Anchor Chain | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Anchor Chain

Today I'm trying to figure out the perfect anchor chain/rode setup. This seems to be almost a cultural thing. Over here in the Med and Europe there is no question. You need an all chain rode. ALL cruisers have all chain, usually from 40 meters to 100 meters although an average seems to be 60 (200 feet). Even charter boats in the Mediterranean are likely to have all chain. And almost all boats have an electric windlass to manage it. This yields lots of advantages for cruising sailors. No more back strain hauling the anchor, no danger of catching fingers toes or other parts in the chain or rode as it goes out etc.

But back to the chain. By making the anchor rode all chain you have no fear of sharp coral or rocks cutting you adrift. Chain allows you to anchor with less rode so you can swing in a smaller radius and not worry about taking too much space in a crowded harbour. And in the Eastern Mediterranean where we often use an anchor to moor up stern to the key having an all chain rode means we will not risk having our rode cut by the propellor of another boat maneuvering near our bows. It is a common sight in a Greek harbour to see 20 yachts all stern to the key and their anchors set on 20-80 meters of chain and a newcomer caught broadside while trying to wiggle in to a space. Definitely a good time to have an all chain rode, a boathook at the ready and a friendly helpful attitude “there but for the grace of god go I”. Two-Step is quite agile in these conditions and we have only been caught once I can remember but still...

Where we have been caught is trying to gauge the distance off the key to set the hook. When we had just 40 meters there were a few occasions when we set the anchor, backed up to the key and found we had run out of rode still 7 meters off. We lengthened it with a warp but this still meant we had an exposed bit of cuttable rope off our bows until the chain began 5 meters on. Now with 60 meters this is not likely to be a problem again. And quite a few of our experienced Mediterranean cruising friends have 100 meters of chain!!

North American sailors often have gone for the performance theory that you only need a few meters of chain and can save the weight of an anchor windlass as well. Even to have 20 meters of chain would be overkill. And while you're at it why not make the chain lighter by using the hi-tensile variety. Schedule 40 or even Schedule 70 chains can allow you to cut the weight of your chain in half for the same strength.

I would like to take the best from both camps. 60 or 70 meters of chain allow us the peace of mind to and ease of use we have been used to with 17 years of anchoring on all chain, but the new boat will make use of a hi-tensile chain to save weight. Where we would have needed 10mm (approx 3/8 inch) chain before we can now use just 8mm and have a chain that is actually a fair bit stronger.

Weight of Chain

60 meters of 10mm chain weighs approximately 140 Kg or 300 pounds
60 meters of 8mm Schedule 70 chain weighs approx 90Kg or 200 pounds

The best part is that the lighter chain is almost 30% stronger!

So assuming the new boat is 40-45 feet long it will be well secured with 8mm schedule 70 chain (with a substantial safety margin). Ideally it will have 60-70 meters so it will need to have an anchor locker to hold roughly 100Kg of chain. More tomorrow! I'm off to measure the height of the chain in a big pile at the bows. Two-Step has 60 meters of 8mm chain so I'm going to dump it all on the bottom and then pull it in and see how high it piles up...
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