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Thread: Pros/cons of all chain

  1. #1
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    Default Pros/cons of all chain

    A common old question I know, I’ve read thru past threads but still not sure.

    Snoose is 28,000 lbs, 37’, narrow and deep, not a lot of windage. She currently carries a 45 lb CQR with 50’ of chain and 300’ of nylon, there is an electric windlass. In 15 years I cannot recall ever dragging or ever having trouble setting. Honest. And we anchor a lot, she’s no marina queen. So, I guess ‘it ain’t broke’. One consideration for more chain is that in a crowded harbor, we seem to need more swinging room than boats with all chain.

    However, our cruising around here and the San Juans and lower Gulf Islands is generally in pretty easy anchorages. Now that we are both retired we will start venturing farther north which means more rock and deeper sets, sometimes with stern ties to shore. Plus the existing chain is starting to look a little tired.

    So the dilemma is to just regalvanize and carefully inspect the existing system, or to add more or all chain. Weight, storage and expense are all considerations, but not deal breakers. So what do we think, is more chain always better?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    All chain and a bit of scope makes for a good nights sleep

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Folks who have extensively researched this point out that, for pleasure craft, a relatively short length of chain is all that's necessary to do the job intended: maintain horizontal pull on the anchor. Yes, the all-chain rode is a sacred thing, and it certainly is worth considering things like sharp coral heads and so forth, but the chain catenary of legend isn't the magical thing that most folks believe it to be.

    One way to think of it is that every foot of chain suspended between the boat and the bottom is not benefiting you at all because it isn't holding the anchor flat to the seabed; it isn't doing anything that a nylon rode doesn't do. Since it is extremely unusual to see boats really anchoring with a 5:1 or 6:1 scope...it's usually 2:1 or 3:1...that suspended chain is being wasted and is, in fact, costing you simply because you're carrying all that extra weight forward.

    For large commercial ships, there is no doubt that the tremendous weight of that enormous stud link chain is an important part of holding the ship in place. After all, those gigantic navy-style anchors aren't using their flukes at all that way that we little guys use ours.

    I don't at all disagree with what Paul says above; I was raised with all chain and it does feel safer, but the science differs from my intuition.
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Use an Angel or 2.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    What you have will be hard to beat.
    It sounds perfect...
    Even with all chain it seems unlikely you will have more "on the ground".
    Overhaul it, regalvanize it and replace the nylon with a premium grade. I would splice it to the chain and sew through the splice with monel wire.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I've always used all-chain and prefer it for peace of mind, but I acknowledge that the science doesn't show any real advantage for it:

    http://www.petersmith.net.nz/boat-anchors/catenary.php

    Also angels/kellets don't do anything either:

    http://www.petersmith.net.nz/boat-anchors/kellets.php

    However just from familiarity and also for the convenience of hauling the entire rode on a wildcat without having to switch, I still like all-chain.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    All chain rides up nicely on the gypsy without you having to do anything but push the winch button. I disagree with the Comms ts above a out much of the chain being useless. When it blows hard, and your chain starts to get more like horizontal, it's doing plenty, from the stem fitting right down to the anchor. The longer your chain, the less chance of pulling the stock up off the seabed, and therefor the less chance of pulling your anchor out and dragging.

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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    ...However just from familiarity and also for the convenience of hauling the entire rode on a wildcat without having to switch, I still like all-chain.
    Yup, that's where I was coming from...until this old girl introduced me to some new equipment....

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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    As Phil Y says. The weight of chain in an all chain rode or the use of a kellet creates resilience in the mooring. It allows the boat to come and go in waves rather than lifting the anchor when a neutrally buoyant line tightens. Nylon is elastic and so provides the same soft motion at the boat, but without enough chain on the bottom can cause the anchor to lift when it goes tight.
    Where the oil industry uses a combination chain /wire mooring they try to ensure half and half for the scope.
    As your arrangement works, do not fix it.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post

    However just from familiarity and also for the convenience of hauling the entire rode on a wildcat without having to switch, I still like all-chain.
    Chris, don’t you have a drum on deck like Sabre’s? My wildcat has a groove that is suppose to pull the nylon but it doesn’t. There is a line drum on the other side but switching it is not fun and seems a potential time for accidents involving fingers. Around here in shallow anchorages I usually just pull the line by hand until the chain can be draped over the wildcat. But in depths over 50’, that isn’t going to work.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    As you say, your equipment and technique has always been fine. Don't fix what ain't broke....
    I have used both or all....all chain, chain and wire, chain and rope. For smaller boats I prefer rope and chain, as I can easily shorten up hand over hand with the rope and then use the windlass to break out and bring it home.
    For a boat like yours I really like those deck mounted storage winch like the one shown on the fish boat. In the smaller sizes there may not be enough storage for 250 ft of chain, I would probably chose chain and wire.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Don't fix what ain't broke...
    But it isn't "not broken", as he's describing it: he's asking about a new situation with deeper anchorages.

