The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Stuff We Gotta Do—The Anchor Roller Version

A couple of years ago I was browsing the shelves of a marine store in Halifax when I overheard the following conversation between one of the sales people and a customer who had just walked in the door carrying a brand new modern anchor.

Customer: I need to return this anchor.

Salesperson: Sure, we can do that, but what’s the problem?

Customer: Oh, I’m sure the anchor’s fine. I even read about how much better these new anchors are, but it does not fit my bow roller, so I guess it’s back to my old CQR.

Now, it’s quite possible that this guy is a local weekend sailor who never goes far, and/or only anchors a few times a year, perhaps just for a lunch stop. In that case his decision makes sense, particularly since here in Nova Scotia most anchorages are blessed with good sticky mud that even a CQR will set reasonably reliably in.

But it did get me thinking about the number of cruising boats I still see with old-style anchors on the bow, something that always perplexes me, since changing from a CQR to a SPADE some 18 years ago was, and still is, the biggest single gear-related advance in Phyllis’ and my enjoyment of cruising, bar none.

And then I started wondering how many of those cruisers didn’t make the change because (like the guy in the store) a better anchor would not fit their existing bow roller.

And, further, how many cruisers have accepted the for-shit bow roller that most production boats come with, without ever really thinking about how much better and safer things could be with a well-designed and well-built replacement.

It’s All About Priorities

And that in turn got me thinking (as I often do) about task prioritization. Probably the most important thing we need to get good at if we want to get out there voyaging and enjoy ourselves once out there.

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Marc Dacey

I’m swiping those “big washer” and the stock retainer ideas for my Spade. Great stuff and easy to fabricate. Happy new year, John and Phyllis, and fair winds.

Drew Frye

I get a real kick out of the undersized stainless Deltas that grace so many bows at the boat show. Somehow they think it helps sell the boat, but my first impression thoughts are:
a. The anchor is worth zero since I will replace it.
b. The roller is probably too small. Maybe the windlass too.
c. Where else have they skimped on fundamentals, in favor of dockside amenities and appearance?

I can get past this, but for me, they have unintentionally set the wrong tone. If it is a race boat, I get it. You’re going to stash a Fortress somewhere off the bow. But otherwise, you’ve hinted she’s a marina hopper or dock queen.

Matt Marsh

I’ve seen a few, Drew, where I can grab the roller assembly, pull sideways, and think “you know, if I put my weight into this, it would probably bend or let go entirely”. They’re usually paired with a beautifully polished and grossly undersized stainless steel plow, with no manufacturer’s name or logo on it, which I believe says all I need to know about said anonymous manufacturer’s QA process.

Charles & Heather’s design looks clean, elegant, and effective. And it doesn’t look like it’d be much (if any) harder to build than the OEM one.

Marc Dacey

Agreed, but don’t get me started. Unsecured sole hatches, few if any handholds, wide-open saloons, unbacked cleats and stanchions…bah! I go look at new boats for innovations in stowage, mostly. Not with the idea they’ve be remotely safe in a seaway. The local boat show’s in two weeks: I’d best work on my grumpy face.


Hi Marc,
The interior desicrators who create modern “open plan” deck salon interiors still have their eye on the ball and save pennies wherever possible. By making all the cabinet corners sharp right angles they not only save money but aid the income stream for plastic surgeons. It’s what we call bleeding edge sailboat design.

Scott Thomas

Some great ideas for my Spade. On the last picture I don’t see the bumper you reference just what looks like a fire hose nozzle with quick connect. Another great idea for washing the chain.

