Evolution of an Anchor Handling System

Fifteen years of sailing around the English Channel, North Sea, Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean taught me many things, not the least of which was the importance of good ground tackle and a means to handle it.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
windlass

Fifteen years of sailing around the English Channel, North Sea, Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean taught me many things, not the least of which was the importance of good ground tackle and a means to handle it.

All of which left me somewhat surprised at the rudimentary anchoring setups on many North American boats, especially those built prior to the 1980s. It seemed that extended anchoring was not part of the boating psyche at that time; most boats were intended to spend their lives on moorings or in slips and hence sported vestigial bow rollers that would make the average northern European sailor recoil in horror.

 Our project boat was not outfitted for stowing an anchor

Our project boat was not outfitted for stowing an anchor

 We were reduced to using a bucket to lug around the anchor and rode

We were reduced to using a bucket to lug around the anchor and rode

Our project boat, a 1973 Norlin 34, was built in Sweden as a racer-cruiser, so did not come with the hefty bow roller typical of that country’s cruising boats. Instead she had a dainty affair that could have come off a 19ft daysailer, certainly too small to stow an anchor on; and with no chainpipe to lead the rope rode belowdecks, I was reduced to dumping it in a bucket to make it easier to carry it and the 22lb anchor between the cockpit and the foredeck. The bow cleats were perfect for mooring pennants but awkwardly placed for cleating off an anchor rode, and the chocks were lethal—as I found out when they cut through my bow lines like knives during a nor’easter, causing the bow to crash repeatedly against a dock box.

This obviously would not do. My first, rather hasty anchoring upgrade involved purchasing a good-sized Windline anchor roller and installing it atop a hastily fashioned teak baseplate; cutting a hole in the deck for a chainpipe; and installing a central cleat for the anchor rode. I upgraded the anchor rode to 200 feet of 5/8in Yale Brait spliced to 70 feet of 5/16in G4 chain, but decided to keep the 22lb Delta in the interests of preserving my back. It was actually an excellent little anchor that never once dragged in all the time we used it.

cleat%20mounts

Oh, and I got rid of those evil line-chafing bow chocks. In fact, I decided to do away with chocks altogether, instead cutting away the first two feet of aluminum toerail and mounting a larger pair of cleats from Schaefer Marine on teak backing plates.

We sailed with this arrangement for several seasons, and had no problems with it except when trying to get the anchor up when it was blowing hard. I also felt that a bigger anchor would be essential if I wanted to sail further afield, so we upgraded to a 35lb Spade. Between the extra weight, the need to stuff the rode down the chainpipe on a heaving foredeck, and the fact that the Spade tends to dig in so deeply it can take some real effort to break it out, I soon decided that a windlass would be a sensible upgrade. And—full disclosure—that anchoring system was damned ugly.

I installed the Maxwell RC800 windlass two springs ago, over the space of a couple of weekends. More details on this project HERE.

 The finished product was a tidier and more functional bow

The finished product was a tidier and more functional bow

This proved to be one of the more enjoyable projects I’ve undertaken, and I felt a real sense of satisfaction the first time I pressed the button and the chain rattled happily around the gypsy as the anchor made its way to the surface. To aid the anchor’s progress up and over the roller I installed a Quickline swivel. In the process of this upgrade I also tidied up the foredeck, getting rid of the teak baseplates and having the bow roller welded to the stainless steel bow plate that had held the original roller. All round, this was a huge improvement in both functionality and appearance. If I have all 70 feet of chain out—which I do most of the time, now that I don’t have to sweat it up by hand—I just cleat the rode off. I also have a 20ft nylon snubber with a chain hook on one end that I’ll use if I’m staying put for any length of time.

It took a few years, but I eventually ended up with an anchor set-up that is ideal for 90 percent of scenarios. I’d have liked a second bow roller, and maybe I should have gone for the rope capstan on the windlass. Still and all, it’s a joy to use, which means it gets used often!

Photos by Peter Nielsen

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Check the waypoint  Most errors with GPS and paper chart navigation are caused by the operator punching in the wrong numbers or plotting the lat/long incorrectly. The surest way to double-check a ...read more

Furlex-Electric

Gear: Seldén’s Furlex Electric

Furl Power Seldén’s Furlex Electric offers an easy path into the world of sweat-free headsail furling. The compact unit can be retrofitted to an existing manual Furlex unit or installed as a replacement for whatever you’ve got now. Its DC-DC converter accepts your boat’s 12V or ...read more

11_DSC8423Tom-Zydler

Cruising: Nova Scotia

There’s a unique cruising ground that combines access to urban locations with easy escapes to wilderness and nature. Its native people may be the friendliest on the east coast of North America. Its coastline runs 250 nautical miles in a straight line, but that should be ...read more

01-LEAD-shutterstock_727849660

Boat Monitoring System

Boat Oversight In a world where you can track your friends’ locations in real time and stream yourself live on the internet, it should come as no surprise that you can also keep a close eye on your boat from the comfort of home. In fact, not only is there a plethora of options ...read more

pilot_saloon_42-_en_navigation_11

Boat Review: Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 42

Old salts grouse about modern aesthetics. It’s just what they do, and the hard lines and spartan interiors of today’s production boats give them many reasons to complain. French builder Wauquiez, however, seems to consistently be able to marry contemporary elements with ...read more

JuneWaterlines

Sights and Stories Cruising the Caribbean

Though I hate to think of myself as a “disaster tourist,” I can’t deny one of the things I was most curious about as I sailed south last fall to visit St. Martin, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico was how much hurricane damage I would see. I’m sure no one needs reminding that ...read more