent loss.
I keep the bag below & bring/stow it on the foredeck as needed.
This is an efficient way to instantly deploy rode.
Great stuff, thanks. Your system sounds very like ours, only a bit better. I like the narrow bag idea, although ours has never tangled in wider bags.
Very good point on using a soft plat rope to reduce size.
I am an advocate of the big anchor. On Danza, a 60′ ketch at around 22 tons we switched from a 50kg Bruce (which worked really well in our 5 year circumnavigation) to a 55kg Rocna when we headed to Greenland this past summer. We carry 90 meters of 12mm G4 chain. In the last 47,000 miles of sailing and innumerable anchorings I have yet to use two anchors. The Rocna was outstanding in the heavy kelp anchorages in Greenland. The only time it dragged was during a 180 degree wind shift on a classic steep slope anchorage. When reset it held without fail.
Our second anchor is all 7/8″ rode stored in a coil and now I am going to follow the advice of some of the above comments. Thanks.
I’m with you on that: One huge anchor on chain with a good long snubber.
Our heavy Saga 40 has a combo of chain and rope. The mention of a ‘v’ grooved chain gypsy does scare me. On another boat I was all too aware of the incredible crush pressure on the fibres of the Octoplait when the rode was under even moderate load. We never did have any problem with the splice. Our answer is a simple chain hook on a tail of suitable strength / length Octoplait rope. We recover enough rope on the plain drum windlass to get the chain over the deck then slot the chain hook over the chain. The tail is lead back over the chain gypsy to either a winch or purchase allowing a good direct pull. Pressure released gradually on the rope drum will leave the pressure on the chain and flying chain hook. Hauling this in drags the chain over the gypsy until fully engaged in the slots whereupon the windlas can again be used to recover the remaining rode. Sounds more complicated here than in practice. We also use the flying chain hook and tail threaded through a rubber chain snubber to reduce noise, and act as a shock absorber. ‘Simples’ as the Meercat says!
I also have a horizontal windlass. They way I handle this situation is fairly straightforward but requires a short snubber. After the rope rode is retrieved and the chain now is at the windlass, then I put a snubber on the chain so it won’t slip back into the sea. Then I remove the rope from the rope drum and put the chain in the wildcat drum. The main goal is to get enough chain onboard to reach the wildcat. If I do everything correctly I usually have one or two links to slip into the wildcat. If somehow I am short I can run the rope back to a winch to give me the few inches I need to get a few links in the wildcat.
Brent Swain, designer of numerous steel “origami” boats recommends using a reel on deck that can be filled with hybrid rope/chain/wire that can be retrieved by hand crank, servo motor or hydraulics. Keeps the slime, mud and critters on deck, and eliminates all the issues mentioned above.
Here is a photo from a site with many more photos:
The windlass design is in his boatbuilding manual, only one of many cheap, strong, sensible ideas therein. I don’t have such a windlass, but am seriously considering one for our wooden boat, especially if we switch out of all chain for the primary.
Thanks to all for all the great ideas, much to think about.
I think that on balance, and keeping in mind that the reader who asked the original question already has an all chain primary rode inhabiting the chain wildcat, that we would stick with our original recommendation in the post.
That is dispensing with the hybrid secondary (kedge) rode and going to an all rope rode with just 2 meters or so of chain. Said rode to be kept flaked in a bag.
Having said that, this is just one way to go and all the ideas above have their strengths and weaknesses. That’s boats: compromises, compromises!
On the value of chain as a catenary, I have seen good mathematics, (van Doorn in Oceanography and Seamanship) and have first hand experience to prove that the catenary value of chain is approximately zero at over about 50 knots wind.
Despite the poor catenary value in extreme conditions, we like a good chunk of chain to guard against chafe on the sea floor.
We have 40 metres chain with 180 m 3/4″ nylon spliced to it.
We winch in the nylon with Andersen 52 halyard winch, and the chain with our manual SL 555 windlass.
When the chain comes aboard, we snub with a stainless steel chain hook, and have about 4 feet of loose chain to safely pass over the windlass.
Even with an electric windlass, much of the rope part can be done easily with a halyard winch, making transfer of chain to the gypsy easy and safe.
On catenary. It seems the enlightened readers of your blog are a select audience John, well done. In any case if anyone is interested this article attempts to separate some of the myth from the reason:
Just want to say that this link Craig offers goes to a collection of articles on the Rocna anchor website. These articles are by far the best I have seen on all aspects of anchoring. I cannot recommend these highly enough.
