The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site


I keep thinking that we have finished our Anchoring Online Books, and then a member asks a question and I realize there’s lots more to do. So let’s knock off one of those tasks: kellets.

What They Are

For those of you who have not come across them, kellets (sometimes known as sentinels) are weights, purpose-made or kluged together out of whatever is at hand on the boat, that are attached to the rode somewhere between the anchor and the bow.

Let’s look at why we might want to do this, and why we might not.

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Doug Merrett

Hi John,
Long time listener, first time caller here. Full disclosure, I had never heard the term “kellet” before, but one thing stood out that bothered me. That 35 kg kellet is not exerting a 35 kg force on the rode. There should be a force multiplier (dependent on all sorts of physics-y things like tension, rode length and “springiness” of the line and probably weight density in water). A force 10x the weight is not out of the question. That makes your 35 kg weight similar to a 350 kg one…
The physics didn’t exactly explain itself from a quick google search (so much easier to find cat video’s) but I did come across this:
And having taken advantage of just such a force in my history of questionable parking decisions, I thought it might add to the conversation.

Doug Merrett – “This Side Up””

Doug Merrett

Hi John, thanks for the clarification!

James Chase

I’ve never deployed a kellet,… and I’m not sure I ever will (all-chain, with a 99lb Spade)… but the force in question is known as vectoring, and it is significant. If you had two large men in a tug-of-of war against one another, the rope would be taught and straight (like an anchor chain with all the caternary pulled out). They might not be able to exert enough force on one another for either to budge- but if a third person were to grab the middle of the rope and pull on it, perpendicular to the direction of the other two… he or she could pull the other two off their feet. In the same way, it wouldn’t take much force downward on a straightened anchor chain, to at least put some caternary back in the system. That 30lb weight will “punch way above it’s weight”. That said,… everything else you’ve written makes absolute sense, and still “outweighs” this one factor.

Drew Frye

Several thoughts on kellets (I’ve actually tested some of these specific cases, just to prove points and write articles).

* There are other names: Buddy, Angle, Rider, Sentinel, or Chum. These are actually trade names. Additionally, they are also common words, which I find potentially ambiguous. Perhaps your buddy did something truly irksome, and so he has been tasked with holding the anchor. Kellet, on the other hand, means only one thing.
* All chain. John covered it. It serves no purpose that isn’t better served by letting out just a little more chain. And it doesn’t take much more.
* Rope rode and swing. I’ve found that a light kellet will help a boat on rope rode swing in unison with other boats on chain. Quite helpful in crowded harbors. This is my only use for a kellet.
* Yawing. Can be helpful with flighty boats… until it lifts off the bottom.
* Always extend the kellet vertically a short distance. You don’t want it holding the rope right on the bottom, because it might snag.
* Use a small bundle of chain for a kellet. As John pointed out, handling a kellet is a huge pain, and even more so in waves or with an old back. John also mentioned using chain. I can confirm this. A longish coil (perhaps 10-20 feet secured in 2 loops, secured with a soft shackle) attached to the rode with a prusik loop is easy to handle. It will feed up and down over the bow roller with the line, adding no complications. The trick is to keep the loops streamlined. One of my favorite tricks. Sometimes I just leave it on the rope for the next time, since it adds no bother. I use 10 feet of 5/16-inch chain on my F-24, and I’ve used up to 20 feet on larger boats.

Matt Marsh

I would consider this from a standpoint of total ground tackle weight budget.

You have a choice between:
70 lbs of anchor, 200 lbs of chain, 30 lbs of kellet.
100 lbs of anchor, 200 lbs of chain.

The second option will win handily in every conceivable scenario.

It’s the same logic by which we lean towards lighter high-test chains like G70. Any weight you save elsewhere in the system, and put into the anchor instead, yields a disproportionate improvement in total performance.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Nicely argued. Agree completely.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
When I discuss kellets with those loving them, I notice it’s hard to make them accept that it doesn’t really help. They think that a heavy object they strain so much with just has to make a big difference. It’s just “obvious”. My impression is that a majority of anchor related discussions among boaters are based on emotions, not reason.

