Ground Tackle—Emergency Gear

Posted on Tuesday 5 June 2012

Just curious, how many of my readers consider a good anchor an important piece of emergency safety gear?

There was a recent story about two boaters who were rescued after their boat ran out of fuel and was forced by seas and wind on to the rocky shore.

Now, it seems to me that if they had a decent anchor and anchor rode, they could have deployed it and at least kept the boat off the rocks. Then the Coast Guard could have brought them fuel or SeaTow/TowBoat US could have gotten to them and towed them to safety. Of course, that doesn’t address how they were out there and ran out of fuel—which says something about their level of seamanship to begin with.

I think many people overlook the anchor as safety or emergency gear and think of it only for when they are stopping for the night. I’ve used my anchor in very similar situations to the one described in the article, when the prop got fouled or the engine died from a clogged fuel filter, several times.

It amazes me that some people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a boat, but won’t spend a thousand dollars on a decent primary anchor and rode.

Let’s say you have a new 35′ sailboat. A Catalina 355 goes for about $209,000. With taxes and such, you’re looking at $225,000 or so. A Manson Supreme 35 would be a pretty decent anchor for a boat this size. A rode of 30′ of 5/16″ G43 high-test chain and 22′ 5/8″ nylon octo-plait is about right for most east coast cruising, where you’d be anchoring in 15-25′ of water most of the time. That gives you the ability to have 8:1 scope in most anchorages.

The anchor rode is about $355 from Defender. The Manson Supreme 35 lb. anchor is about $380 at Defender. The Crosby load-rated 3/8″ shackle is about $10. Add another $10 for a roll of 304 stainless steel seizing wire to mouse the shackle with and another $30 for some velcro-closure chafe protector sleeves for the anchor rode and you’ve got most of a ground tackle setup.

  • Anchor$380
  • Anchor rode $355
  • Shackle $10
  • Seizing Wire $10
  • Chafe protectors sleeves $30

That’s $785 or about $825 with shipping. That is less than .5% of the price of the boat. If you are a cruising sailor, your boat is often your home and filled with priceless knick-knacks and possessions. It is probably less than the premium on an “Agreed-Value” yacht type insurance policy.

Now, you might want to add a bow roller, if your boat didn’t come equipped with one. A pivoting bow roller that allows the anchor to self-deploy is going to cost you about $160.

A manual windlass might be a nice addition on a boat this size, but a powered one is going to be more convenient. They range in price from about $800 to $1500 for this size boat depending on the brand, design and features. A manual windlass would be about $1000.

With the windlass and bow roller, if you do the installation yourself, you’re still at about 1% of the boat’s value. Pretty inexpensive insurance given how many years a good anchor, rode and windlass will give you.

Now, a good anchor may last a decade pretty easily. Same with the bow roller and windlass. The anchor rode might need to be replaced a couple of times or more, depending on how often you anchor out. Say you have to replace the anchor rode three times over the course of a decade. That means you’re going to spend another $1095 on anchor rodes in addition to what you’ve already spent.

You’ll spend about $3200 for the anchor, windlass, bow roller and the anchor rodes over the course of ten years. That’s only $320 a year effectively…and the anchor, windlass and bow roller are likely still good for a few more years. That’s a lot less than the insurance premium on such a boat would be per year. So, does it really pay to skimp on a good ground tackle setup?

A good modern design anchor, like the Rocna or the Manson Supreme, will give you far better holding power per pound than the older CQR, Delta, or Bruce designs. While some of the lightweight fluke-design anchors, like the Fortress, can give you more holding power per pound, they’re far more vulnerable to reversing winds/currents than the next generation design anchors are.

The real reason I think that a good anchor is the most important piece of safety gear aboard a boat is simple—an anchor will often give you the rarest of all commodities in an emergency—TIME. By anchoring the boat, it allows you to deal with the emergency on-hand without having things go from bad to worse—like having the boat go aground or hit other boats—while you’re dealing with whatever emergency made you deploy the anchor in the first place.

A good ground tackle setup is an inexpensive investment to protect your boat. If you are a cruising sailor, the boat may be the bulk of your assets and also your home. If you are a recreational sailor, the boat is still going to be a fairly large investment—so spend the money on protecting it with a good ground tackle setup.

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