We use a single windlass to handle either of two anchors, each of which is on a rope-chain rode. The windlass is an Ideal #3 vertical capstan, which has a rope drum. The rope and chain are joined by a back splice; the splice passes smoothly.
The “ah-ha” moment was when I discovered that two wraps on the drum will serve both the rope and the chain quite well. You just keep tailing, and the windlass keeps delivering rode. I had expected to have to weld lugs onto the drum to provide a better grip for the chain, but this was not necessary.
There are some caveats:
1. The size of the chain is critical. It needs to be small enough to be flexible, but large enough to strip off without binding. 3/8-inch proof coil works well with this drum, but 3/8-inch BBB tends to bind.
2. Wrapping chain around a rope drum certainly is not approved and might be considered unsafe. Handling that chain requires care and attention to ensure that the chain is stripping, falls clear, etc. But there are many operations on a boat that require care and attention to be performed safely.
Having worked the kinks out of the system and “learned the moves”, I find it a totally successful way to take in two rope-chain rodes.
As you know, we have a small (30ft) boat. We have 100 feet of 1/4HT chain on a nominally 35lb stainless copy of a CQR, it actually weighs nearly 45. Our windlass is the smallest Simpson Lawrence, has a combined rope chain gypsy. It has never jammed, it occasionally jumps a little at the splice. We were unfortunate enough to experience a microburst in Florida, we survived 10 minutes of 100 knot winds without dragging or anything breaking.
We have been using mixed chain/nylon rodes for years.
We have a few lengths of 5/8″ nylon with a chain hook spliced into one end. Good steel ones are available in truck supply shops, but now SS ones are not too expensive, so we use them.
We have a manual SL 555 windlass.
Nowadays, we pull in the 3/4″ rode with a halyard windlass on the mast, because it is easier than the anchor windlass. When the end of the chain is near the splice, we hook on to the chain forward, and tie it off, put the slack chain on the gyspy and crank it in, taking the hook off once tension is off it.
This would work just as well with an electric windlass, using the halyard winch only for the few feet to get slack in the chain.
It is good to have at least one chain hook to match your chain with about 30 ft of line on it, and one with about 10 ft. This allows using a halyard winch if the anchor windlass fails. Particularly important with electric models.
Hi Gary, Peter and Neil,
As I said in the comment above, if it works for you…
Having said that, these systems sound a bit complex to me, particularly on a dark night in a raging blow. So, we still like our all chain rode that self-stows without a hitch or any manual intervention.
Has anyone tried using firehose or serving over chain? I am wondering if that would let it pass over a rope drum more smoothly. We have an odd setup where our secondary has 30′ of chain, then 150′ of rode, then 15′ of 7/16″ HT chain, then another 150′ of rode and a final 30′ of chain. (The issue is that the rode runs down an internal chute and without the chain it’d chafe in a heartbeat). The line retrieval is no problem, but the chain doesn’t want to roll over the drum very nicely – tends to grab and boink and growl.
Sounds pretty complicated. If it were me, I think I would go to a rope rode stored in bags with a short chain leader for the secondary as detailed in this post. If you have a good best bower (primary) like a Rocna or SPADE, you won’t use the secondary much anyway; at least that has been our experience.
Have a Merry one.
Bump on an old thread. I’m of the anchor line and short length of chain in a bag school for the secondary anchor. In general, I pull up the second anchor first and having it mostly line means I can use a cockpit winch instead of the windlass if it is more convenient, but in general I simply pull the boat up to the anchor or motor over it if it is too windy. With a short length of chain that doesn’t reach the deck it is easy to cleat the line off short and let the boat drift back on the short-scoped anchor to help pull it out.
Much easier to deploy the second anchor from a dinghy if it only has a short length of chain, just watch the chafe if you have it down for a few days, Ideally serve the rope around the thimble. I have got away with a couple of meters of chain.
But I now have a decent primary on all chain, and love it, I hardly use the second anchor any more…
I use a chain pawl on my bow roller to help get the chain onboard, this works brilliantly on smaller vessels, considerably increasing safety and taking the load off my back.
So what’s best? “All chain” or “all rope (except at the end which, on the A40 with it’s midships windlass, could be 20′ of chain)”
The A40 will have an all chain rode, generally a better solution for a cruising boat that anchors a lot.