Charles Starke MD FACP

Hi John et al.
There is no bumper needed. Black Delrin roller that you, see holds chain down so anchor cannot hit furling drum. Delrin roller coupled with chain anchor lock aft of roller both keep twist out of chain so no swivel is needed, or even considered. Crosby 209 shackle is used.
Only other fitting is large dyneema loop attached permanently to Samson post, reeved through shackle, and back over Samson post. This is easily thrown off Samson post to launch anchor when needed, but firmly keeps it in place at sea.
The boat end of chain is attached in anchor well by line affixed firmly to bulkhead. Line is a length cut to keep chain on gypsy even if chain runs free, but line can be cut on deck right at gypsy to drop anchor and chain in emergency. End of chain has 30-40 feet of very light polypropylene line permanently spliced on. This floats and allows me to retrieve chain and anchor if I ever have to cut anchor loose.
Anchor deploys and retrieves easily after dyneema loop loosed. I hope this is clear.
Best wishes and happy new year!
Charles L Starke MD FACP
s/v Dawnpiper

Charles Starke MD FACP

Addendum: There is a wash down pump and hose with quick connect to wash down chain. Anchor is 99 lb galvanized Spade. Storm anchor is 66 lb aluminum Spade (which is even larger than bower anchor) stored in stern. The large “washer” ioutboard of anchor is 8” x 8”x 3/8 stainless plate from McMaster-Carr machined into circle which, along with black Delrin roller gripping anchor stock, hold anchor firmly in place at sea. Stainless roller was machined down 3/8” to fit “washer” next to roller. There is a 1/2 “ pin that fits above chain when anchor is deployed to keep chain from jumping roller. Samson post is placed to lead and secure a mooring line from starboard roller. Port and starboard rollers are offset so mooring line in starboard roller does not chafe on stowed anchor.
Best wishes and happy new year!

Dirk Jacobsz

Kudo’s on a great system – most important on a vessel.IMHO. Question size and tonnage of your boat please.
Kind Regards

Charles Starke MD FACP

Hi Dirk
Thanks. Dawnpiper is a Trintella 47 (47’) built 2001, and is about 40,000 lbs.
Best wishes,


Just in time: my winter project is to upgrade my bow roller to better accommodate my Spade or my Rocna. Top priority for now.
Right now, the Rocna roll bar is about 3mm away from the bow nav light. Under normal operation it has never been a problem, but last summer we screws up when coming into a lock. The Rocna by hitting the wall saved our mast head, but with the cost of the nav light.
Do to list order:
– all mission critical device first,
– then, the remaining, eventually.
Hard to have the discipline to keep it like that.
Any idea is welcome.


Thanks for the great reminder and inspiration. The inside may not be trimmed out but I’ll splash with a great anchor and roller.
I took your advice and had Ed Joy design a roller to fit a 33# spade and Pearson Vanguard 33. I might have gone up a size but I think I can in the future with Mr. Joys design. The flukes pull right into the roller and nest at the same angle.
(3/16th” 316L Aluminum with turned aluminum rollers that are greasable.)
Thanks again



first I have a 33 foot racer / cruiser.

Loved my Bruce but reading the blogs, I updated to Rocna Vulcan. Vulcan because the roll bar on the Rocna would not fit on the bow. Added 4 LB to the anchor.

Had to design a new bow roller that cost more than the anchor. Then I could not pull up the new anchor. Not just the 4 extra LB, it was how well the Vulcan held on the bottom. Another $5,000 for a windlass.

Seemed like a good idea a the time!

However, we are sleeping well at anchor.

Timothy Grady

Great article on Anchor rollers. Now I need to check mine but it was very timely has I am looking at the Spade anchor to replace my CQR and Bruce. It did spin another subject that I couldn’t find in your books. Along with the anchor project I need to set up a bridle or single snubber. I like the idea of a double like the Mantus bridle because of the redundancy and chaff protection (except of the cost of course). What is your opinion?

Ed Sitver


I too thought the Mantus bridle looked slick (and still do), so I bought just the Mantus chain hook (I think there’s a newer version) and spliced up a snubber bridle from three-strand to test the set up before spending for the whole shebang (I already had chafe guards aboard that I could use). My handiwork is not nearly as slick as the Mantus snubber, but I can always upgrade to that.