    I dunno, Ron. I agree that there's a lot of merit to not having to shift it off the wildcat when you get to the fiber/chain splice. However, I wouldn't want that much weight forward, and I wouldn't want to fight with that much weight while anchoring. If the weather turns dirty, you're still going to want 7:1, so it isn't like you're going to be able to carry less rode, it'll just be a hell of a lot heavier rode that you don't always use --but even the part you *do* use, if you're setting short scope in a tight anchorage, will be a lot more work to get in and out. And I'm not convinced that anchoring on all-chain with short scope is a good trade off, for safety.

    I don't use any chain, myself (no, I don't want to get into that philosophical brawl here), but the times I've been aboard boats that use all chain rodes it has seemed a mixed blessing at best. Even to how it drops into the chain locker, when if it doesn't have room to spread out it can "castle" and then jam later, it takes a different approach.

    If you wanted the best (or worst) of both worlds, can you get a sense of what bare minimum of chain you would need to carry, in your ideal anchorages, to anchor short-scope --say, 150'-- and then have all the rest nylon, so that in good weather you can anchor short-scope, and then fall back to a mixed chain/nylon rode if you needed or wanted to anchor 7:1?

    And a side note: would there be any merit --or financial advantage (good chain isn't cheap)-- to changing out the wildcat with a rope groove that doesn't work to a wildcat with a rope groove that *does* work?

    Alex

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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Quote Originally Posted by ron ll View Post
    Chris, don’t you have a drum on deck like Sabre’s? My wildcat has a groove that is suppose to pull the nylon but it doesn’t. There is a line drum on the other side but switching it is not fun and seems a potential time for accidents involving fingers. Around here in shallow anchorages I usually just pull the line by hand until the chain can be draped over the wildcat. But in depths over 50’, that isn’t going to work.
    Petrel had an on-deck winch with cable rode and a 65lb Forfjord anchor but I've never used that setup because the hydraulic pump is frozen solid and needs to be rebuilt or replaced. The whole thing is sitting in my shop right now and Petrel has a Danforth and rope rode aboard. I may end up ditching the anchor winch entirely given how I think we will be using Petrel for the next few years.

    No, I was talking about anchoring Savona. She has all-chain rode and a Danforth-style anchor. Using that setup was very confidence-inspiring and convenient. Push the button to raise the anchor, no fuss. I never had any problem with it dragging and I almost never used more than 3:1 scope. But now that I think about it, we actually had a rope rode on Temptation, the 30' Chris Craft we cruised a few times after Tory and I got married. That worked fine as well. No windlass at all though so we used a Fortress aluminum anchor. The whole setup - rode, anchor and all - couldn't have weighed more than 30lbs or so, which made it easy to pull by hand.

    I started out thinking that you should keep the setup you have on Snoose. Chain is expensive and heavy. And while there may or may not be any absolute benefit to all chain I've never heard of anyone having problems with mixed rope and chain. If the anchor is dragging the first things I would look at are the bottom composition (and anchor performance on that bottom) and the scope, not the rode. Well, actually first I would re-set the anchor. Probably at 3:00 am. In my PJs. In a rising gale. With a lee shore looming somewhere in the dark...

    However your description of the challenges of hauling the anchor with the mixed-rope-and-chain wildcat make me think again. I've never had to do that so I don't know how well it works in general. I'd say that if you can solve that problem so that the windlass will work for the entire rode then what you have is fine. Maybe a different wildcat? One better sized to the rope diameter?

