Posted by: Ann | June 1, 2022

May 21, part 3- Anchor Chain

Jon’s full custom sailboat, Anomaly in Montague Harbour, 2017

Jon describes issues with Fifth Element’s Anchor chain:

When we were in position in Skull Cove, I ran the windlass to drop the anchor. It is a horizontal windlass, the chain comes from the anchor locker in the bow up through a hole in the deck, wraps 90 degrees around the gypsy forward to the anchor sprit and roller. I had dropped about 60 ft (the chain is marked every 30 ft) when it suddenly stopped, with a ratcheting sound indicating the windlass was overloaded. The chain was jammed in the hole through the deck. Pulling it up a bit, I went below and wrestled with a knot in the chain until it was untangled, then returned on deck to complete the anchoring.

I had run all 250 ft out and back in just before the launch and it was clear. But the American Tug 34, like perhaps most production boats, has a wide and not particularly deep anchor chain locker. As chain is taken in, it falls down the deck hole into a pile. Chain behaves just like gravel, forming a peaked pile, when more it poured on top it falls off to the side to form what soils engineers call the “angle of repose”. But unlike gravel, all the bits are connected together, when it falls off the side it can form knots and tangles.

This has been known for centuries. On Anomaly, we molded a fiberglass tube about one foot in diameter and 4 feet tall, sufficient to hold all of the chain. This is not wide enough for the chain to tumble very far, it piles up like wheat in a silo, and comes out again with no tangles. There is room in the American Tug anchor locker to do this, but if it was even thought of, was overlooked as a cost saving measure. It isn’t the sort of thing that sells boats at shows, but can be an annoyance for the life of the boat. I may correct this before next season’s cruise.

While on the subject of anchor lockers, they should be self draining, as lots of water and usually mud and sealife come aboard when you weigh anchor. On the American Tug, again like most production boats, it is self draining – sort of. To make construction simple, they installed a mushroom fitting low in the compartment. The floor of the compartment is sealed, and sloped slightly aft, but level athwartship. The result is you can collect a gallon or two of water either in the corners, or in any case below the actual exit hole of the mushroom fitting. This festers, rusts, stinks, and generally must be cleaned out peridoically, by hand, over the pillows and the head of the berth.

Properly done, the anchor locker would have a definite slope in every direction towards a low point, and then there would be a tube bonded in at that low point either going straight down, or at least with its inner wall tangent to the floor so that every drop can drain. Of course, if the anchor locker is a molded tube like Anomaly’s, this drain is easily done.

These are the details you get to control on a custom build that are overlooked in a production boat.


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