John’s Thoughts and Photos, November 2013


Click on photo to enlarge.

It’s amazing how often we see this: an otherwise substantial anchoring set up totally compromised by one small detail. Can you spot it? Please leave a comment. Just to keep things simple, I’m only talking about the starboard anchor.

Wave Action Has a New Web Site


Colin, AAC European Correspondent, and Louise, Colin’s partner in sailing, business and life, have a new web site, designed and built by Louise, and very cool it is too. Well worth a visit.

The Futility of Growth

Matt Marsh, AAC Technical Correspondent, has started a fascinating and worthwhile project over at his own site: a look at alternatives to our growth based economies. It’s not about offshore voyaging, but it sure is relevant to what we do.

Anyone who can do basic math should be able to understand that our current addiction to, and dependence on, growth is not going to end well in a finite world. Matt has way more math than average and couples that with a lot of common sense, so his take on the subject will be both interesting and useful.

By the way, Matt is not alone in his concern. Jeremy Grantham, one of the world’s most successful investors, shares the same concerns in his April 2011 newsletter, backed up with some pretty startling numbers:

Four years ago I was talking to a group of super quants, mostly PhDs in mathematics, about finance and the environment. I used the growth rate of the global economy back then – 4.5% for two years, back to back – and I argued that it was the growth rate to which we now aspired.

To point to the ludicrous unsustainability of this compound growth I suggested that we imagine the Ancient Egyptians … whose gods, pharaohs, language, and general culture lasted for well over 3,000 years.

Starting with only a cubic meter of physical possessions (to make calculations easy), I asked how much physical wealth they would have had 3,000 years later at 4.5% compounded growth.

Now, these were trained mathematicians, so I teased them: “Come on, make a guess. Internalize the general idea. You know it’s a very big number.” And the answers came back: “Miles deep around the planet,” “No, it’s much bigger than that, from here to the moon.”

Big quantities to be sure, but no one came close. In fact, not one of these potential experts came within one billionth of 1% of the actual number, which is approximately 10 to the 57th power, a number so vast that it could not be squeezed into a billion of our Solar Systems…

…The bottom line really, though, is that no compound growth can be sustainable. Yet, how far this reality is from the way we live today, with our unrealistic levels of expectations and, above all, the optimistic outcomes that are simply assumed by our leaders.

The key point that I took away from this is “that no compound growth can be sustainable”. It doesn’t matter if you use 4.5% or 1%, eventually things will end badly if we don’t figure out a way to break our addiction, as a species, to growth.

You can read the full news letter, although access requires that you register with Mr. Grantham’s investment company. The good news is that registration is free and will give you access to a huge amount of common sense investing advice.

The Ocean is Broken

Frequent commenter Richard (RDE) sent me a link to this very disturbing article about a Pacific crossing. Shows what happens when a species grows in an uncontrolled manner and fouls its own nest—that would be us. Pretty depressing reading for all of us that love the ocean.

Enough doom and gloom, let’s lighten up.

OK, Who Has the Biggest Lens Now?


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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

48 comments… add one
  • Ken Nov 12, 2013, 10:10 am

    That shackle looks a little flimsy!

  • Dave Nov 12, 2013, 10:15 am

    No swivel?

    • John Nov 12, 2013, 4:13 pm

      Hi Dave,

      Actually, here at AAC, we don’t recommend swivels, here’s why.

  • Chris Nov 12, 2013, 10:17 am

    Shackle Pin not secured?

  • Bill Nov 12, 2013, 10:23 am

    Seems to me the shackle pin diameter is mismatched to the hole in the anchor – it could be a good deal bigger. Also not a fan of stainless in this area…
    Our system uses 2 shackles: pins go through last link and through the hole in the anchor – allowing a bit more heft in this area.

  • constant Nov 12, 2013, 10:30 am

    Shackle and chain must be well sized, and this we can not comment just with a picture. Wichard gives following data : working load for a 12mm stainless steel shackle is 3600Kg (ref 17.4PH), whereas standard chain working load (diameter 12, grade 40) is 2500Kg. Best reference for me is this Wichard shackle, but with top quality chain grade 80 (working load 5300Kg, breaking load 21tons). No comment about windlass, seems to be ok ?

  • Joe Blowe Nov 12, 2013, 10:32 am

    Get a real shackle and safety wire it!

