Things I Learned From Three Anchoring Reports

fouled_sarca.jpg
Photo kindness of Kerrie

One of the things I like most about running this site is that hardly a day goes by without us getting an interesting real-world experience-based report in the comments that I learn from.

To understand how important these reports are, we need to think back to the time when the Rocna was generally considered by far the best anchor out there. A view that we now know was based on flawed testing and aggressive marketing, which in turn built buzz, much of it on the forums, not reality.

We here at AAC were fooled, too, but it was field reports in the comments that first gave us an inkling that the Rocna, that we were at the time recommending, had a dangerous dragging modality, eventually confirmed by S/V Panope‘s excellent testing and Colin’s (AAC European Correspondent) personal experience.

In the same vein, here are three recent reports that really jumped out at me for the number of important lessons they contain.

Own-Rode Fouling

The first is from member Kerri:

Just this morning, we had a self-fouling incident with our Sarca Excel, and I recalled reading your latest article on this no more than a month ago. This seems like a remote possibility to me before now. So here’s one data point that it can self foul. 

We had anchored in an area with strong tidal currents that switched overnight. When we weighed anchor in the morning, we kept running into serious issues of the chain jumping off the gypsy due to twist (also an issue we’d never had before this incident), and when we finally got the anchor up (after dumping the chain twice), this is how it came up [see photo at top of article]. Looks like just what you imagined the potential to be: getting caught on the fluke.

Bias?

Now, obviously, one of the reasons I like this comment so much is that it (and the next one, too) confirm my prior positions. And I’m guessing there will be those who focus on that and ignore the great stuff to be learned. To be brutally frank, my answer to that is “not a lot I can do about that” and “your loss”.

Sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but I have noticed lately that there is a rise in the tendency, particularly on forums—not so much here at AAC, thankfully—to scream “bias” and learn nothing as soon as a conflicting opinion is raised.

I think this is silly. We are all biased by our experiences and we all tend to look for confirmation. And, yes, that can be a problem and we should filter the opinions of others (me included) through that lens, but it’s also our loss if we just go off in high dudgeon without really thinking about the report, and thereby miss important lessons.

Lessons Learned

With that out of the way let’s look at what I learned from Kerrie:

  • When I originally raised this concern it was as a possibility only. Something to watch out for.
  • Now that Kerrie’s experience confirms that the modality I postulated can happen, I’m going to update the SARCA Excel review with a warning. Yes, it’s only one incident, but it’s not one to ignore and by publishing we may get verification from others, like we did with the Rocna.
  • Update: 19th July. I should have make clear that this single incidence does not, at least at this time, disqualify the Excel as a great anchor or mean that we will remove it as one of our two recommended anchors here at AAC.
  • Looking at the picture at the top of the post we can learn two more important things:
    • It would seem that SARCA have enlarged the shackle slot to allow the use of a properly-oriented shackle, which corroborates that assurance from the North American distributor. Great news and I will add that update, too.
    • As most of you know, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool swivel hater, but Kerrie makes a strong case for why they need one further down the thread. The key takeaway is that she has the swivel installed correctly with a short length of chain between the stock and the swivel, so it won’t side load. No update required here since we already recommend that setup for those who find that only a swivel will do.

The Real World at The Isles of Scilly

The next of these great comments comes from member Jacob who just witnessed one of those anchor dragging mayhem events that are far more common than many believe:

Last night anchored in a gale in the Scilly Isles I watched four out of the other six boats in the anchorage drag following a 180 degree wind shift as the eye of the depression passed over us.

One with a Kellett on a rope that fouled their undersized Bruce anchor (they are now on the rocks so I went to try to help and saw the anchor).

One I don’t know about, just watched them drag past, and two others with Rocna anchors which failed to reset and then accumulated a huge amount of weed. I know because I spent the morning helping both to clear their anchors and re-anchor after they both spent hours under engine keeping just to windward of me…

…It was only gusting 35 knots, so I didn’t expect chaos?!

One other boat in the anchorage didn’t move at all following the wind shift. He has a Spade. I didn’t lose so much as a meter either – the spade reset in its own length even with a sudden and violent 180 degree shift in the wind (after a period of calm)…

…Now to finish my tea before going to try to salvage this abandoned 35’ sailboat from the rocks on the incoming tide. A boat on the rocks because of a Kellet or Anchor Angel rope tangled around their chain preventing their dragging anchor from being retrieved (plus the rope was in danger of fouling their prop, which is why they cut the engine shortly before their bow blowing off and then going aground) … that’s a lesson!…

…It is also a reminder of why a simple anchor setup of one big anchor on an all-chain rode with a nylon snubber is the right way to go. 

I even used your tip [Colin’s] of hanging a Drogue from the chain at the bow which radically smoothed out my shearing around in the wind and almost totally eliminated shock loading at the apex of each swing. Very useful!

Be Selective About Reports

There are several useful takeaways from Jacob’s comment that I will leave you to parse for yourselves, but the one that jumped out at me is that most cruisers, even some who have been out there for quite a while, have never had their anchoring technique and gear really tested.

The result is that we often hear something like this on forums:

My anchor is great. Why last night it blew a steady 25 knots and we did not move an inch.

The overconfident anchorer

What we are not told is that the commenter was in a nice snug anchorage with a firm bottom and good shelter and, further, rather than taking on challenging anchoring situations, they typically head for a marina or pick up a mooring if it’s going to get even slightly gnarly.