I’ve found that a way to get past the kellet issue, and likewise the benefits of an overly heavy chain, is to let the proponents explain exactly how and why it’s so good, catenary and all. Then I ask: “This kellet (or extra chain weight) has only one function; being heavy, right? So, we could put the same weight anywhere it works the best? If your anchor is 25 kilo and your kellet is 20 kilo, do you think it would ever hold better than a 45 kilo version of the same anchor, with no kellet?” The answer is always, “No, of course not! But you can’t compare with a much bigger anchor!” Then, suddenly, the light comes on… 🙂

Taras Kalapun

Good article!
Any ideas how to “re-cycle” the old kellet that came with a boat?

PS. I already upgraded my 40ft boat with Spade anchor and 100m of G7 chain.

Reed Erskine

I suspect kellets are just a part of sailing lore by now. They have been obsoleted by better anchor designs. The same thing goes for tandem anchors/rodes off the bow. I’ve witnessed too many struggles to retrieve tandem anchors with twisted rodes. Imho quick retrieval generally trumps the benefits a kellet might confer.

Drew Frye

If the V-tandem rodes were twisted, that is because they did it wrong for a tidal area, or a situation where large wind direction shifts where expected. The secondary rode should NOT come on board, but rather should terminate some distance in front of the roller. There are variations on this theme, all of which eliminate tangles.

The other reason for this is subtle and hard to explain in limited space. If the wind direction changes, anchors that are connected in a V but farther from the bow are better able to adjust tot he shift than rodes brought to the bow.

I’ve done a lot of testing and there are situations (very soft mud) where no single anchor system will come even close to a well executed Fortress + bower system.

There are also situations where two anchors are used to restrict swing. But that is a different discussion.

Some will argue that V-tandem anchors prevent yawing, which greatly increases anchor holding. This depends on the boat and the situation. But they do reduce yawing. An easy, non-tangling variation on this is the hammerlock mooring (Google it). A handy trick to know.

But yes, I think we all agree a good bower and single rode is the key to a happy life. Two anchors are for special situations.

Drew Frye

I’ve used V-tandems on larger boats, and you are correct, it triples the number of steps. You need to think like an industrial rigger and have a plan for each step that does not involve physical strength… because you don’t have enough. You can’t raise anchor in a hurry when it is blowing; there are just too many steps. It works for me mostly because I’ve worked as a rigger (big cranes, not mast stays) and I think that way, and because I have done it so many times.

Why many times? In testing anchors, I need to be able to use my winches, often with additional purchase, to drag anchors toward my stern while anchored from the bow. A pair of V-anchors generates the monster hold that I needed, even in soft mud. It allowed me to test over real bottoms, not just near the beach. But not an actual cruising application.

But rigging them back to the bow, with the tails in the bilge is another sort of nightmare. I’ve watched people push their boat around in circles with a dinghy, sideways, to untangle them; obviously, if the wind is over 3 knots that’s not going to work at all. Fun to watch on the morning after a thunderstorm, on a still summer morning. Scary if it’s blowing at all.

The right answer is very, very nearly always, one anchor, carefully laid. I can only remember a few times in the last 20 years that I used two anchors cruising, other than testing, and all were to limit swing in relatively calm conditions.

Chuck Batson

Use of kellets was still being taught in sailing classes I attended as recently as 5 years ago. Not quite lore yet. 🙂

Tim Gift

Another article on Kellets that I found interesting:, it’s essentially a follow up on his article about scope and catenary, which you might want to read first:

Bertil Klevner

There is one instant where a kellet is beneficial to me: In Scandinavian waters with very little tide we often tye up bow to shore with shorefasts and stern rope anchor. A kellet slid down, with a retrieving line, on the stern rope keeps the anchor rode down, giving other vessels lesser chanche to snug it. Also, it keeps your boat off the shore, and makes it easy to tighten up your bowlines by hand when going ashore/onboard. But, for nighttime rest, do not depend on it!
I would never use a kellet when swinging on my anchor.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Bertil,
Agreed on that use for a kellet. It also pulls the boat away from the shore while at the same time allows the boat to be pulled close to shore when off-loading people etc. I never like having my bow close to rocks when a wake or wave might occur.
I use this same system often for the dinghy (using a dive weight for a kellet) for the same reasons (and to accommodate for tidal range changes).
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Andrew Craig-Bennett

I HAVE used one. I am therefore speaking from experience.