  • Nick Kats Nov 12, 2013, 10:44 am

    Shackle undersized, must be absolute maximum diameter.
    SS shackle less desireable than galvanized (not as strong, is brittle vs elasticity of galvanized steel, and there may be corrosion issues especially if the anchor is deployed a lot). But there may be very high grade SS shackles available.
    Shackle probably is moused. But again there are shackles that self-lock. (I have a couple of these, but I still mouse them).
    There seems to be a pin running through the anchor stock, which secures the mounted anchor. So the owner drilled a hole through the stock. This weakens the stock. How much I don’t know from the engineering perspective, but I would never ever do this.
    Last link in chain might be oversized, to accept a larger shackle, but this is not crucial.
    And, last, where is the wench to winch her in? Huge omission!!! Heck!

  • Alex Blackwell Nov 12, 2013, 10:48 am

    Besides the above, no chafe protector on dock line and the dockline is liable to be cut by starboard anchor

  • Tony Weatherford Nov 12, 2013, 11:03 am

    Should be using a proper sized galvanized shackle that is safety wired properly.

  • Fuss Nov 12, 2013, 11:09 am

    Well my thoughts are….
    (Apart from the hole drilled in the shank and the shackle and shank hole being incompatible)…..the bow roller construction has too much overhang and is not massive enough to break an anchor out without bending maybe.

  • joec Nov 12, 2013, 11:20 am

    1. SS shackle not galvanized nor does it appear seized.
    2. Anchor not secured properly to boat, the chain appears to be piled below the gypsy (not to mention fact that gypsy/windlass should not be used to secure the anchor.
    3. Anchor roller is while flimsy to the eye, one would hope that the snubber is led through the hawsepipe to the bollard

  • richard e. stanard (s/v lakota) Nov 12, 2013, 11:22 am

    i,ve not seen a rocna (sp ?) anchor first hand, which this appears to be or some variation thereof, but is that a hinge i see there where the stock meets the flukes ? that would be a potential weak link in my mind


  • Wilhelm Nov 12, 2013, 11:33 am

    The shackle looks stainless. Should be galvanized.

  • Chris Nov 12, 2013, 11:39 am


  • scott flanders Nov 12, 2013, 11:40 am

    Al Golden’s worst nightmare. Of course real cruisers have elongated chain links on the ends with boy attachment gear, not girl stuff.

  • Fuss Nov 12, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I don’t see a problem with a stainless shackle as long as it is a calibrated one, can be moused and is from a known brand like Wichard. It won’t remove much galvanizing and Wichard ones are stronger than galvanized for a similar size. The problem is that the hole is not elongated which means that the shackle cannot take a side load and is undersized.
    As I said before, I would also be worried about the bow roller overhang.

    • Erik de Jong Nov 13, 2013, 12:37 pm

      There is nothing wrong with a stainless shackle, as long as it is of the low-carbon type stainless and properly sized (the one in the picture is not properly sized).
      I would never want to use a shackle with an eye on the pin that is wider than the shackle because it will get stuck behind something at some point in time and turns into a nightmare to untangle.
      In fact, I would never use a shackle at all, a proper, stainless, anchor swivel should be used.

      • John Nov 13, 2013, 1:35 pm

        Hi Erik,

        I guess you and I will have to disagree on that one. I would say that swivels should never be used since they add a potential failure point to no good purpose.

        Further, if for some reason one absolutely must have a swivel, it should never be used to attach the chain to the anchor. Here’s why.

        I also disagree on stainless steel. The latest testing from Practical Sailor is showing disturbing weakening in most readily available marine stainless steels when subjected to repeated shock loads. Sure, there is probably a SS alloy that does not suffer from this, but how is the sailor to know for sure when buying the shackle? And why bother when good quality proven, proofed, galvanized alloy shackles are available for less money.

  • Geoff Caesar Nov 12, 2013, 12:14 pm

    A galvanised shackle should be used. I would go larger and sieze the pin with Monel wire, too.

    I once used a stainless shackle to connect galvanised chain to a galvanised anchor; several months of regular anchoring later I had to cut off about four feet of chain as it was seriously corroded. The anchor was fine, but that was much, much newer than the chain so perhaps benefitted from a higher level of protection.

  • David Head Nov 12, 2013, 12:20 pm

    I cannot see from the image any device to stop the anchor going ‘freefall’

  • Ken Nov 12, 2013, 1:47 pm

    Shackle on starboard anchor looks undersized and possibly stainless on a galvanized chain and anchor.

  • websailr Nov 12, 2013, 2:25 pm

    I agree with joec that the windlass should not take the strain from the set anchor. There should be a chain claw and a lever or other pull device to take the load off the winch.

  • chris Nov 12, 2013, 3:54 pm

    As above the shackle should not be stainless steel. However no one mentioned that the shackle is attached backwards. The pin should go through the chain not the anchor.