White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas from the top of our McCurdy and Rhodes 56 mast. Looks peaceful now, but half the fleet dragged in a cold front.

We saw the same factor at work several times during the winter we spent in the Bahamas when as much as half the fleet of anchored cruisers dragged in nothing worse than a cold front with maybe 30-knot gusts.

The lesson here is that making our anchoring gear selection and technique decisions by listening to the majority on forums is a very bad idea. Bottom line, this is one of the many times that the much-vaunted wisdom of the majority is rubbish…err, flawed.

On the other hand, reports like Jacob’s about experiences in challenging anchorages with less than ideal substrates, like the Isles of Scilly, are invaluable. That’s where poor techniques and anchors with bad habits get revealed.

Disturbing Spade Issues

So at this point I’m betting you are all thinking that this is just another article where John supports his favourite anchor. So let’s blow that idea out of the water by highlighting a comment from member Stefan.

We have had a 35kg (77 lb) [Spade] in the Med, Caribbean, Bahamas and now along the US East coast.

It was a galvanized one never let us down, not a single time!

Of course one has to choose the right bottom and get the anchor set etc. We are live-aboards and would say we learned how to do that. 

Due to quality issues (one of the welds of the shaft cracked apart so 1 of the 3 plates the shaft is made from separated). We could get a replacement under warranty from Spade US.

I opted to pay the surcharge and go for the stainless steel version. Same size, same weight, just stainless instead of galvanized. 

And since then: 

We drag and drag. Multiple times. While other boats don’t. I am getting desperate and have lost all my trust into this anchor.

Amendment: It sounds not logical that only the switch from galvanized to stainless can be the reason. Can it be that the galvanized does have a totally different weight balance?

Quality Issue?

First off, Stefan’s comment highlights a longterm issue with Spade anchors: quality control. Or does it? Once again we must think before we go off half cocked:

  • In all the years we have been recommending them, this is the first report we have had of a structural problem with a Spade.
  • Spade replaced the anchor for free, continuing their very good track record in this regard.

Two important points, but the big takeaway for me is that when evaluating any gear we have to be careful not to jump to the all-too-easy conclusion: This brand has a reported quality control problem therefore all other brands must be better.

We all do this, me included, probably because we are used to relatively, but probably still flawed, good quality reporting on things like cars.

But that’s not a good parallel because in the cruising world almost all of our reporting is anecdotal, not analytical, so assuming that because one anchor has a single bad quality-control report means that another anchor is perfect or even good in this regard is a logic fail.

And, further, it’s human nature to draw possibly erroneous conclusions from these reports. For example, there is no question that the galvanizing on Spade anchors is of poorer quality than that of many other manufacturers, probably most, but that does not necessarily mean that Spade anchors are poorly built.

So rather than using this kind of lazy decision making we need to think about the piece of gear holistically and take into account other factors such as the fact that the galvanized Spade stock is twice as strong as the next best.

But wait, does that mean we should discount Stefan’s stock weld failure experience? No! It could be a smoking gun possibly indicating new QC problems at Spade, and by ignoring that possibility we would be just as ill advised as many Rocna users were when they ignored first the company getting caught using sub-standard steel for the stocks and then the dangerous dragging modality.

What to do?

  • Keep front of mind that all of us humans are prone to confirmation bias and guard as best we can against it—I struggle mightily with this every day.
  • Keep an open mind about, and actively look for, other reports that would indicate a systemic problem with our preferred choice. Don’t stick our heads up our…forepeaks.
  • Filter out irrelevant issues like rusting in our analysis. (If you can’t stand rust on the deck and so don’t buy a Spade for that reason that’s perfectly logical, but assuming that a bit of rust indicates a serious structural problem on a galvanized fabricated anchor, or any galvanized steel structure, is another logic fail.)

Bottom line, making good decisions is hard and takes real brain sweat, not just watching YouTube and/or reading the forums until we find some report that confirms our priors.

Stainless Steel Anchors

Now let’s look at Jacob’s very unfortunate situation with his new stainless steel Spade.

Once again, there’s a deeper lesson to be learned here: While perfectly understandable (not taking a shot at Stefan here), it’s dangerous to assume that because a company makes one good product, all of their products will be equally good.

And, further, we should never overlook the possibility that a bad modification was made to satisfy market concerns.

In this case I’m guessing (and it is just that) that Spade may have increased the scantlings on the stainless steel stock to compensate for the much lower tensile strength of stainless steel in comparison to the steel they use for their galvanized stocks, and thereby unbalanced the anchor.

And I further speculate that said change might have been inspired by testing at Practical Sailor magazine that showed the stainless steel Spade stock was susceptible to bending.

This points out another fundamental lesson: when the original designer and entrepreneur who came up with a great product is no longer around to keep things on the straight and narrow, bad stuff is more likely to happen in the name of marketing. (Alain Poiraud, designer of the Spade and founder of the company that makes them died in 2011.)

And this, in turn, got me wondering if the one-piece stamped (rather than fabricated) stocks on smaller Spades, that Steve over at S/V Panope highlighted, may be another manifestation of this problem, in this case to reduce the price of the anchor, which has always been Spade’s marketing Achilles heel.

Once again, that’s a guess, not an assertion, particularly because I don’t even know for sure whether or not the smaller Spades were always made that way.

I’m going to ask Spade to comment on this article.