    Here's an old thread that goes into that question in some detail:

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...ll-me-for-sure

    Bottom line, the convenience of being able to haul the entire rode with the windlass would be the most important factor for me. That alone would be worth switching to chain if you can't make it work with rope and chain. Or just go full-fishing-boat and get an on-deck winch and cable. One advantage of that setup is that you can carry a LOT of rode, which would be nice if you have to anchor in very deep water. The Kolstrand 12 x 14 winch has a capacity of up to 600' of 3/8 cable. About $4,000 though, even without the pump and rode:



    http://www.kolstrand.com/kolstrand-1...aaw12d14w-300/

    Also in searching around for real info on chain-vs-rope performance I found this company:

    http://wachain.com/

    which has a very impressive catalog of interesting ground tackle items:

    http://wachain.com/wp-content/themes...es/catalog.pdf

    Not sure any of it is useful to little boats like Snoose and Petrel but it's still an interesting read.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    And a side note: would there be any merit --or financial advantage (good chain isn't cheap)-- to changing out the wildcat with a rope groove that doesn't work to a wildcat with a rope groove that *does* work?
    I agree with Alex here. I think this is the first thing to try. Seems like if you can make what you have work better that's going to be the easiest option.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Having larger cruising boats I have all options. Well, not wire. But all chain, nylon with a boatlength of chain, and all nylon.

    The latter is what I use for kedging off. I hang the hook over the stern held by a slippery hitch under one foot and the rode loaded in the dink. That rows and pays out easily and when the last of the rode disappears I just let the hook loose as I row on.

    Marmalade did not have an all chain rode - no gypsey windlass. Meg and my other schooners it's a 45# CQR with all chain that's primary. I like the weight in chain rather than trimming ballast. This fits with my preferred anchoring method of drifting (power or sail) down wind (or down current if that's stronger) putting the hook where I want it, paying out chain to lay it on the bottom with one hand on the brake, and tighten up when the amount of chain that's run is five or six times the depth. The cantery ensures that I won't shock the anchor into skittering across the top of things and I'll feel a good firm grab when the boat puts her tonnage on and rounds up. With that sort of set, I can confidently shorten scope if needed.

    One winkle: I have a combination marker/tripline for this hook. I select which one in advance the goal being to have a line that's a bit longer than the depth but not longer than twice the depth. I've a small buoy (labeled "TRIP LINE, DO NOT PICK UP") and the line runs freely through a shackle under the buoy. One end of the line, yellow polypropolene is grand for this) is attached to the anchor crown. The other is attached to a short bit of chain. It will naturally arrange itself directly over the set anchor because the weight of the bit of chain ensures that the run from anchor to buoy is straight up . It's easy to deploy. Having gotten the hook "at the dangle", I get the chain end of the trip line up by the buoy and coil it. Then, drifting down wind usually on a very broad starboard reach as the anchor leads of that side, I toss the bouy straight out abeam and start the anchor going down. By the time the anchor is on the bottom and that bit of chain under the buoy is free to start it's descent and thus pull the buoy right over the anchor, we've gone past it. I've never had a problem with the buoy being pulled into the boat, much less getting tangled in a prop. That gives me an easy reference as to where the hook actually is.

    Trip lines are nice for many reasons. Even in clay/muck the hook can set so deeply that just getting up-and-down and worrying things out with the boat surging is much harder than just grabbing the trip and pulling it out backwards.

    Speaking of muck - Chain brings up much muck. I used to have a "Davis Gunk Buster" that I cannot find on the market now.



    Guess I'll go back to the homemade like


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    Default

    I have, throughout my life, anchored in up to 400 feet of water ( sand bottom) using nylon and a boat's length of chain; generally streaming about 4:1 scope... though sometimes more. This in the ocean in seas to six feet.

    I am not making the case against all chain-- not having ever used it, I cannot. I am simply making the case for a combination rode.

    Another aspect I would consider is the additional weight of an all chain rode. The pictures you post of your lovely vessel show me that she can probably carry the load, but consider that if all that weight is way forward, trim COULD be adversely affected.

    Kevin


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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I’m leaning heavily toward keeping my current configuration and just renewing parts that need it. For instance, what about swapping my three strand nylon end for end? I’ve only really used about the first 100’ of a 300’ length. And I’ll check into either regalvanizing my chain or buying new. IIRC, my existing chain is an oddball orphaned link size that happens to fit the wildcat. So new chain means new wildcat and hopefully one that also works with the nylon rode.

    So while we’re at it, what’s the difference between wildcat and gypsy? Any?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    A case against all chain in deep (over 100') water is simple weight.

    The main advantages for all chain on normal size cruising boats - say more than 5 tons, mostly 10T-20T - is that the windlass does all the work, it's all neatly self-stowing, and you do away with most chafe problems.

    It used to be that chain was viewed as wonderful for southern cruisers because coral could not hurt it. But because all chain is so destructive to coral, the proliferation of cruisers has led to various anchoring and mooring regs.