As for my impression of the set up, based on my little prototype, it’s good. If you’re a fan of chain hooks, the Mantus seems done well and isn’t going to fall off the chain. There are two drawbacks that keep me from using the Mantus hook 100% of the time, both of which are specific to my ground tackle set up, so they might not impact your use. The Mantus hook is too bulky to easily pass over my bow roller, so I’m left managing the hook off the bow through the pulpit. Although I can generally get the hook on and off the chain as quickly as a rolling hitch, it become more awkward in rough conditions, so I tend to go back to rolling hitches that I can bring through my roller and fiddle with on deck. Again, this is a factor of how my roller is currently set up, so that may not be an issue for you. The other issue is also specific to my set up, which is that I have only 150’ of chain spliced to rope. In cases when I’m beyond 150” of chain plus 20’ or so of snubber bridle, I must revert back to snubbing with one or two lines on the rode with rolling hitches. No biggie.

Hope that offers some insight. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Max Shaw

We had the same issue with the Mantus chain hooks for our snubber system. We bent our wimpy Wichard hook we had previously so went to the Mantus hooks. They seem well designed and very hefty but that became the issue for us on our Steven 47 as the hook would often get caught on the roller and retaining loop. Mantus was great to work with and gave us a full refund. I would happily try more of the kit but the hook was just too big for our configuration. We are back to rolling hitches which, in hindsight, I am the most happy with anyway.

Apparently TD01W is about go by Majuro tomorrow so I suppose my rolling hitches will get tested again.



Terry Thatcher

I love the wash down nozzle location. Another innovation I was too dense to think of. Where do I find such a fire man’s nozzle?

Charles Starke MD FACP

Hi Terry
I bought the boat with the wash down nozzle already installed on the bow, but I did buy a fire nozzle from
You may be able to get one from them.
The dyneema loop does not fix the anchor from moving. Since the anchor self deploys so easily, the loop prevents accidental deployment. A friend had his anchor partially self deploy and it bashed a hole in the bow. He found the accident after the high water bilge alarm sounded at 2 AM on the way to Bermuda!
Best wishes
s/v Dawnpiper

Charles Starke MD FACP

Hi Terry
This one on Amazon looks similar to the one I have:
“Bon-Aire HN-10C Original Ultimate Hose Nozzle (Stainless Steel)“
Best wishes
s/v Dawnpiper


We have. 2010 Leopard 38 catamaran and I’m thinking about a Vulcan anchor. Would appreciate comments on its efficiency and holding power.

Ed Sitver

Hi John,

Perfect article for my first read of 2019! In addition to my needing inspiration for a bow roller refit, I’ve been remiss in organizing my boat projects/tasks.

I agree with you that benefits returned is a solid, if not the key metric for prioritizing. For my purposes, I’ll break it down into ranked categories of benefit. For example, the benefit of safety being greater than the benefit of efficiency, which ranks higher than comfort. I’ll prioritize tasks/projects within their assigned category. I might incorporate other metrics, such as cost and complexity.

It may seem like I’m overthinking this, but as a new sailor on a boat that is new to me, I have a lengthy collection of boat to-do’s. I’m struggling to manage to the big picture, so a splash of metrics and a dash of process is in order.

I’ll use a basic ranking exercise, and I’ve jotted down some categories and “objective” metrics for scoring each item on my list. Now I’ll pop everything into a spreadsheet and cook up some simple formulas or filters. Maybe overkill for the presumably shorter lists of those who’ve owned their boats longer, but it’ll quickly give me a structured starting point.

I’ll certainly tweak the “automated” results, but the process will nonetheless make my list less overwhelming and I’ll be more efficient when slotting new tasks into the mix. It should even encourage some discipline to lessen the distraction of easier, more fun tasks (OK… maybe that’s being overly optimistic).

Happy New Year to you and Phyllis.