Well Said, Stefan

Finally, I will end this one by thanking Stefan. Buying an expensive piece of gear that turns out to be defective, or even just not as functional as another option, totally sucks.

But one positive thing we can do, albeit emotionally difficult, is to be realistic about the situation and then share it publicly, which both encourages the vendor to make it right and is a great way to help our fellow voyagers.

For example, if other customers who had bad experiences with GMT masts prior to us buying one had been more forthcoming publicly, we might never have experienced our $50,000 loss.

Thanks for the heads up, Stefan.

I will move our warning about stainless steel Spades from our anchor-sizing article to our Spade review, where it really should have been in the first place.

Summary

  • The majority of anchoring reports from the field are useless because the conditions are too benign to test anything realistically. Heck, most cruisers don’t even set their anchors properly.
  • However, some reports are invaluable. The trick is to stay openminded enough to recognize them.
  • A company that makes one good product can make others that are poor.
  • We must always watch out for product changes driven by marketing and price, not quality.

All stuff I must constantly remind myself of.

Further Reading

Comments

Have you had any experiences that corroborate the above reports, or conflict with them? What about other experiences, anchoring or not, that indicate a potential problem with popular gear or accepted technique? Please leave a comment.

Keep in mind that we haver an entire online book on anchoring (see link above) so please at least scan the table of contents before adding general anchoring comments that we have already covered to this article. For example, if you want to discuss yawing at anchor, please do so here, after reading the article.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Learn About Membership

Subscribe
Notify of
82 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alexander Hubner

Hello John, one question regarding the spade. Would it be possible to regalvanize it with a cold system like Zinga for example to avoid the problems with the lead?

Regards Alex

Evan Effa

Hi Alex,

Long story but I was very frustrated with the unsightly rusting of our SPADE 120. I was getting it ready to sell as I had bought a Sarca Excel as a replacement.

I used an angle grinder on the SPADE and took off all the galvanizing remnants and then sandblasted the surface. I used a few coats of Zinga to top coat the anchor.

After a few surprising instances where the replacement bower, a Sarca Excel, failed to set on us, my good wife insisted that we go back to using the SPADE.

So far, after a couple of seasons of use, the Zinga is holding up pretty well. The Zinga will occasionally abrade or lose adhesion along the edges of the fluke in places but it’s very easy to re-coat the material without a lot of fuss and it’s good to go.

I’m now quite happy with the anchor and have an easy dockside way to keep it looking good and rust free.

Evan Effa

Thank John,
I will post some pictures later this evening when I get home.

– evan

Evan Effa

I looked for my most recent close up pictures of the anchor and can’t find them…(moving house and renovating at the same time isn’t enhancing my organizational skills.) If you don’t mind waiting a few days, I will collate some before and after pics as well as some up to date ones.

-e

Alexander Hubner

Hi Evan, thank you for the real world confirmation. I used Zinga on different occasions but never with the anchor. So I guess I will purchase a Spade now. Regards Alex

Evan Effa

The ZINGA is much more durable than the ordinary cold galvanizing spray.

Drew Frye

We don’t know if the “own-rode-fouling” happened while deployed or during the raising process. The lack of mud in the chain, that they didn’t drag, and most interestingly, the report of “dumping the chain” (quite likely right on top of the anchor) suggests THAT is when the fouling happened. Look at the way the chain coming from the fluke is behind the chain coming from the shank; that is not what typically happens when you spin (it would have been on the outside), that is what happens when you dump chain on the bottom or on the anchor and an inverted loop drags either over the toe or the shank. I’m guessing about this expereince, but I’ve observed how that knot gets tied in testing. Logically, the fluke should be buried when set. It would might become exposed during the rotation, but the chain is past by then. Multiple tide swings, perhaps without enough wind to cause a set between them? Also possible, but I don’t understand how the anchor got a half hitch tied that way. What jumps out at me is the statement that they “dumped the chain twice,” which is indeed unusual. Not powered down while moving, but dumped, implying it went down fast into a pile of loops.

As you say, we must be careful about jumping to conclusions. In fact, I think the only anchors I’ve never fouled in testing and brought up sideways were the Ultra and Spade. Bruce, Claw, and Fortress were the usual culprits, but roll bar anchors too (only when I dumped chain on them–and it tied a half hitch similar to that).

I’m not arguing that the the Excel couldn’t be improved. I hope you sent them the photo. There’s nothing like field testing to learn the stuff that happens. I regret I never took pictures of all the stuff I got caught in my Manson! Nearly all of the testing I did with my camera out was on very uniform bottoms, because I needed repeatable data for the issues I was exploring (focused on rigging, not individual anchor types). So no fouling during those tests… other than from dropping mounds of chain on purpose.

Drew Frye

I think this reinforces your theme of not assuming based on limited information. We simply cannot be certain from this example. If they had not dumped the chain … but they did, and the knot is one not easily formed by just going in circles.

We also don’t know much about the bottom. It could be scoured and hard, but there are many places around here where I have spun with the tide and the mud was soft and bottomless, and sometimes the anchor was hard to recover for no obvious reason. There was weed; it could have been caught under the roots. Again, we do not and cannot know.

The more I test anchors, the more complicated it gets.

Drew Frye

Two more thoughts.

If the fluke was not burried, hard bottom or not, it would not have been difficult to recover unless it was stuck on something. They apear to have been using the weight of the boat and a Dyneema snubber! The fouling alone would not cause them to give up and drop the rode twice. A parcially burried fluke isn’t going to generate that kind of straight-up suction.

