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Ground Tackle Upgrade

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According to Vetus Maxwell’s Chris Deboy, lots of boaters he runs into these days don’t add swivel-type fittings to their anchor rodes, at a point between the bitter end of the rode and the shackle at the top of the anchor’s stock. Instead, they’ll secure the chain directly to the shackle, a scenario that prevents the anchor from spinning, particularly while it’s being pulled off the bottom. “So sometimes what this does, particularly if you have an all-chain system,” explains Deboy, “is impart a twist, loading the chain rode with rotational energy, which can ultimately cause a link or a succession of links to jump your windlass’s wildcat, which is not especially safe.”

Anchor swivel

In addition to his insistence on swivels, Deboy and Will Vrooman, a colleague at Vetus Maxwell, have a few other recommendations concerning ground-tackle optimization, with the all-chain anchor rode topping the list. “For one thing,” says Vrooman, “you don’t need to put out as much scope with the all-chain deal—we say just 5:1 for all chain and it’s 7:1 for rope.” Deboy agrees for the most part, but notes that modern 8- and 12-plait cordage these days, unlike in days gone by, is often just as strong as chain. “But rope is, of course, prone to abrade in some bottom situations,” he says, “where chain won’t.”

Chain snubber

Then there’s the snubber, a critical ground-tackle component that both Deboy and Vrooman are enthusiastic about. But snubbers, they contend, should not be used simply to absorb the shock when wave action at anchor repeatedly snatches a chain tighter than a guitar string. “It’s also very smart to use the snubber as a sort of safety lanyard,” says Deboy, “either by securing one end to a bow cleat and the other to the anchor or by actually running the snubber through the anchor in some way and then securing one end to your starboard bow cleat and the other to your port bow cleat.”

Chain stopper

Both Deboy and Vrooman agree on something else as well— the importance of making a safety lanyard and a chain stopper or riding pawl part of a better-safe-than-sorry ground tackle setup, even if the system already includes a top-notch windlass brake and a snubber/safety lanyard. “Things happen,” says Deboy, “and about the last thing you want to do is deploy an anchor while you’re underway. It’s happened—trust me. And it can turn a nice day into a bad one in a heartbeat.”

Read “How to Replace a Windlass” ▶