How to Maintain Your Anchor Gear

9 April 2021 By Capt. Mx

Still pushing water, having enjoyed and excelled aboard square riggers, Whitbread Maxis, the world cup circuit when there were only 7 boats, America’s Cuppers, 12M, modern classics, real classics, salvage, racing, passage, refits, builds and more, for 38 years, 54 Atlantic crossings, 48 world championships, and a few stories more. I enjoy the serenity and clarity that a life between the blues offers, washed by wind and waves, where all that remains is the simple truth of all things, questions for all things technical, and acceptance of all things magic. 

Many may think that the anchor gear is a no-maintenance item, but the few yet critical components should be checked on a regular basis to assure no traumatic surprises occur at the worst moments, such as during a gale, anchored on a lee shore, or at night. Remember, the good operation of the ground tackle is what allows you an easy sleep, so take care of it always.

There are different types of gear but much of what follows applies to all vessels. All anchors should have a length of chain close to the anchor as this portion usually drags across the bottom. Although on larger vessels, you usually have an all-chain rode. The chain attaches to the boat either through to the windlass over the rollers and guide over the bow, or to the capstan and through a hawsehole, to the point of attachment on the boat. It’s usually a fixed point welded or affixed directly to the hull within the chain locker. It’s suggested that this point be reinforced laterally and allow for sufficient movement of the correctly fitted hardware used to attach the chain. This hardware is best if made of high-quality stainless steel, although often, galvanized material is used.

Remember, the good operation of the ground tackle is what allows you an easy sleep, so take care of it always. 

Galvanized material corrodes more easily and leaves a mess in the anchor locker over time but is less brittle. It tends to distort more readily than stainless and may therefore be rather difficult to remove at some point, forcing you to cut it off. My preference is for swivelling stainless hardware equal to the size of the chain you’re using. Unless the chain is let go completely — an unusual occurrence — this item doesn’t wear much at all and seldom has a full or shock load applied.

Your chain, if not stainless, is likely galvanized and if not new, regardless of material, should be checked regularly for distortion, wear, or damage to the links. Once it begins to show signs of equal wear on the links, you should end-for-end it, securing the anchor end to the boat and vice versa. Prior to installing, it should be painted or tagged every 10 meters to ease the process once on the water. When hoisting, make sure the chain is well laid out in the locker to avoid entanglements and allow the free release when needed. Check before use and keep a steel bar and a mace in case it becomes tangled on itself.

The end of the chain connected to the anchor commonly has a swivel shackle or connector, even a double swivel stainless piece or twist shackles. All of this hardware should be stainless, as it suffers a lot of movement under load. Check it after each use to ensure the pins are secured with rigging wire and be sure you have the equipment necessary to remove and replace as necessary.

The anchor is often under severe loads and needs to be checked for any deformities or damage as it’s raised and secured. Any deformity or damage should soon be addressed, as it affects the anchor’s performance and your ship’s security.   

The windlass is your best friend. It has several moving parts and is often under load so be prepared to service it at least once every season — certainly more often under heavy use. Stock essential spares and a manual so you can maintain or repair as required and learn to use it without losing any fingers.  

This column originally ran in the April 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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