  • Chris Nov 12, 2013, 4:00 pm

    To add to my comment above. That’s not a Rocna anchor. A Rocna (or Manson) for that matter would have a slot to accept a large shackle oriented correctly. Come on John give us a hard one. 🙂

  • John Nov 12, 2013, 4:04 pm

    Hi All,
    Wow, you guys are great. I missed about half the things you picked up on!

    To me, the big errors were:

    • The shackle is almost certainly much weaker than the chain.
    • I don’t like to see any stainless steel used in an anchoring system.
    • The mousing (wiring) if it’s there (hard to see even on the original full size file) is inadequate.

    Things I missed included:

    • No Chain stopper.
    • Shackle orientation.
    • Hole drilled through the stock.

    Note to self: Don’t show this lot any more photographs of Morgan’s Cloud’s anchor set up. They’re bound to find something!

  • Ken Page Nov 12, 2013, 7:16 pm

    The bit of a surprise here, is that the port anchor looks to be fine with two properly sized shackles. Can’t see the mousing, but it makes me think this picture caught the owner at a time of transition for his starboard anchor.

    • Ken Page Nov 12, 2013, 7:18 pm

      A better look …the port anchor looks to me to be moused!

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Nov 12, 2013, 7:23 pm

    For Matt: the best layman’s introduction I’ve seen for understanding why exponential growth is a mathematical impossibility: (see chapter 3)

    And just to round out the day, research the technical difficulty that an obviously incompetent Japan faces in decommissioning the massive quantity of damaged fuel rods stored on top of the rickety buildings* housing the three reactors that have melted cores burning their way into the ground water acqifer. Worst case scenario— total evacuation of Japan and substantial radiation impact on the US west coast.

    *thanks General Electric for a design that only a brain dead engineer could conceive of.

  • Rorik Nov 13, 2013, 3:39 am

    There is a company called 1st chain supply that makes alloy shackles. They have roughly the same SWL as the chain to which they’re attached. I have no affiliation to them but the anchor setup in the picture needs one of their shackles. And a cover for the chain pipe.

    • John Nov 13, 2013, 8:27 am

      Hi Rorik,

      Good point. There are several companies that make galvanized alloy shackles that will match the strength of BBB, proof coil, and G43. However, if you use G70, you need an oversized link. More here.

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 13, 2013, 5:42 am

    I am unable to see the mousing, so I am unclear what you are referring to as incorrect. More importantly, what would you see as better?
    An FYI: There seems to be a new comments format which showed the last comments first (after clicking “comments”) until I clicked “previous comments”, an instruction that did not appear till the bottom after I had confusingly read comments referring to comments I had not seen or read and, at that point, did not know how to get to. That was confusing, but I hope you get the idea. It is too early in the morning to sort the above sentence out.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Nov 13, 2013, 9:17 am

      Hi Dick,

      We changed to paged comments (20 to a page) for performance reasons. But, good point about the confusing nature of the presentation. I just changed it so the first page of comments shows by default and then when you get to the bottom, there is a link to go to the second page, etc—better?

      Anyone else have any thoughts on which way around is best?

  • Fuss Nov 13, 2013, 10:03 am

    Hmm, so no one else seems too worried about the roller overhang.

    Also the pendants through the hawsepipes could also get caught on the overhang (anchors removed of course) if moored to a buoy and the weather went bad.

    • Nick Kats Nov 13, 2013, 6:08 pm

      Fuss (?), really good one about roller overhang. Hard to tell in this pic about this one. But I’ve often seen on other boats flimsy roller overhangs that promise to bend or rip downwards when the boat is riding at anchor in a bad chop.

  • Laurent Nov 13, 2013, 10:03 am

    Ecology in 2013 reminds me of object programming in #1995.
    In those days very few people did it, but everybody was certain that object programming was the inescapable future, that the correct answer belonged to the Object Management Group and that this solution was the Common Object Request Broker Architecture Specifications.
    In short : converting to object programming was an historic necessity, and any object programming technique that didn’t get exacting OMG and CORBA stamps was anathema.
    18 years later, object programming has become commonplace, generally without much fuss about it, but not as much as anticipated, and the very few object-addict OMG opponents of #1995 proved to be so obviously right that everybody has just forgotten they even existed (perhaps it is just a too painful memory for institutions….. or institutionalized counter-cultures).
    I understand that today’s message is that “ecology is the inescapable future”, but current institutions and institutionalized counter-cultures are still explaining that you need to replace your car every 5 years or so to benefit from the latest catalytic-converter or particule-filter and pay your 5-yearly contribution to the automobile industry, even if mathematics applied to ecology seems to suggest very different behaviors.