I think the controversy over this topic is one of those that result from people copying ideas from one book to the next without going back and checking, so the ideas get muddled.

I would like to refer back to the source of all this anchor weight and slider stuff; it’s easy to find. It’s in Claud Worth’s “Yacht Cruising”, at pages 52 to 54 of the fourth (1934) edition.

In the autumn of 1890 Worth left Grays for Ramsgate by the “overland route” (along the north coast of Kent- shallow and tricky) and found himself in fog, so he anchored in three fathoms with a big Fisherman and forty fathoms of warp, but a North-Easterly (onshore) wind came in strong and, using the old method of leaving the lead touching the bottom, they found they were dragging. So they made a rope becket and slid a 70lbs pig of ballast down the warp, and stopped dragging.

Worth later had a big semicircular shackle made and used three 40lbs pigs of ballast, attached to it by rope strops, because the 70lbs pig of ballast was awkward (!).

I had a similar fitting on the my last boat (37ft gaff cutter) using three 28lbs lead ballast pigs and again, it stopped us dragging. It was very seldom used (I think three times in 29 years) but it did work. Particularly useful if you are in a crowded or a confined anchorage. I sold the big shackle with the boat but I have since come by a genuine, made-in-Edinburgh, ‘Chum’, ’ which is a very nice fitting and I may put that on board, but I will have to work out some weights for it, as we don’t have inside loose ballast and we are now talking 22 tons!

Note – you have the weights on rope strops so you can handle them from on deck, using a boat hook.

My own experience is that the idea does work, and is worth carrying for very occasional use. Note the sort of weight that you need to use. Most people seem to be talking about ‘fishing weights’ No wonder they don’t work.

With a worthwhile weight, or rather, set of weights, dropped ‘underfoot’, you can tell when the weight is lifted clear of the bottom, and it is never for very long. The sensation is quite unmistakable. The boat picks the weight off the bottom for a few seconds during strong gusts.

How awkward is it? Well, it’s awkward, but less awkward than getting your anchor up, motoring around the anchorage and dropping it again in the hope that Einstein was wrong and repeating a process may indeed lead to a better result!

Obviously you veer all the chain you can before you use the slider and weights.

The other time I have used it is in fair weather when anchoring in a tidal estuary on the edge of a dredged channel and all I want to do is to avoid swinging into the channel or over the shoals. In that case you are trying to keep the scope short.

Marc Dacey

Perhaps that is because the weight of the kellet partway up the rode has been melted into the tip of the SPADE?

Just a comment here as I was asked to work the last two weekends at the Toronto Boat Show and was shunted toward the anchors and windlasses corner. I was a bit bemused at how scanty was basic anchoring knowledge here on the Great Lakes and “cottage country”, but then this corresponds with our distance from the ocean and the casual nature of boating around here. Nonetheless, I heard time and time again how passing squalls (common in July and August locally) of 40 knots or more would break out most anchors and create issues aboard only solved by the often brief duration of gale-strength winds, which would pass and anchors would reset. I discovered in conversations that many boaters took the “holding power” claims of Rocna, Mantus, etc. literally and only put out 5:1 scope. I pointed out by analogy the following: “would you park on a slope without engaging a hand brake and turning the wheels toward the curb so that a brake failure saved you from careening down the hill?” That seemed to work and I sold some lengths of chain that way.

Wonderful new anchors, as the S/V Panope public service videos confirm, have greater holding power than previous generations of anchors, but nothing beats a long chain catenary and a nice long snubber for absorbing shock loads and keeping things still at the anchor end. Or so I have come to believe.