    We see a variation up here where an all chain rode under a gently swinging boat can basicly rototill a previously productive biomass.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I doubt it is an orphaned link size, but probably BBB links, designed to run well over a windlass or wildcat. It is good stuff if that, and it is likely old enough to be made in USA almost all chain today is made in China. There are many "standard" chain sizes. The better grades are often a bit obscure but often very good (expensive) chain.
    I would overhaul every inch of it and if it is good have it regalvanized. It is unlikely that it's worn out. Use a caliper and check it out.

    Search >BBB chain sizing > https://www.1st-chainsupply.com/FAQ/faq_windlass.html

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I'll toss out a middle of the road (pun intended) idea: Make it 100 ft. of chain & the rest nylon. That's what I currently have on board & do as you do - pull the nylon by hand & drop the chain on the windlass when I get to it. This has been completely tolerable in 80 ft. anchorages.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I am an all chain person. Mirelle came to me with 45 fathoms of 7/16” chain and a 35lbs CQR and in 28 years the only change I made was to go to a 45lbs CQR. But she has a magnificent Reid’s of Paisley manual windlass. Sunbeam has an SL 555 manual windlass and I am just replacing the 15 fathoms of 10mm chain with 30 of 8mm chain.
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    ron II

    Leave it as is in my opinion.
    Clean it up, regalvanize, but have a metallurgist survey it first.

    Fair winds

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    I'll toss out a middle of the road (pun intended) idea: Make it 100 ft. of chain & the rest nylon. That's what I currently have on board & do as you do - pull the nylon by hand & drop the chain on the windlass when I get to it. This has been completely tolerable in 80 ft. anchorages.

    That's the set up I use: about 100 plus feet of chain and then nylon. Seems to work well
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain



    I just acquired this piece of Scottish engineering on eBay... it’s missing the two lead weights that fit over the eyebolt. But it slides down the chain nicely.

    i think probably chain on the bottom in calm conditions and nylon up to the surface would be good.
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 07-07-2018 at 03:34 PM.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I find the decision making process easier when you consider the worst likely scenario. For example ,We held in the sub tropical low that went through at Christmas. Many boats did not. Some were chain and rope, some had dud anchors , and some were just plain short on total chain. Various mixes of the above.
    But we held with our small but good anchor and about 70 metres of chain out. On my list is new chain and my decision is about whether it's 80 or 100 metres. Maybe it'll be 90.
    It's not about what you can get away with in everyday situations, it's about whether it's right when it hits the fan.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Couldn’t agree more with John B

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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Yes, just to be clear ,I can't really comment on a cruising area I don't know and a boat I don't know. Here for example we typically anchor in about 5 or 6 metres of water on sand or mud and well away from rock. But some areas are coming under pressure and the only way to get away from the bunnies who come in late and anchor on top of other people ( especially when a storm is coming) is to go out a bit further . All of a sudden you're anchoring in 15 or 20 metres and the goalposts shift. Thats what happened to us at christmas, we had to shift away from Beatrix Potter/ Watership downs and go deep.
    And then when it howls like a banshee at 1 am and the boat takes on a 10 or 15 degree list in the gusts, and its pitch black even without the water thats being picked up and rolled on past, thats when you really really hope that you've prepared properly and she'll hold. If I said there were 30 or 40 instances of boats dragging around us that night I would say that could be give or take 10 %. Most of that was 5 or 6 repeat offenders with bad gear.
    Dressed really nicely in very expensive wet jackets etc, just no chain or crappy anchors, or both.

    side note . You have to have chain in the tropics because coral will eat rope.You run the very strong risk of finding yourself adrift in the night inside an atoll and surrounded mostly by reef, and you cannot generally move in the night because its all sight navigation. Rope rode is just not an option.