Old thread, but I’m a new member, so I search the nooks and crannies for info. 🙂 My boat is a 49 foot, 30 metric tonne 1928 wooden rescue boat with an all chain rode and a 70 kg classic fisherman type anchor, and my winch is an Anchorlift Aquarius, which is a very rugged and powerful vertical winch with the wildcat immediately below the rope capstan. Just out of interest, I’ve tested a chain rope combo. The transfer from rope to chain goes very easy even at a decent load and without stopping the pull. I just step on the rode, a bit away from the winch, and it jumps down on the wildcat, never losing grip. Then I pull the rope turns straight up off the capstan, so the chain falls off nicely. This part is actually very easy. As mentioned this was just tests, so I haven’t figured out how I’d do the storage of the two. Ideally I’d also prefer the whole rode to go straight into the bin below deck, without having to do much organising, but see some complications. Braided nylon ropes flake very nicely by just letting them down in any container. No control needed, but I think rope and chain need to be separated, unless the chain is very short. The reason for my curiosity is that my present boat is not my type of boat at all. She’s a beauty, but my roots are firmly in racing, and on top of that even from the most extreme multihull classes. I have also designed and built some racing multis. In a slow boat, I suffer and in a very heavy monohull… say no more. 🙂 So I’ll move back to multihulls not so far into the future. Then I want it to work much better than any cruising multihull I have seen. So, I explore possibilities and test things. I used to be a firm believer in the catenary effect. That the weight of the chain would give a much better angle of pull on the anchor. I was happy to discover that this is poor thinking. In normal weather, yes it works, but what we care about is what works when we approach trouble, in heavy weather. Then it doesn’t apply. The reason I was happy to discover this, is of course that I love speed and hate weight on a boat. Thus my ideal anchor setup (for a very fast cruising catamaran) now is this: Anchor, rode and winch will be stored and set from just ahead of the mast. When anchored, the load will go to each bow via two ropes prepared to attach to the rode. The “best bower” will be a galvanized steel Spade, much larger than one would normally use. Kedge will be a large Fortress. Backup will be a very large aluminium Spade. Rode will be about 15 metres of strong chain for abrasion resistance and to improve setting. The rest of the rode will… Read more »
I think your anchoring system for a multi-hull should work very well. The only thing I can think of is that I wonder if you could not shorten the chain leader to as little as say 3 meters so that the chain did not reach the windlass and thereby simplify and save even more weight. I know this sounds short, but back in the day when we anchored on rope with our fisherman anchor—because we had a CQR best bower, which did not work in the high latitudes—we used just 2 meters of chain and never had any problems with chafe or setting.
I will be writing more about all this in a future post about rode options.
A very short chain is extremely tempting, but I have a feeling that the weight is useful when setting. At leat that is my impression form a lot of anchoring through the years, but that’s not at all scientific proof of course, and I have not experimented with the Spade, which is the anchor type I think fits my bill the best.
As I have the imagined layout now, I plan to both set and retrieve the anchor from a spot just ahead of the mast, meaning that the “bow roller” will be there too. Then the distance to the winch would be small, but I might actually move the winch and chain/rope bin even further back, which could be good. I’ll look at that possibility. There are several reasons for my choice of keeping it off the bows.
– Moving the weight to a better spot.
– Moving the work spot to an area where it’s easier to work.
– Quicker to reach from the helm, for solo handling.
– Space for all anchors to be stored in a ready to deploy fashion.
– Ability to use the same anchor gear and setting spot for both the bow and the stern, as I will have snubbers ready from both the bows and the sterns (the latter passing under the bridge deck). In Scandinavia, anchoring with shore lines and the bows close enough to jump ashore is normal. Putting the bows on a beach, as normal in the Netherlands where I live now, I also like having a good anchor ready to pull me out fast.
It is me, bothering again. My doubts are: I do not like to use the rope spliced or weaved into the chain, the way that most windlasses require. I have always use a shackle to connect the chain with the anchor and then another shackle to connect the chain to the rope. And the knot that I have always use is the SCAFFOLD KNOT (recently found out the name, I always thought it was called the hangman’s knot) I originally believed that it was called HANGMAN’S KNOT, but the hangman’s knot is totally different. Here is the scaffold knot I always use to tie the rope of an anchor to a shackle, but I use a minimum of six to seven turns: http://www.netknots.com/rope_knots/scaffold-knot
QUESTION 1: Is it the correct or appropriate knot to use to tie the anchor rope to a shackle? Will it hold?