Steve fouled his Excel, also with a half hitch, by dumping chain on top of the anchor. He did not do it by spinning the boat. I have done the same thing testing with other brands. Dumping the chain was the cause in every case.

I’m not saying there are not design choices that make rode fouling more likely. That apears to have been clearly demonstrated. But the cause is dumping chain on the anchor, which is why “laying” an anchor is vital.

Drew Frye

But has it actually happened to this anchor? One of the most important aspects of testing is to correlate results with field experience and in that regard, this is not a data point. As far as we know, the anchor was partially broken loose, but perhaps snagged and laying on its side. A freak occurrence during breakout. I’m not saying it can’t foul, I’m saying as scientists we should not be saying it can’t happen based on this type of report. It has never happened to me in the field with any anchor, and I’ve done a lot of 360s.

I really don’t pile chain on an anchor. I’m probably paranoid about this because I learned with Danforth and Northill anchors, and they don’t well tolerate sloppy technique. Dump chain on a Northil and it will foul 20% of the time, at least. I always wait for the boat to begin moving backwards, using engine if I must, and only then let the anchor touch the bottom. I’m pretty fanatical about this.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Your criteria for boat gear I have extended to inform my “pat” answer for boat choice: “I needed a boat that was much stronger and smarter than I am and that forgives a multitude of errors.”
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy 

Drew Frye

This photo (below link) shows an anchor that fouled simply by rotation. No chain dump. I think that confirms it can happen. Interestingly, the chain is NOT in the gap between the wings this time, but caught on a notch in the wings.

https://forums.ybw.com/index.php?attachments/img_5752-jpg.119708/

Interestingly, there are two Excel Fluke designs, and the notch it caught on is not present on both. I’m not sure which is the more recent design, but mine has that notch and the Excel posted above does not.

Kerri McHale

Hey, OP with the fouled anchor here. Since my original post did not contain a whole lot of info, I think there may be some assumptions being made here that I can at least help clarify somewhat, though I do agree that there are still plenty of variables that don’t allow us to definitely say just how the anchor was fouled — regardless, it definitely was fouled.

  • “Dumping the chain”: I think there may be some misunderstanding of how and when the chain was dumped — it was dumped twice after jumping the gyspy while raising the anchor, not while setting the anchor. We were anchored in about 11 fathoms at probably about 4-5 scope (don’t remember the scope exactly, but that’s typically what we’d do in a situation like this), using our usual anchoring technique of slowly reversing while letting out the rode in a straight line. No chain would have been piled on the anchor to begin with. The chain dumped only after most of the rode had already been raised while weighing anchor the next morning — due to a large amount of twist in the last lengths of it. During the dumping, it would have piled, likely, directly on top of the anchor (based on how much we’d already pulled in, I assume our bow was basically directly above the anchor), and there would have been no drag or movement during the dumps and subsequent retrievals— just a big pile of chain, piled on top of itself, raised again perfectly vertically, repeat. It’s possible that the snag could have happened then, but highly unlikely.
  • On that note, based on our scope, the way our anchor rode was laid, the weather, and the current, I don’t believe the anchor would have ever had the opportunity to reset. The current wasn’t that strong, and the weather was perfectly fair. At best, some length of rode would have dragged over the anchor during current change, but my guess is that the anchor itself never budged.
  • The chain hook with Dynema is not our snubber. We use a bridle-style three-strand snubber out of both side cleats (you can see it disengaged in the foreground of the photo), usually out about 20-30′. (Though I don’t remember what we did here — often in strong currents and fair weather, we actually keep it short enough to stay above the waterline, as it can cause some seriously irritating harmonics. It might have only been a few feet long that evening). That little Dyneema guy is just a tool that comes very much in handy in getting us out of any potential anchoring jams. (Here we were gunshy about dumping the chain twice already, so just wanted added insurance while we were un-fouling the anchor.)
  • The bottom at this anchorage isn’t well documented, but if I were to guess, mixed mud and rock and actually not a whole lot of vegetation on the bottom. I suspect most of what we picked up was dragged through by the current.
  • We’ve set this particular anchor maybe 50 times when we’ve gotten it, including in 45+ knot winds and significant wind waves. Maybe only 3-4 times max in any notable currents. Plenty of wind direction shifts, though. It has never snagged before, and it’s still never dragged.
Matt

A company that makes one good product can make others that are poor.

This seems an opportune time to remind everyone that virtually all niche-market, small-volume products are still, to a large degree, hand built. This is not automotive manufacturing, where everything that can possibly be automated is done robotically. A company that sells a couple thousand anchors a year will have some jigs and dies, but likely cannot afford a welding robot, and owning an X-ray system is probably out of the question.

Thus, even if the design is excellent and the prototypes sent out to reviewers all came back with stellar praise, the quality of any individual article is hugely dependent on the precise mental state of the person who happened to be holding the MIG torch at that exact minute.

In other industries, we solve that with automation. The master welder teaches the robot exactly what to do, and quality monitoring systems (which cost as much as the robot) make sure it got it right. Add integration, safety systems, etc. and you’re quickly spending a quarter-million, maybe a half-million dollars on one welding cell for one step of the process. That works nicely when you’re making 500,000 identical lower suspension arms for a Honda Civic; it’s much harder to manage when you’re making 1000 anchors in 7 different sizes.

