The Voyage of the Swan
Having the very best ground tackle and anchor handling deck gear is the most important thing you can do to keep your boat alive.
Our trusty 45 Pound CQR. We never dragged it but the writing was on the wall: the new generation spade style anchors are hard to ignore.
The CQR’s oblonged pin hole after six years of heavy use gave us an excuse to switch. CQR’s have a lifetime warranty, but we didn’t use it.
The new Manson Supreme in its perch. I drilled a hole in its shank to fit the Fastpin in the bow roller. Perfect fit. See bottom of page for details.
Properly moused Class 2 shackle. Tighten hand tight, then a 1/4 turn more by tool. Mouse so that pin cannot loosen. Tuck twist into hole.
A solid set after a gentle tug from the backed jib when we sailed the hook in. No need to start the engine. Diving the anchor is a very good habit.
Chain markers that outlast the chain. By varying the lengths of the two tails, there are plenty of combinations to mark any chain. This is for 50 feet.
This is for 150 feet. Two short tails of equal length are 100 feet, etc. These are easily seen and can even be felt in the dark if necessary.
Outfitting: Anchors and Anchoring
I personally know of more cruising sailboats lost at anchor than lost at sea. I don’t know if the statistics have been compiled, but I would not be surprised if this were true in general. In any case, few would argue the need for superior ground tackle and anchoring technique when cruising.
The Yankee 26 I cruised to the South Pacific had 240 feet of 5/16” BBB chain attached to a 35 pound CQR. Many thought the gear was too large for so small a vessel, but the anchor never dragged once in three years. Therefore, no, it was not too large.
Ground Tackle. Our current ground tackle on the Swan is,
  1. A 45 pound Manson Supreme at the bow with 200 feet of 3/8” hi-test (G4) HDG chain with Class 2 alloy steel shackles (from Acco and match the working load limit of the chain), moused with galvanized wire. No Swivel! We previously carried 240 feet of chain but never got into the last 40 feet, so we got rid of it.
  2. A 10 pound Fortress (FX-16) on the stern pulpit with 20 feet of 5/16” HDG chain and 200 feet of 1/2” 3S Nylon in the lazarette chain locker for kedging off, drudging or as a spare. Fortresses have amazing holding power.
  3.  Three 50 foot 1/2” Nylon snubbing lines for the bow anchor.
  4.  Spare Class 2 alloy steel shackles, line, galvanized wire.
  5.  Plenty of heavy canvas for chafing gear.
I had cruised since the 70’s with a CQR at the bow with excellent service. In fact, I have never dragged one, but they were all oversized with oversized all chain rodes. In 2013, after personally witnessing the new generation of spade hooks in action on other boats and in the water, we switched to a Manson Supreme after our 45# CQR was showing signs of wear. The Manson sets very quickly, holds well on short scope (3 to 1), rotates in it’s own set and has amazing holding power.
We originally cruised with a spare bow anchor (stowed below) and hundreds of feet of spare chain, but we never used any it. Since all of this extra stuff weighed a lot, robbing us of performance and space, we got rid of it. If we ever have to deploy a second anchor, we will use the Fortress FX-16. If we ever have to replace our main anchor temporarily due to loss, we will use the Fortress, which is the suggested size for the main anchor for our boat (amazingly).
• Two Bow Anchors. I have never understood the need to carry two anchors at the bow. One good, oversized anchor is enough. Why damage your boat’s performance and complicate anchor stowage and handling with all that metal hanging off the end of the boat and two rodes in your already cramped chain locker? Stow your back up ground tackle someplace else. Just because your boat has two bow rollers, doesn’t mean you have to use both of them.
• Anchor Swivels. We have never used anchor swivels. They just add more points for possible failure, especially the stainless steel ones. Stainless steel is an untrustworthy metal to begin with. Immersed for long periods of time in seawater makes it even more so, not to mention the galvanic fun it is having with your steel chain! I notice S/S swivel makers routinely rate their swivels by breaking strength, not working load, which is much lower. I have anchored without a swivel hundreds of times, sometimes for very long periods of time. I have never had a problem with the chain twisting or hockling.