QUESTION 2: What brand and type of windlass do you recommend to use chain tied to a rope with a shackle and a big knot like this?
QUESTION 3: Are there any other secure knots that you may recommend to tie an anchor rope to a shackle, which is attached to a chain?
My best, thank you.
Hi Manuel Jose,
The chain can be connected to the rope with a special splice designed for that purpose that a good rigger should be able to execute for you. Having said that, I don’t like chain to rope splices and I don’t like hybrid rodes either.
More on why here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2010/09/07/rope-chain-anchor-rodes/
Hi Manuel, In general, I am more positive about mixed anchor rodes than many people are. That said, we have all chain as it is undoubtedly less prone to chafe although we effectively make it mixed by using a line snubber. Whether a mixed rode is appropriate really depends on what your requirements are in terms of weight, usage area and reliability. I have spent a significant amount of time anchored on mixed rodes including in reasonably severe weather such as tropical storms and never had any issues but we were always cautious about chafe. The biggest issue when you have line involved is chafe. Chafe on underwater objects is very scary largely because you can’t detect it as it is happening. My recommendation for this is to choose a line that is very chafe resistant (double braid construction and a good material) and then be careful about where you anchor. If you regularly anchor in places with coral or other sharp objects, line is simply a bad idea but if you are somewhere where these don’t occur, the risk is not too bad. At the deck end, you also have serious chafe concerns. If you look at boats breaking free from moorings in storms, it is usually due to pendants chafing through and these are quite large in diameter. I believe that a line anchor rode should be sized like a mooring pendant with something like an 8X safety factor making it quite large (we use 5X on our secondary rode but put a lot of effort into eliminating chafe). We have used 3 systems to deal with this chafe, all with good success. The first system which we used prior to high tech lines was to simply let out 6″ of rode every so often during a blow to move the chafe point (note that this has some serious safety considerations). The next system we went to was actually using a snubber on the anchor line so that the line was effectively the backup where it came aboard and the snubber chafed first. Finally, the solution that we ended up with was using a short piece of dyneema with a splice on the outboard end that would cow hitch either into the snubber or the anchor line itself. This is my favorite system and what we have rigged up on our secondary anchor rode as well as on our normal snubber for our chain. Putting some effort into eliminating chafe points from your foredeck is still required with all of these methods. The other large issue to me is how to deal with a windlass. John’s solution of a very short chain leader works well for many and doesn’t result in a reduction in holding power, only a slight reduction in setting reliability at very short scope. In many cases like mine, this doesn’t work because the windlass is too close to the bow roller. For secondary rodes, it isn’t too big of a deal to swap from… Read more »
Thank you John. Your reasons not to use hybrid rode are very logical. However, I must go with the hybrid rode. I have never had the need to use windlass in the relatively small boats that I have had (so loosing a finger has not been my concern), but now I must use a windlass. I need to know if the SCAFFOLD knot to tie the shackle to rope is good enough. You, sailors, are far more experienced than us sport fishermen. I will value your opinion. There are no sites like this one in the sport fishing world. And if there are, they do not address these issues, just trivial fishing experiences.
Hi Manuel Jose,
I have never liked the looks of 3 strand nylon rope to chain splices nor of the multibraid splices for the same purpose, but I have never heard any problem with them coming loose. But, nor do I have any first-hand experience. When I had a hybrid rode (NE US where the mud is good and there is little to chafe) I attached the 3 strand nylon to a shackle with a splice, (no thimble but the line had protection of shrink wrap) and then to 60 feet of chain. When the chain to nylon connection came on board I lifted that short section over the gypsy which had rope grooves in it as well as slots for the chain (a very old style windlass Simpson Lawrence Sea Wolf or something like that) and so worked with both chain and rope. Lots of compromises there, but it worked for decades for when I was mostly coastal cruising.
A scaffold knot is a good knot but why not use 3 strand nylon and splice it yourself? Or get a rigger to do it. The tried and true/historical classic knot is an anchor bend with the end securely sewn to the standing part to ensure it stays tied.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Hi Manuel Jose,
After sleeping on it and looking up the scaffold knot, I think that might be a very good solution, particularly if you can do a double pass (round turn) over the shackle.