Manufacturers need to acknowledge this. They need to understand the quality variations that come with human-in-the-loop manufacturing and build in the necessary safety margins to accommodate it, and to include the appropriate NDT on safety-critical items that can’t be assessed visually. Some do an excellent job, but it’s a very tricky thing to get right, particularly for a small shop that can’t afford a large staff of specialists.

Bill Attwood

Hi Matt,
Isn‘t the point that if you want something hand-built on which your life may depend, you should be willing to pay for it? Either that, or you accept your explanation above, which incidentally I found very enlightening.

Steve Goodwin

Coincidently, Just last week I had a self fouling event with an Aluminum Excel, during a test.

As per my normal test procedure, I deployed the anchor and chain somewhat haphazardly. This resulted in the chain wrapping around the end of the shank. The wrap remained in place throughout the test (veer in loose sand, successful) and retrieval. I believe the “wrap” would have sorted itself out if the Excel shank was not “enlarged” in the vicinity of the chain attach hole. I have a perfect photo of this and would be happy to post here if that is possible.

In another coincidence, two weeks ago I bent the shank of a stainless steel anchor (304L, plate) during my,180 degree reset test. I’ll keep the identity of this anchor secret until I post the corresponding video as this a new anchor (to me). For reference, this is only the second shank that I have bent out of 50 or so anchors. The other was a Fortress (aluminum), also during the 180 degree reset test.

Lastly,

John, regarding your statement:

there is no question that the galvanizing on Spade anchors is of poorer quality than that of many other manufacturers, probably most

I would characterize this differently. I believe the galvanizing itself is of good quality. The reason Spade galvanizing fails prematurely lies entirely with the fact that the galvanizing (zinc) is in close proximity with/touching a large mass of dissimilar metal (lead), both of which are immersed in an electrolyte (sea water) . It is my view that Steel Spade anchors “eat” their own galvanizing and there is very little that can be done about it. The application of paints, epoxies, or other products that attempt to isolate the lead from the salt water, will be temporary, at best.

Steve
SV Panope

Dick Stevenson

Hi John, Alex and all,
Spade has been a good company to deal with. My first Spade anchor lost its galvanizing after 6+ years of pretty hard use. My memory is that the galvanizing was scraped away at all the places where the anchor met the seabed.
My second Spade is now 5-6 years old and has seen a lot of sea bottoms and the galvanizing is holding up well.
Rust stains were not a problem on the deck, again from memory, as the rust was mostly at the tip and the outer edges which hang out over the water (ie. No rust on the shaft).
Spade also reported having a “kit” to address the rust issue, but I have not used this product on my first Spade which replaced my Luke in the bilge as spare anchor. It would be nice to have a report on this product.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Evan Effa

Spade no longer provides the kit to re-coat the anchor. See my comments about Zinga above. I’m very impressed with this solution.

-evan

Steve Goodwin

Here is the Aluminum Excel after retrieval. Video footage confirmed this wrap occurred during (haphazard) deployment.

Fouled Chain Alum Excel.png
Steve Goodwin

Here is a close-up of my 5 year old 45lb Spade. This anchor has only been in the water for a total of perhaps 1 or 2 months. It did live on Panope’s bow for a total of about 3 years and received frequent salt spray baths (hard sailing). Note the rusting at the interface between the lead and Steel.

P1170387 Resize.jpg
Steve Goodwin

Close-up of steel near the lead ballast.

P1170390 Resize.jpg
Steve Goodwin

Galvanizing failure is ONLY occurring near the lead. Elsewhere, the galvanizing is perfect – even along the leading edges/toe.

P1170396 Resize.jpg
Matt

That kind of rust / deterioration of the galvanizing is just normal wear and tear. It can be minimized with a better choice of base steel alloy and better control of the galvanizing process (in particular, by trying to produce thicker delta-phase intermetallics, 90% Zn / 10% Fe, at the bond with the base steel). A forging or machining step to put more of a fillet radius on the corners also helps. But galvanizing – like any coating – is sacrificial and is not expected to survive indefinitely.

Steve Goodwin

John, I see what you mean. Perhaps there has been some variation in the galvanizing quality over the years. Perhaps we are both correct in our somewhat different assessments.

Evan Effa

Hi Steve,

Thanks for all your great and invaluable testing. I’ve had Zinga on my Spade for a couple of seasons now and it seems to have solved the cosmetic rusting issues for us.

-evan

Steve Goodwin

Hi John,

I believe that the Spade galvanizing (zinc) is acting exactly like the “zincs” on our boat hulls – the galvanizing is sacrificing itself to the more noble metal. Like a “zinc” this process can indeed occur over considerable distance, certainly within the length of the anchor.

Make no mistake, I love spade anchors. They are a truly fantastic (albeit, not everlasting) design.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Steve, My first Spade looked like that and Spade replaced it. I always considered it bad galvanizing as (from memory this was 8-10 years ago now) the rust was in the places that got the most wear. I also considered it cosmetic as I took the old Spade, scraped and brushed the rust off, and put it in the bilge as I considered it a better (and much easier to use) spare anchor than my Luke.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Evan Effa

I agree.

I think it’s a combination of an inadequate amount of zinc in the initial galvanizing and the dissimilar metal effect eating the galvanizing away.

The Zinga treatment effectively addresses both issues and makes rust prevention and maintenance pretty easy to manage.