Stein Varjord

Hi Craig,
As John mentions, the modern anchors, like SPADE, have a holding power (and other benefits) that is vastly superior to the old stuff like CQR and fisherman. This means that when the conditions are such that the full holding power is needed, the tension on the rode will be the same amount higher. So in an imaginary but realistic scenario, when an old type anchor may have a 200 kilo rode tension when it lets go, and we need to leave the spot, a modern anchor may stay put beyond 1000 kilos.

This means we need a stronger chain for the new anchor, but it also means the rode is operating under totally different conditions. With a 200 kilo tension, catenary and kellets may be important contributors to holding power. With 200 kilo on the modern anchor, it’s nowhere near needing that help. With 1000 kilo tension, help may be useful, but the catenary and kellet help is close to non existent, and certainly not worth the troubles.

This difference means that with a modern anchor, we can sleep better and stay put in way tougher conditions, but also that what did help the old poor performing anchors, doesn’t help anymore, unless we wish to stick with poor anchors. It’ s high time to correct the old books.

For what it’s worth, I have also used various setups with a kellet, often a spare anchor, and I was a firm believer in the significant benefits of using a heavy chain. This ended perhaps ten years ago, when I was asked to explain my claims. That little logic exercise put some strong doubts in me, to the effect that I checked some numbers (calculated by more skilled minds than mine). This made it very clear that I had been wrong for decades. I’m convinced it won’t be the last time that happens…

Marc Dacey

One advantage of starting sailing in my late 30s as opposed to growing up on a boat like Andy Schell, who I believe has just turned 36(!), is that I have fewer “traditional wisdoms” to unconfirm and always assume that the way I do things, even successfully, may be subject to sudden and convincing revisions. So far, this cautionary approach has left me with 10 fingers and two eyes.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

I agree completely with your takeaways on kellets.  I have spent a decent amount of time anchored with mixed rodes including with our last boat and have tried kellets a few times but the application is really limited.  The place where we did try one was to avoid fouling the keel.  My takeaway was that this works in really settled conditions but can quickly stop working.  We tried some gunkholing with a buddy boat where we were already trapped by a shallow sandbar on a falling tide when we discovered that the current would get up over 4 knots and that combined with a good breeze made things interesting.  Trapped, we threw out a drogue to calm the wild motion while our buddy boat used a decent sized kellet and it wasn’t long before they had the rode on their prop and not much longer before they were dragging in that configuration.  With the boat charging around at several knots before fetching up, the rode was essentially straight each time they fetched up regardless of the kellet.  With our current boat which we switched to all chain rode upon purchase, we carry no special provisions for a kellet, I just can’t think of a scenario where I would ever want to use one.  I wish I had thought of long chain loops like drew suggests above the few times I did use one in the past, that would make handling much easier than the short loops we used.


Christopher Smith

We had a 40ft-ish Beneteau drag down on us in flat calm conditions with a strong reversing current while he was anchored with a kellet- he was certainly on short scope but I don’t recall his exact setup. We woke up at dawn and the change of the tide to his boat lightly bumping down ours…I learned a lesson about moving if someone anchors too close, and when he tells you “it’s ok, I’m using a kellet,” maybe that should be a red flag. 🙂

Larry Jackson

I have a 33′ Hallberg Rassy (old) with a cutaway keel and skeg hung rudder. 55# Spade and 60′ of 5/16 with 200′ line.

I cruise the Keys and the Bahamas 4 – 6 months each year. Light, shifting winds and tidal currents are frequent scenarios at a lot of anchorages. Keel wraps were not an infrequent issue ’til I made my own 25# lead kellet molded onto a long “U” bolt. When used, I hang it from the rode with a large caribiner attached to the kellet by a snap shackle on the U bolt. The kellet control line is attached to the U bolt, not the carabiner. I draw 5 1/2′ and usually hang the kellet at +/- 8′.

When I HAVE to leave an anchorage, I can pull the snap shackle and leave the kellet hanging free of the rode til I’m in safer water further from shore. The carabiner comes off easily when the chain gets to the roller. I’ve had to do this twice with no problems.