But thinking further, I wonder if you could not get rid of the shackle altogether, and just tie it to the last link in the chain. Yes, you would lose the double pass, but you would have far less chance of a jam.
I like the scaffold because I think the turns around the standing part will protect the turn(s) on the chain/shackle from chafe, at least to some extent, and will also show any chafe well ahead of failure.
The other advantage is it will be easy to cut off the knot and redo it, the moment it shows any sign of chafe—much easier than a splice.
Of course, all this is just speculation, since I have not used a hybrid rode for 30 years, and not much then.
And, having said all that, if it were me, and all chain was not an option, I would lean toward all rope and a short chain leader as discussed in the above linked post.
That was a nice little essay in response to Manuel Jose’s questions.
A couple of thoughts:
Instead of 3 strand, some use nylon mutiplait. There are directions for splicing this to chain on the internet. I believe this to have the added benefit of the rope part laying down in a locker easily and not hockling. Is this why you “don’t love” 3 strand?
As for chafe at the bow, after hurricane Bob, I wandered among the boats blown ashore (a majority of Onset’s moored fleet by a good margin) and, at first blush, thought they had chafed their moorings. Upon closer inspection, I realized the break was usually 8-10 feet from the bow, clearly caused by other boats sterns/rudders/props backing up to the stretched out mooring lines and cutting them, or getting hung up on when upwind boats came loose. In storms, one’s neighbors may be your worst enemy.
Finally, I think strategies for chafe etc. change markedly depending on whether there is someone on board to attend/inspect periodically.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
I have a 3/4″ 8 plait spliced to 3/8 G4 for a working rode. Fakes lovely into a smaller locker….much flexier than 3 stand and absorbs stretch energy nicely without a tendency to twist. The splices look more difficult than they are. I do both 8 and 12 strand happily enough. The pairs basically track each other in a uniform fashion back up the line. A tubular U shaped fid is a wonderful thing for this task. I will tread light here as I am more diver/fisherman than sailor anymore, now with a heavy old 35 foot twinscrew here in the northeast, typically in water and in use year round. I lived in mortal fear of Rope Chain splices in many years. My live and die approach for anchoring anywhere with a combo rode was forged Grade 8 Crosby wired shackles linked through served and thimbled line. I carried 2 Rodes of 300′, 230 ‘ of 8 plait and 70′ of chain. Figured if I needed to create an extra long one for deep work on a dive site, I could join them with the second rode chain shackle meeting the thimble ending the first. The 70 feet of chain in the middle hurt nothing. No they were not windlass friendly, but in my younger days I was a regular weight lifter and was my own windlass. So anyway I figured splices around a chain link were a horror and a super stress, like weakening with a knot all the while adding chafe. I commented this to an old rigging hand one day and he said to get then get them super tight. That they don’t chafe much because they don’t move much, they were better than I gave them credit. I listened and decided to do a test. Before I got a little doggie to walk who gets cold, I stayed out in my exposed summer slip all winter. New England winters chafe dock lines regularly from constant wind and water motion. Especially exposed well out in the harbor to regular gales. I made up several rope chain splices from 12″ lengths of chain in 3 and 8 strand and put them in the middle of my most vulnerable lines. I was living aboard so it was easy to monitor them. I ran them for years without failure. Though some of the other ends of the lines wore badly on the rough cleats on the dock, the splices held up better than I imagined. I was amazed at the durability. No it wasn’t storm anchoring stress…I get it..but still…not the glaring weak link I imagined. That said: 1. If I must use a combo rode, I still want a severe storm one aboard without the splices, when pushed to the limit, always use the toughest gear you can muster. 2. For routine daily anchoring and blustery anchored harbor nights I slept comfortably with 3/4 8 plait spliced tight through 3/8″ G4. It’s held up great. 3. I see the… Read more »
Good analysis of the issues with rope/chain rodes, thanks. As you say, all chain is still the best option but hybrid and even all rope with short chain leader can be made to work. A lot of it depends on where you anchor. I managed fine on the latter for years when we were using a Luke anchor in the high latitudes. That said, I’m a lot happier with a SPADE on all chain.
I moved these comments to a more appropriate post. Ditto the discussion of mooring pennants.
Thanks for all the good thoughts. Such quality should be in the right place where others will benefit from it for years to come.