Reed Erskine

White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos: shallow grassy sand bottom. I had the same experience: frontal passage, many boats dragging. I had my Rocna 25 set in a sand patch and stayed put. A neighboring boat dragging past, started his engine when a towel he had drying on a lifeline blew off and got sucked into his prop. White Sound is often crowded and looks more secure than it really is. 16 years cruising with the big Rocna on a J42 (big anchor, small boat) no dragging.

Lee Corwin

My experience is the same as Reed in Windwards and Leewards but not in the Chesapeake. There, in the loose mud we have dragged. Find it unfortunate some boats now come with a single roller. We had two. Ran the Rocna on a all chain ride as our primary. But had a fortress that was simple to,deploy off the second roller when necessary. Many of these anchor discussions are looking for the impossible imho. A single type of anchor that does it all.

Marc Dacey

I would concur. We have a triple roller at the bow (but functionally only use two), one with a Spade on all-chain and the the other with a Fortress on chain rode for the rather simple reason that while the Spade has held in every situation thrown at it, it does, as discussed here, less well in certain bottoms in which the Fortress may be expected to do better. Besides, the Fortress is, like its Danforth cousin, an easy choice for a lunch hook in sheltered surroundings and benign weather.

The few times we’ve put the Spade down as a lunch hook, retrieval took longer than lunch!

David Steele

Hi John, we’ve had our Excel for about 1 year now, and since we cruise full time and live on the hook in various locations (currently in Puget Sound waiting for Canada to open their border) we’ve had lots of opportunities to test our new anchor. I’m thrilled with it for lots of reasons (it replaced a Rocna Vulcan) but I did have two incidents of the chain being wrapped around the anchor when raising it. I speculate a couple of reasons for that- 1) It’s oversized, big and heavy as I agree with your past advice that when crusing and depending upon your anchor, your primary bower should also be your storm anchor. I can easily imagine that it doesn’t get buried deep enough for the chain to pass over it, especially the shank, combined with 2) the phenomenon of the chain getting buried in the mud, which becomes the new pivot point/anchoring point, then when the wind kicks up and the boat yanks the chain out of the mud, a bight (loop) is created that ends up going under the shank and prevents resetting, then any further swings create more wraps around the anchor rather than resetting it, or raising the anchor when it’s set backwards might do that. Just a theory, but thankfully this anchor has never dragged, even when fouled.

john stanley

Hi John and all,

I am currently using the sarca no 5 galvanised anchor and have a different shackle arrangement to the ones that have the chain rap problems. I have fitted the biggest D shackle (16mm lifting) to the anchor with the pin through the anchor stock with spacer washers to take any twist risk away. (Similar to the original CQR fitting)
Onto this is a second smaller bow shackle with the pin through the chain. So far there has been no wrap problems, and does not suffer from side loading.
As far as resetting after wind or tide shifts I tend to drop my second (large fortress) at 180 degrees from the main anchor from the bow

John

SV Brown Bear

2FFE44B0-EF2A-445D-932A-7DAE195D2899.jpeg
Drew Frye

Interestingly, I hear that a lot (bow through slot for better alignment). But CQR, every ship anchor, and much industrial rigging is done the other way, with the pin through a drilled hole, and the shackle side loaded, and engineered for that reduction in strength. I’ve searched but never found an explaination of why. There is one, I’m sure. I’ve always thought It might be related to tangling, but it might just be because the engineering evaluation is less complex.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Reading of the Zinga “cold galvanizing” I got curious and consumed their website (https://www.zinga.eu/). Seems to be an impressive product for all sort of steel surfaces, and again it has the advantage that the yacht industry is just a by-market as Zinga targets the bigger steel industry, like pipes, bridges and the like. So their processes are controlled and certified.
Being curious I sent an inquiry if Zinga would be suitable as a primer for a steel underwater hull, and they confirmed that it should work after sandblasting to SA 2.5, actually they offer a specialized product (Zinga PW) for offshore hulls (I believe they mean the big boys). Does by chance anyone here have experience with Zinga for the underwater area of a steel hull?

Urs Huber

according to their Aquazinga product description, it seems to be the same (chemically) as the Metagrip zinc coating which was used (and still beeing sold) by the META boatyard in France.
It was used on their Damien II and other steel boats in the 1970-ies and 80-ies.
They not only promoted it as a corrosion inhibitor, but also as a antifouling.
However the antifouling properties are somewhat limited – especially in high growth areas.

Hans Hinrich Böbs

Hi Ernest,
I can share my experience with META-grip on the steel hull of my boat Snowball:
Sandblasted UW and immediately coated with Meta as per instructions. After one season a multitude of little brown dimples appeared. Sanded over and applied another two coats of Meta (which basically is pure zinc, supposedly working as one big sacrificial anode.) After next season the main problem was exzessive fouling. I don’t quite remember if the dimples were gone or not, but it was very clear that the antifouling properties of the stuff were grossly insufficient. Can antifouling paint be applied to zinc ? No, not directly. One has to isolate the the zinc from the copper in the AF. To get a suitable epoxy coating to adhere is not easy also because first you have to alter the ph-value of your zinc surface which can be done with citric acid if memory serves. I did all that and now the corrosion problems were back. You can imagine how fed up I was. After only 3 seasons I decided to put an end to this zinc business, had her blasted again, applied a good epoxy system and all is well for 6 or 7 seasons already. Note that Snowball lives in the Baltic (lot of growth pressure here) with regular outings into North Sea, English Channel, Azores.
My advice: stay clear of that stuff!