• Chain Stoppers. The Yankee 26 had no windlass, just a chain stopper. However, I am older now and the gear is heavier, so we use a vertical Muir manual windlass and a chain stopper rated at 5000 pounds to take the riding load from the windlass, which is rated for only 500 pounds. We always use a half inch nylon snubber, rolling hitched to the chain, primarily to take the load off the bow roller and to reduce shock loading. The loads on the roller can be huge when anchoring in deep water, just from chop, ground swell and boat wakes.
• Scope. With our ground tackle we generally use 5 to 1 scope. This assumes a bottom with good holding. In general, we find that deeper water requires less scope and, conversely, shallower water requires more. For example, in 50 feet of water, we would probably use 3:1 scope. The type of bottom is the big variable.
• Anchoring. We drop our anchor at a controlled rate with the boat moving with the wind very slowly ahead or astern* until we have deployed 3 to 1 scope. (I use 3 to 1 to set because it is easier for the engine to drag the anchor and chain into a deep set than if there were 5 to 1 scope of chain to drag along the bottom.) After the boat has oriented bow to wind, we put the engine in reverse very slowly until the anchor fetches us up gently. Then we increase RPM in increments up to about 1500 rpm until we are set. I put my foot on the chain between the windless and the roller to feel when the set is solid (be careful doing this!). I also watch the angle on the chain from the roller to the water. I find a range on our beam to mark our movement. When the range remains fixed, I know we are set. If the wind is blowing fresh, I use less RPM for the set. If the bottom is questionable, I use more. Finally, when the engine is off, I deploy the last bit of chain to reach full scope. Then, I rolling hitch the snubber line to the chain, lead it through a smooth fairlead and secure it to a heavy cleat. Finally, I attach heavy canvas chafing gear to the snubber at the fairlead.
*Sometimes it’s more convenient to drop the anchor while going ahead downwind, for example, while sailing. If you do this, be careful to reduce sail (or remove sail) to keep boat speed to a minimum or you will take bottom paint off with the chain or even damage the bow roller when strain comes on the chain. Be prepared to turn sharply upwind before this happens.
We enjoy sailing the anchor in and out and do so whenever we can. When we sail the anchor in, we set the anchor by grabbing the clew of the jib and pulling it to weather sharply to pull the bow off the wind and the anchor chain with it. We do this a number of times. Whenever we can, we dive the hook afterwards to check that it is set and not fouled. We do this whether we sail it in or motor it in.
Keep in mind that the wind may switch to a completely different direction later, particularly at night. After the anchor is set, we take “escape” bearings in case we have to get out in the dark. A landlocked anchorage is a beautiful thing, but it is rare. We always anchor a safe distance from land or other hard objects. We consider how much sea room we will need (in all directions) to get the anchor up should the weather force us out.
Anchoring is an art, especially in crowded anchorages. Practice is essential. We find the safest rule is to anchor as far away from other boats as possible. We try never to anchor in front of someone, If we do, we make sure we leave enough room that we are not sitting over the other boat’s anchor, considering also the possibility of having to increase scope in a blow. It is the height of rudeness to foul another boat’s berth. If the thought even crosses our mind that we are too close, we move. If the other boat’s skipper thinks we are too close (assuming he was there first), we move, no matter our opinion. Finally, if someone fouls our berth and won’t yield to gentle persuasion (extremely rare), we move. Nobody wins a bumping match between multi-ton boats in a choppy anchorage.
• Snubbers. Below is a diagram demonstrating the value of a snubber. Not only does the nylon line absorb shocks and loads, but extra chain can be lowered below the snubber/chain connection to create a chain “kellet,” flattening the catenary and creating a gravity spring.
Next Outfitting Page
Notes on drilling the hole in the Manson shank: Manson says this is okay. The Bisalloy 80 steel was not easy to get through but totally doable. I drilled a 3/16" pilot hole, then made the final drill with a 1/2" bit. Both bits were Spanish made cobalt. I used squirt can cutting fluid and drilled at low RPM by hand with a battery powered hand drill. I paused often to let the bit cool. I coated the hole with Pettit's Zinc Barnacle Barrier. It also works well for touching up the galvanizing on chain, etc.
Disclaimer: Boat’s, conditions and gear vary from boat to boat. The equipment and methods described above have worked for us. They may not work for you.

“Nothing too big ever broke.”

 — Old Maine Proverb