How much chain? I have read the articles and posts on AAC and am not sure on sorting this out. Everyone seems to agree that chain is needed for chafe protection but rope is otherwise considered superior as there is no catenary value from chain in any serious wind and rope is a better shock absorber, and the weight of chain would be better invested in the anchor itself. That said, most of the cruisers commenting here seem to have very high percentage of chain if not all chain rodes, with appropriate snubbers. John, you indicated that at one time you used a rode with only short chain leader, but now I think you have an all chain rode. Is this the result of an excess of caution because of where you and other AAC cruisers may be anchoring or is there something else I’m missing here? Fortress in their literature suggests at most 30 feet of chain is appropriate, and that only when typically anchoring in depths of 100 ft. or more. I’m not expecting to be anchoring in the kinds of places that you regularly do and for the more benign situations it seems that there is no real benefit from the additional chain but a number of downsides ( weight, need for snubbers, cleaning – I also read your post on the value of washdown pumps! )
First off a clarification: We used a rope rode on our secondary anchor (still do), but we have always used all chain on our best bower, primary.
To me the primary reason for an all chain rode on a cruising boat is safety from chafe. With a rope rode, there is always the risk that it will get around something sharp, no matter the length of the chain leader, and chafe through.
Other benefits of chain are:
That said, rope can be a viable alternative as long as you are not cruising areas with coral heads, which will, sooner or later, cut a rope rode.
I may have missed where you have this information but how much chain do you you use on your bower Spade?
I discuss our rode at length (ouch, bad pun) in this post: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/09/25/which-anchor-chain-should-we-buy/
You will also find the table of contents to our anchoring gear book here: https://www.morganscloud.com/category/anchoring-mooring/online-book-anchoring/
I did read all of the anchoring book. I think might be one of those situations like my wife telling me the so and so is on the shelf. I say I looked there twice but when I look again it is right in front where i looked before.
I did see your table where you have 340′ of chain. I also read where you said the rule of thumb is twice the boat length but that may be too long for boats over 35′. I noted your concern (mine as well) in general about weight on the bow. That you got along ok with the old plow (other than dragging) with 6′ of chain. You made the point that in ultimate conditions the chain becomes near straight and does not help in holding. Someplace you say the main purpose of chain is chafe protection on rocks, coral etc. So I am confused. I am sure I am misunderstanding or have missed something here. Is you chain that you use 340′ and if so why do you have so much chain?
There are a lot of variables here. Perhaps it would help if we zeroed in on what you are trying to do?
Hi Again Mark,
Just to clarify:
I’ve been trying to figure out rode, anchor and shackle selection for my boat. I’ve reread the anchor book several times and I’m still a bit confused. Please help me understand a few things.
You mention that your current rode is 400ft, but you also state you anchor in very deep anchorages. Can you clarify this? Are the rules for scope different at deeper depths? Much of the literature I’ve read has said that scope of 7:1 or higher for overnight. This would seem to limit most cruising boats to anchorages of 30-50 feet, as I don’t see many boats carrying more than 200-300ft of rode, especially since you recommend all chain.. What is are the scope ratios you recommend for deep anchorages? Is there a good table for this? Do modern anchors that hold better (spade i.e.) need less scope? Do you need less scope for all chain with a modern anchor? I ask, because in California, we deal with very deep anchorages as well, but no coral…which would seem ideal situation for a chain/rope hybrid rode.
That reminds me that I need to do a chapter that will answer your questions since it’s too complex subject to do properly in a comment. I will put it on the list.
In the mean time, if you can’t carry enough chain to anchor in all the places you want to go, a good bet is to carry enough all chain for most places (300 ft is a good number) and then anchor on all rope with a short chain leader (6 feet will do) in places which are too deep for the chain. This does require two anchors and a bunch of rope, but I think that’s a good idea anyway. I would avoid hybrid because of the handling problems, but that’s me.
And yes, definitely get a modern anchor like a SPADE since they require less scope to be reliable than old anchors. 5:1 is fine in most bottom types and 3:1 will work in very deep anchorages (based on experience). The reason less scope is required in deep anchorages with chain is to do with setting and catenary, explained here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/12/10/anchor-chain-catenary-when-it-matters-and-when-it-doesnt/
To add to that post. In deep anchorages we have more chain out while setting and can therefore put more setting load on the anchor without pulling all the catenary out. Once set 3:1, while not ideal, will work in most bottom types with a SPADE—we have laid to 3:1 in hurricane force winds in Greenland.