    side note #2 , Peter Smith is a clever experienced man who I respect, but I just don't get his attitude over kellets/ angels/ anchor buddies. If I recall what he wrote and I read some years ago correctly ,he felt that an angel doesn't help at all in an ultimate holding situation.
    What I think is that it seldom is an ultimate holding situation but that there are plenty of times a weight on a warp or chain helps snub/ dampen action , and it definitely , most definitely ,reduces yaw. Therefore it reduces stress in the gusts. Its not the solid air that breaks you out , its the gust to 30 or 40 that comes over the hill from 50 or 90 degrees from where you're pointing, An angel dampens that hit . Thats the reality of most anchoring issues in bays, the screaming gust that comes in over the side and sends you off to the limit of your scope at a couple or more knots.
    The biggest danger with an Angel is that its extra . It is something else you have to get up when or if you do drag, and having experienced a few emergency departures in front of Beatrix^ that does make me nervous. ( Perhaps thats one of PS' criticisms too?) But that's a call for each situation .
    Last edited by John B; 07-08-2018 at 05:35 PM.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    We have been using 100 ft off chain, with the ability to add 200 ft. of nylon. Almost all of the time, the chain is sufficient, with the advantage of self-stowing, plus shortened scope, We rarely see more than 25 ft. or so of anchoring depth, however. I would say the local conditions vary so much it is impossible to make a blanket judgement.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    On ships I have had 10-12 shackles/shots of chain draw out bar tight, on a number of occasions. a shackle / shot is 15 fathoms or 90 feet. you see the chain stretching from the hawse pipe to disappear into the water perhaps 300 feet ahead. there is some real strong force there.
    With smaller yachts I typically try to anchor in 20 to 30 feet of water but have occasionally ended up dropping the hook in up to about 100 feet of water.mostly due to other boats and needed swinging room.This latter was when I was cruising in a 45 ft motor vessel. I carried 350 ft 0f primary anchor rode and a second 300 ft of additional rode,on aa self stowing reel as per the photo of the fishing boat.

    I now carry 35 feet of chain, two lengths of nylon rode, each ~150 ft long and then two spare each ~100' My primary anchor is a Rocna 15, and the second is a 25lb Danforth. I have never had either of them drag, ever....I have had CQR anchors drag a number of times. I have used tandem anchors on several occasions when I expected a major blow. I am not sure I needed the two...I never saw any evidence I dragged the first. With nylon you need to guard against chafe. I sleeve my rode with garden hose amd rags, in way of cafe points and have never had visible damage.....

    I have once had my nylon rode severed by a propeller of careless yachty who passed too close ahead.

    You might ask about Whimbrels shallow draft and all that implies. I really try not to tough bottom except when I plan it in a safe place...on this coast there are too many sharp rocks and boulders to dare touch when you are not looking. The tide range here is significant though not extraordinary, but certainly enough to make a big difference. When I am in close I anchor bow and stern, possibly using a tree ashore. I do occasionally spend the night in a spot I expect to dry out at low water....that is cool as long as you are confident a rock will not impale your bottom at low water.I take bottom intentionally in carefully selected spots.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    I ended up loading my old chain, line and wildcat into my pickup and took it to Washington Chain Supply in Seattle. They were very helpful. And as this is a tiny sale for them, I really don’t think he was trying to sell me something I don’t need. He said not only was my existing 5/16” chain in rough shape, his biggest concern was he could find no markings on it to indicate what it was so would have no idea of its strength. He also said it was an odd size and shape link. So we took the wildcat into the warehouse and found that a 3/8” high test chain fits it perfectly. I asked for 50’ which he was going to cut from a barrel of 96’, and the price seemed pretty good, ($2.50/ft) so I decided to take all 96’. Then he came out to the truck and did a very nice splice to my 3/4” nylon three strand and didn’t charge me for the splice. I swapped the nylon end for end so now have a nearly new rode. With my 45# (real) CQR, I’m probably overkill for this boat, if there is such a thing as overkill on ground tackle. But I think I’ll sleep well in the Islands this summer.

    Just checked the markings, GR 43 which is high test with a working load of 5400 lbs. Seems to me that was a really good price. And Snoose swallowed the added weight and space with very minor difference at the waterline, if any. Now to make sure all the shackles and swivel are up to speed.
    Last edited by ron ll; 07-09-2018 at 04:49 PM.

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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    That's an excellent result!

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Well done Ron! And how nice to have an anchor thread in which people are nice to each other!

    As you will gather I am also a believer in “angels”. But I have seen some really awful designs for them coming from the Antipodes. Post 24 above shows a good design.
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    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    That is a great result. I was always concerned we were trimmed a bit bow down and a few years ago cut back our chain from 100 metres to 60 plus some (never used) rope tail. Then when the boat really was loaded up for a longer cruise she needed some bow trim so the 80 or 100 was/will be OK ( anchor locker is by the mast.)
    I take it you don't like the anchor buddy , Andrew? I have one but have seldom used it. The one I used a lot was back in Waione days and I made that from an old bronze fairlead . I spent a lot of time ensuring that there was no sharp corners for chafe.

  34. #34
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    2,714

    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Very nice! Now I know where to go for chain and ground tackle.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Olympia, WA, USA
    Posts
    2,151

    Default Re: Pros/cons of all chain

    Well done, Ron. Good find and good decision.

    And amen to ACB's comment about a civil thread on anchors! I was holding my breath when I first posted, waiting for the explosions.

    Alex

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