    I guess one message from the 90′ which seems to have been unduly forgotten, is that using the latest numeric goods and assets can be ecologicaly very clean and efficient, provided consumers use them with long, or very long, lifecycle material goods. For instance using the latest computer OS and applications with 10 years + old computers, 20 years + old cars and 600 years + old houses.

    Seems that current ecological communication completely miss this kind of possible development path….

  • Dick Stevenson Nov 13, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Erik, I would wish to suggest, for a variety of reasons, that a swivel of any material is never warranted in an anchor system. I would be surprised if reasons for the above statement have not been covered in AAC writings elsewhere. If not (or if there is disagreement), I can write further on my reasons for the above statement.
    Dick Stevenson

  • Hans Jakob Valderhaug Nov 13, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Probably off topic, but we would like to see that anchor properly secured before heading offshore. A yacht was nearly lost last summer when its anchor broke loose and put a hole in the hull while 40 nm from Baltasound in NE Shetland. Almost (but not quite!) out of range of the Lerwick lifeboat…

  • Chip Cannan Nov 14, 2013, 12:02 am

    I am curious as to why so many people commented on the orientation of the shackle re: the anchor. What is the basis for this comment? Apparently, large anchor users ( password nigel, last minute is germane) don’t think the orientation is an issue.

    • John Nov 14, 2013, 8:44 am

      Hi Chip,

      The reason for the very proper concern is that the combination of the pin being in the anchor and also substantially smaller than the hole, is that when the rode is side loaded there will be a huge load imposed by the stock on the shackle trying to strip the thread of the shackle. This is a load that the designer of the shackle never intended it to take and can, and has, resulted in failure.

      The best situation is for the anchor manufacturer to provide a slot, instead of a round hole, which allows the shackle to be oriented the other way round. This allows the shackle to move to be in line with side loads. Rocna and Manson anchors are designed in this way.

      Failing that, the shackle pin should be a snug fit in the anchor stock so that the thread does not come under as much load. We have had to attach in this manor with our SPADE anchors because they don’t have a slot—one of the few things I don’t like about that anchor.

  • Chip Cannan Nov 14, 2013, 1:09 pm

    John, thanks for the explanation. I actually understood the thinking, but seeing the linked video made me think twice about the validity of that argument. Large anchor users such as those in the video probably use multiple anchors and thus eliminate, or reduce side loading.

  • Paul C. Nov 16, 2013, 5:51 am

    It looks like if the boat pivots enough, the anchor might chafe the rope. Or, the rope is draped over anchor chain which would also seem prone to chafing?? Final answer! 🙂

  • James Nov 19, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Chain is under the Gypsy, I belive it should be feeding over the top. The shackle discussion is interesting as well. It also appears that the shackle needs to be wired secure.

  • Matt Boney Nov 26, 2013, 2:31 pm

    They are using a D shackle not an anchor shackle – and the pin should be sized so that it is just big enough to go through the chain and not be fed through the anchor.

  • Drew Frye Aug 19, 2016, 7:49 pm

    Shackle Orientation.

    I contacted 3 anchor vendors, each of which showed shackles oriented both ways on their sites. I asked which was correct. The answer was that they didn’t really know.

    Then we tried both in testing. The problem is that they tend to jam in the slot, particularly if galv, resulting in even worse off-angle loading.

    So while theory suggests an obvious answer, practice suggests something different. I don’t know the right answer, I just know it isn’t simple.

    • John Aug 20, 2016, 8:43 am

      Hi Drew,

      That’s interesting, albeit worrying. That said we have our chain connected to our 55 kg SPADE with the pin through the chain and bow through the slot in the anchor and have never had any orientation problems. So I definitely feel that pin in the chain is the better way to go. I wonder if the problem you experienced in testing was not a result of a chain/shackle/anchor mismatch in which the shackle size was restricted by the chain size and therefore smaller than is optimal for the slot in the anchor. On our boat we solve this problem by having an oversized link at each end of the chain.

      • Drew Frye Aug 20, 2016, 10:53 am

        The problem was reported by several testers with many combinations.

        IMHO, it sounds like something the anchor makers need to solve, and then spec and include the shackle if need be. Because the right shackle is that critical. It is certainly one of the more common failure points.

        • John Aug 20, 2016, 1:11 pm

          Hi drew,

          I think you are absolutely right. And now I think about it, the tendency today, which we encourage, to use big anchors and light high test or heat treated G43 or G70 chain probably makes it more of a problem. That said, in some ways this is a symptom not the problem, in that the root cause is, I’m pretty sure, people using undersize shackles that don’t match the chain strength. I would guess this is the case on a good 50% of boats that I look at.

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