Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Have You Checked Your Anchor Ground Tackle Integrity?

In this week's article, Captain John offers tips on one of the most important insurance policies you can have - a secure anchor.

Guest blog by Captain John
Today's post is an excerpt from Captain John Jamieson's eBook, "Sailing Skipper's Pre-Sail Guidebook", which is free to members of

Safety begins with your anchor. Photo © Nautical Sites Media

Boat brake, insurance policy, or lifesaver. Call it what you wish, but not many sailboat components are as ignored or forgotten about as your anchor, anchor line, anchor chain, anchor shackles, and anchor thimbles.

Forget the paper insurance that covers your boat hull and components. Paper never held a boat in a storm, enabled you to pull yourself off of a sandbar, or saved you from disaster inside a crowded, busy marina when your engine conked out. …

Begin you inspection at the bow. This golden rule applies to any sail or power boat of any size. Make this 7-step ground tackle component inspection each time before you cast off on a daysail, cruise, or voyage.

1. Determine Your Anchor Shank Integrity
Check the long arm--or shank--of your anchor for bends, distortion, or cracks. You can only trust a straight shank. Replace your anchor right away if it shows signs of these defects because it will be unable to hold your small cruising boat at all angles.

2. Inspect Rope Rode for Chafe

If you are getting underway for just the day or weekend, determine the longest scope you will use. Pull that amount from the anchor locker onto the deck. For longer cruises, remove all of the rode. Check every inch of the line for chafe or broken fibers. Minor surface wear should not affect the integrity, but mark that area with tape or a permanent ink pen.

Make a comment in your log or check off sheet and re-check the area often. Coil the line neatly back down into the locker. Now you know your anchor rode will pay out without knots or jams when you are ready to drop the hook.

3. Use Chain Length Equal to LWL

Most small cruising boats carry a combination of rope and chain anchor rode. Attach a length of chain to the bottom of the rode, at least as long as your boat's waterline length (LWL). This chain acts as a "chafe-guard" to protect the rope part of your rode from sharp rocks, coral heads, shells, or other obstructions.

4. Wrap Chafing Gear at Contact Points
Use split garden or fire hose, squares of canvas, or rags to protect the anchor rode where it passes through the boat chocks. This protects the line as it moves and stretches inside the chock.

Wrap the chafing gear several inches past the chock on each side. Lash it in place with heavy duty waxed sail twine or small diameter line. Check it often and readjust the chafing gear to provide good protection.

5. Check for Weak Links

Your sailboat anchor rode is only as good as the weakest links--marine shackles. Grasp the screw pin on each shackle with pliers and make sure you can open and close it. Use light machine oil to open frozen (corroded) shackles.

Clean the corrosion inside the pin threads with a wire brush or replace the shackle. Keep your shackles in prime shape to give your system powerful integrity.

6. Mouse Screw-Pin Shackles

Use nylon wire ties or stainless seizing wire to mouse (join) each screw pin to the shackle body. This prevents the screw pin from backing out of the shackle.

In the illustration, stainless seizing wire has been wrapped though the pin and over the shackle body to secure the pin in place. Replace the seizing wire once a year as part of your routine maintenance.

7. Replace Rusted Galvanized Thimbles

Wet anchor rode often gets stowed in anchor lockers with poor ventilation. It's best to dry synthetic line first. Wet rode causes rope thimbles to rust, corrode, and break apart. These thimbles protect your rope from chafe, so replace corroded thimbles as soon as you notice these signs.

Captain John’s Sailing Tip
Once each year, end-for-end your anchor line. Untie the end attached to the boat. Make an eye, insert a thimble, and attach the anchor chain to this end. Cut off the other end and attach it to your boat. This can increase your anchor line’s lifespan by 50% or more!


Captain John Jamieson shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need beyond sailing school.  Sign up for his highly popular “Captain John’s Sailing Tips” - a FREE newsletter - at

Today's article is an excerpt from Captain John Jamieson's eBook, "Sailing Skipper's Pre-Sail Guidebook", which is free to members at Become a member for instant access to 425+ articles, sailing video tutorials, 125+ newsletters, and free sailing topic eBooks authored by Captain John!

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