Incidentally, I keep an eye on where the rode goes through the carabiner and have yet to see any chafe. I usually don’t have to use my kellet, but it’s nice to have when I do. This has worked well going on 20+ years.


Tom Crowe

I have also used a kellet prevent keel wrap in light shifting conditions – at that time I was cruising with a Tartan30, and in current opposing light wind conditions the boat would sail all over the place. After the 2nd keel wrap where the boat left the anchorage on the tide without me (anchors aren’t sized to hold the boat sideways to the current), the kellet was the solution that solved my problem. Important factor to note – IMO the Tartan30 is too small and light to carry an all chain rode, at least in the bow. I how have a larger boat with all chain, so no real need for the kellet any longer, but it did work for my needs at the time.

Also to keep weight down underway, and keep the budget down, I’d gather the kellet at each anchorage if needed. I’d row ashore and find the largest rock, or fill a burlap sack with as much sand as I could reasonably carry. With a good strap harness and shackle to slide 10′ or so down the line all fine and easy – in an emergency, or upon departing the anchorage, just let the weight go.


Michael Albert

I agree completely that a kellet has no benefit for holding power. On my old 30 footer with rope rode it was effective for reducing keel wrap in light air/current conditions. One additional benefit was in crowded anchorages with powerboats driving by near our bow it sank the rode a bit further in light/moderate air and maybe prevented a prop from fouling my rode.
Both of these benefits disappeared in any sort of breeze.
I used a snatch block on anchor rode and 10 foot length of chain – 1 end attached at bow and other end attached to snatch block that would go on rode- this allowed scope change without retrieving the kellet and even allows for full anchor retrieval without doing anything with the kellet. It probably fooled others into thinking I was anchored with chain rode though.
On my current Tartan 40- an oversized Mantus and 200 feet of HT chain make all of the above obsolete and unneeded 🙂

Tonny Henriksen

The key word here is…..My prerequisite.

I sail in a smaller sailboat (8.5 meters, 3200 kg.).

There’s no anchor winch, so I need to be able to handle my anchor gear manually.
That’s why I need to reduce the overall weight and fragment it.

I use an effective anchor (Danforth HT or Excel) and rope with woven lead.
That’s what I can handle.
But I can add additional weight to my anchor system once the anchor is laid out and I can do that with an anchor weight (Kellet) on 10kg.

Under normal conditions, I don’t use the anchor weight, but when it blows over 15m/s I start to consider it.

When it blows over 15 m/s, my boat starts to “sail” from side to side.
When that happens, the anchor weight takes up a lot of the peak load on my anchor gear.

The boat “sails” out to one side and then crosses the stag and “sails” (Yawling) over to the opposite side. When that happens, the anchor rope is almost unladen. At some point, the anchor rope tightens up and there is a peak load on the entire anchor system when the boat is stopped by the anchor.
If I get an anchor weight on the anchor rope I reduce this peak significantly as the boat must first pull this anchor weight up to a straight line and yes, so does the boat, but a lot of energy has been spent on this, which does not turn into a peak load on the anchor rope.

The anchor weight also reduces the boat’s movements slightly, but the important thing is that it “eats” by the peak load.

I fully understand that chain all the way and a good long snobber are the optimal, but it must also be manageable for my back and then this solution is actually a good compromise.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I think Dacron is worthy of an experiment as a rode and look forward to your results. Nylon provides springy-ness, but, as you point out, it can be too springy. You might have to use a snubber (something I never did when I anchored on all nylon rodes) as that can mitigate the shock loads that the less stretchy Dacron might pass through to the anchor, but, at least, with a snubber, you can adjust the springy-ness according to need.
I would not be surprised if Drew has some experience in this area: there does not seem to be strategies he has not experimented with.
And, yes, agree about a light kellet holding the rode down and keeping it out of mischief when the wind dies and the current allows the boat to dance: a heavy kellet is just an injury to crew or damage to boat waiting to happen in a midnight fire drill of wind and seas.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy 

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I agree. I think this is a good example of looking outside the “best practices” box. I look forward to your reports. Dick