Ed Sitver

Ed Sitver

Thanks John. On your recommendation from that article, I did use OmniOutliner this past summer to manage my rig rebuild and the associated side tasks. Worked great!
Thanks, Ed

Tom Crowe

John, have you any thoughts or done any articles on anchor rollers on the stern – I’ve seen them on a few cruising boats, and IMO, good to have an anchor ready to go there as well, but unlike the bow, most boats aren’t built with any consideration for launching or retrieving a stern anchor. Thoughts?



How thick should the walls be on the anchor roller housing for a 46-foot, 17 ton (20 ton loaded) cutter? What sized bolts? Going to have one welded outta 316 SS. I have a Spade 99 lb anchor.

Tom Service

John: Your soliloquy on prioritizing certainly struck a chord with me. Here is a simple solution that has worked well for us; we have used this little 3X3 matrix for outfitting a brand new US Navy Rescue & Salvage Ship, preparing TIGER LILLY for extended periods of independent cruising, and juggling our day-to-day TO-DO LIST in places like the Amazon Delta where there is virtually zero outside support.

Vertically, down the page (in order of descending priority): SAFETY, MOBILITY, COSMETIC.
Horizontally, across the page (in order of descending priority: PRI ONE (critical), PRI TWO (important), PRI THREE (nice to have).
Examples: SAFETY 1 could be something to do with the water-tight integrity of the hull (like a leaking – not weeping – thru hull), or strength member of the rig (we are currently replacing our head-stay, an S2); MOBILITY 2 has to do with moving the boat efficiently (we are currently building a new instrument panel for Mister Perkins – an M2, and our recently-repaired diesel HP fuel pump was an M1); a COSMETIC 3 are curtains for our main cabin opening ports – this item has been on the list for the last 32 years (painting the interior was objectively evaluated as a C2, however domestic tranquility [actually the inverse…] bumped it up to a C1 after only 8 years of wedded-bliss with The Tiger – and it became dangerously close to an S3).
I have found that these nine easy to visualize classifications (S1, S2, S3, M1, M2, M3, C1, C2, C3) makes it so much easier for me to get a handle on the prioritization of our resources; and I am still the captain of my fate, in that I pick the priorities based on my analysis, and we (or circumstances) pick the Order of Battle.

Since most of the BUY LIST is associated with a TO-DO LIST item, this project prioritization process also sorts out how we should spend our money – which we refer to as Freedom Dollars. Once all the projects drop into their respective pigeon holes, much of the mysticism is removed from the process. That said, we don’t always address our repair and maintenance issues in this exact priority serial order, but at least it gives me an emotion-free analysis of what really needs to be done. As I write this post anchored off the Tanga Yacht Club, we have just returned from a three month cruise up to the Lamu Archipelago on the Kenya-Somalia boarder – we LOVED LAMU, it is what Zanzibar was 30 years ago. Currently, there are no less than 81 items to be fixed, and 42 items on the BUY LIST – probably typical for an active cruising boat. Gotta go John – The Tiger is suggesting that “I PUT DOWN THE FLIPPIN IPAD, AND GET OUT MY TOOL BAG!” Without a system of prioritization I would have even less hair, and TIGER LILLY would be dead in the water…
Hope this helps.
We continue to recommend AAC to any new cruiser who will listen…
Tom & Lilly
S/V Tiger Lilly
Tanga, Tanzania, East Africa

Tom Service

With only 9 pigeon-holes, I keep it all in my Project Book.
My only bow to technology in this area is I have done away with my 1940’s yellow #2 lead pencil and replaced it with a 1960’s engineer’s mechanical pencil – I like the feel of it. One young cruiser was absolutely facinated with the pencil-sharpener mounted below TIGER LILLY’s chart table! (It was new technology to him!) In past lives I have used aides such as MS Project Manager, but I am still a dinosaur at heart. Lilly goes nuts when I read a book with a highlighter in one hand, and a pencil in the other.
Keep the faith, and keep up the good work,