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Thanks a lot for your experiences – I believe I’ll stay clear of this product line, for the hull (maybe not for the anchor)

Hans Hinrich Böbs

Yes, of course that doesn’t say it’s not a good idea to use it on the anchor, in fact I will do exactly that if I can find some leftovers.

Terence Thatcher

At the inner anchorage at Hiva Oa, Marquesas, (went in to avoid the rollers roiling the outer anchorage) I had a serious fouling with my Spade–I don’t have a picture and don’t recall the exact chain around anchor arrangement. It is a cramped place, crowded with boats (some seemingly all but abandoned), with flukey, light winds and the inflow and outflow of tide. We sailed around the anchor all night, probably dragging the chain around and around the anchor, and in the morning it was all wrapped up. I am very cautious on anchoring, but I chaulked it up to operator error or a bottom the Spade did not grab, despite my conviction upon backing down that we were well hooked. It is the only time the Spade failed us–and it may have been I that failed, I don’t know. But had the wind blown, we would have been in jeopardy. That confirms my experience that calm anchorages can cause trouble and walking around an anchor in lazy circles leads to problems. Give me a windy anchorage (without fetch) any day.

Claiborne Dingledine

I would like to share my experience with Spade anchors three years ago. I acquired a 36’ Columbia (12,000 lbs displacement). The boat came with a Delta anchor and 200’ chain. I had had a Rocna on my previous boat and loved it- so I wanted to upgrade to a modern style anchor. I researched and Spade seemed like the best choice. I bought one (I can’t remember the size, but it fit the recommendations from Spade).

In the first couple of months I experienced a blow of 50 kts. I had 120’ of chain out in 17’ of water and the anchor dragged (sand bottom- I’m in the Chesapeake bay). An unpleasant experience. I called spade to discuss the incident and I expressed that I would like to size up my anchor to prevent that from happening again. They generously swapped my anchor for a size up for free. I was very pleased.

My first time out with the new anchor I anchored for two nights in mild weather (maybe gusts to 15-20) again in the Chesapeake Bay. Everything seemed fine. When I went to weigh the anchor something very strange happened. The only thing attached to the end of the chain was the shank. The fluke was nowhere to be found. Interestingly the bolt that holds the fluke to the shank was still in the shank, and I could see the shear where it had broken. Again I called Spade and said, listen you guys have an excellent reputation and customer service has been great- but I’m going back to a Rocna! They gave me a full refund. I shipped the fluke and sheared bolt back to them for investigation and have been happy with my oversized Rocna since. I have never shared that story publicly because it seemed like a total anomaly- but your article inspired me to.

One point of discussion between me and Spade was that perhaps I overtightened that bolt/nut. That may be true and that may be why the bolt failed. But I am no stranger to mechanics and rigging and tightening metal fasteners with some finesse. I used a torque that felt appropriate to me (not too much, and too little)- maybe “elbow tight”. I reasoned that if I couldn’t assemble the anchor intuitively then I should just own a single-piece anchor.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

Claiborne Dingledine

Unfortunately I can’t remember who I was dealing with at Spade. It was roughly 4 years ago now. My email search came up dry…

Stein Varjord

Hi Claiborne and John,

I have no inside info on this topic, but my thoughts:
As we all know, any bolt can be overtorqued to destruction, but if the bolt is of a quality level it should be in this case, that takes really excessive force and it’s quite unlikely that the bolt itself shears off. Normally the threads should struggle, and if they keep up, the fracture is normally where the treads end.

More likely is that the bolt had a production failure or was of generally very low quality. This is quite normal these days, when Chinese stainless bolts etc, are flooding the market. Most consumers and many others think shiny items with the word “stainless” = super strong. I’ve experienced bolt strength similar to brass… I’ve also in a boat shop found a brand new 8mm stainless bolt that had broken into two pieces by just being kept in the bolt tray. Looked like a casting fault.

A manufacturer like Spade should be acutely aware of this problem and only use bolts from proven sources. Even then faulty items can sneak in. The aerospace industry is an example of this. They have super strict rules and quality control procedures. Still planes fail due to the wrong parts being used. Sometimes due to intentional fraud, but mostly just a mistake.

The question here then is how the most likely inferior bolt got into the product. I’m sure Spade has at least some employees with a very good understanding of this and most other relevant topics, and that these persons want the product to be good. My guess is that somebody further down in the system messed it up by putting inferior bolts in the package. These persons probably also did it in good faith, albeit with the normal misplaced trust in the word “stainless”.

The only way to avoid such things is to make sure everybody related to the product are aware of every issue that can lead to this or any other problem. Quality control on every single item leaving the company probably isn’t possible, but some sort of a system for QC of all parts is necessary.

Big companies have that in place. Spade is a small company. I don’t know how small, but I assume they have some degree of the family business syndromes. Much is like it is just because that’s how it happened to be done first time. There’s never enough resources to reshape the processes to perfection. They may have outsourced some of them to save money or increase capacity.

I hope, and believe, that some interest from AAC could be a wonderful opportunity for them to clarify these issues, to us, but more importantly to themselves.
Also, when I buy a Spade, which I still will, I will change that bolt into one I know for sure has the strength it should have. A very cheap way to get good sleep.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
Good points. I agree. I had especially not thought about the fact that the bolt should not be torqued at all. An important point to to make unmissable to any user.

