Seven steps to ensure your ground tackle is secure

Sunset at anchor can be a blissful experience, but only if your anchor is secure
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When was the last time you made a careful inspection of your boat anchoring ground tackle? Are you sure it will hold your boat in a wind shift or in poor holding ground? For short-handed crews, the boat anchor serves as an extra hand aboard, to provide you with peace-of-mind and security. Make sure to put these seven boat anchoring tips on your 'pre-sail' checklist today!

Your marine anchor forms a small part of the entire system known as ground tackle. This umbilical cord starts with rope or chain anchor rode, includes links such as shackles and thimbles, and ends with the anchor. If one single part of your ground tackle fails, then the entire system collapses. Check these seven components each time before you get underway or after you weigh anchor:

Check every part of your ground tackle
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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

Many 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. In addition, chain adds weight to the bottom of your anchor rode to help keep the anchor dug in.

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.

Check for weak links
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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. Replace the seizing 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.

Place your boat anchoring ground tackle at the top of your pre-sail checklist for safety and security. Keep your entire anchor system in great shape and you can rest assured that it will take good care of you and your sailing crew for many years to come.

John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows sailing skippers the skills they need for shorthanded sailing success. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com and sign up for a free sailing tips newsletter and learn how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, sailing video tutorials, sailing topic eBooks, and live discussion forums.