I also think a cool solution could be to change the design slightly, as suggested by another participant here:
If the shank is inserted from the other side of the fluke and is bigger at that end, loosing the bolt would mean nothing. The fluke could not come off the shank any other way than up the chain.

Since the shank is already conical the right way, this development could perhaps be easy and not change anything in the function or balance of the anchor? I would even guess it could simplify the welding process slightly as the shank might get a less compounded shape? Maybe even stronger? A bolt would probably still be useful in some rare no load cases, but whatever fault it would have could never become a reason for worry. Good for marketing too?

Evan Effa

This thread has several sub topics, one of which is the propensity for SPADE galvanized anchors to rust.

I suspect that the problem is that the SPADE has a relatively thin galvanizing treatment and with the lead in the tip, turns the galvanizing zinc into an active sacrificial anode, hastening the rust.

We have had a SPADE S120 galvanized steel anchor for over 5 years now. After a few seasons of excellent performance with many sets up and down the West Coast of BC and Alaska, we were starting to see a lot of rust forming on the shank and the fluke.

I called SPADE and they offered me a 25% discount on a stainless steel version of the S120. They no longer provide the re-coating kits that have had mixed reviews.So, I thought I would see what I could do myself.

I first tried cold spray can galvanizing paint which was next to useless as it would not stand up to the abrasion.

I stripped the anchor down to bare steel and tried POR-15 following their instructions very closely. This was worse than useless as the anchor rusted quicker than before.

The prospect of melting out the lead to get it re-galvanized was not something I wanted to try myself and was concerned that even I shipped it away tot he mainland for a new hot dip galvanizing treatment, it might not last many seasons before I needed to do it again.?

I thought, forget it then…I will just get a Sarca Excel and sell the SPADE. I bought a Sarca Excel #5 and thought I would try sandblasting the Spade and re-galvanizing it before selling it.

I met a fellow at the do-it-yourself sandblasting place downtown who had a home made anchor that was at least 10 years old. It showed virtually no rust. He told me he had treated it with Zinga with great success.

I thought, why not, I will try that and then sell it.

I treated the anchor to several coats of Zinga and put it aside to sell.

In the meantime we had been using the Excel and had a few surprising episodes where the Excel failed to set in 2 or 3 attempts, in places the SPADE had never had any trouble setting. My wife became very distrustful of the Excel and asked me to put the SPADE back in service. (It’s possible that our use of a larger Mantus swivel messes up the Excel weighting? I tried using regular shackles but found they often hang up on our bow roller making launching and retrieval a pain.)

We put the Zinga treated SPADE back in service and are very happy with it.

We have been using the SPADE with the Zinga galvanizing treatment on it for over a year now (~ 50 – 60 sets). Apart from the very occasional touchup along some of the leading edges, the anchor has remained pretty much rust-free.

I feel that I now have the ability to easily maintain the anchor to keep it rust-free without having to send it off or take it out of service. The Zinga stays usable in the can and is still good to use despite having been stored in my boathouse through all 4 seasons.

I have put a gallery of pictures together to document this. You can find them here:

https://eheffa.zenfolio.com/anchorpics

-evan

Steven Bibula

I have purchased a 23 lb XYZ anchor http://xyzanchor.com/specification/, and I look forward to testing it (late autumn, when we are done with extended refit); I will try to remember to report results. The designer claims that his anchor represents a holding, resetting and scope reduction-breakthrough by relying upon fluke area, a short shank and other design elements such as sharp leading edges, thereby eliminating the need for extra tip weight common in all third generation anchors. He insists this anchor is overkill for my 25,000 lb displacement, that the XYZ will reset within its own length and that he has had chain break before the XYZ drags. We shall see, but by a blow of the eye his design looks right, and if it performs, it will offer much-reduced weight where that really counts.

Fabrication is in process for two bow roller assemblies, each specifically engineered to house either the XYZ or the SPADE 120.

Brian Russell

Regarding Rocna anchor’s failure to quickly reset in a 180˙ wind shift on a mud bottom: I had the pleasure of spending some time recently with Peter Smith, designer of the Rocna, while we were both berthed on the wall in Horta. I expressed my concerns about this issue, having experienced it twice in the muddy Chesapeake. our boat is 13.4m, 18T, has high windage and we have a 33kg Rocna. Peter agrees that this is a diffiuclt condition for the Rocna and recommended raising the anchor to clear the mud ball, then resetting. Not the best solution, but one that will work- if one happens to be onboard! His other advice was to gently set the anchor using at least 5:1 scope, even if shortening scope subsequently due to swing restrictions. This tallies with Mr. Harries advice in the article here on AAC. Peter also showed me some galvanizing repairs he had done using “inorganic zinc silicate”-not sure if this is what Zinga is made from, but he was having good success with it. By the way, his boat is quite amazing-I thought my alloy Dix 43 was a battleship, but KiwiRoa takes the prize.
We are currently cruising the west coast of Scotland-lots of challenging conditions, including very strong tidal streams, brisk winds and kelp. Fortunately the Clyde Cruising Club Guides and the Antares charts are brilliant at leading us to good places to anchor, so no real issues, yet. I am using an anchor trip line and float every time we anchor, which is working well. I hae a 1kg lead weight on the end of the trip line, which runs through an Antal slip ring attached to the float eye. The weight sinks down and keeps the tripline taut and, so far, has prevented any foukling of the anchor.

Norway next year!

Hold Fast-
Brian on SV Helacious