• A selection of claws or chain clutches. Claws work well where the chain does not move but we have found that in boisterous seas or if the chain hook ever reaches the seabed the device can, surprisingly easily, fall off. It is possible to source such devices with a ‘lock’ but we have not found them sufficiently robust.
    A selection of claws or chain clutches. Claws work well where the chain does not move but we have found that in boisterous seas or if the chain hook ever reaches the seabed the device can, surprisingly easily, fall off. It is possible to source such devices with a ‘lock’ but we have not found them sufficiently robust.
  • Note the edges on which the chain in many chain hooks are loaded. This design characteristic is commonplace and was discontinued by the lifting industry decades ago. Even loading surfaces that are ‘rounded’ are not recommended by the lifting industry as they can reduce chain strength by 25%.
    Note the edges on which the chain in many chain hooks are loaded. This design characteristic is commonplace and was discontinued by the lifting industry decades ago. Even loading surfaces that are ‘rounded’ are not recommended by the lifting industry as they can reduce chain strength by 25%.
  • This anchor locker contains a horn cleat which would be ideal as a securement point for the fall back short snubber to keep tension off the windlass. But check the level of reinforcement for the horn cleat.
    This anchor locker contains a horn cleat which would be ideal as a securement point for the fall back short snubber to keep tension off the windlass. But check the level of reinforcement for the horn cleat.
  • We find these hooks, cradle/saddle hook on the left and a combined cradle/clutch hook on the right the best to secure a snubber to chain. Note how the ‘long’ of the link is fully supported with the cradle hook, spreading load and that the link under compression in 
the cradle/clutch hook 
is supported at its crown in the recesses in the hook body.
    We find these hooks, cradle/saddle hook on the left and a combined cradle/clutch hook on the right the best to secure a snubber to chain. Note how the ‘long’ of the link is fully supported with the cradle hook, spreading load and that the link under compression in the cradle/clutch hook is supported at its crown in the recesses in the hook body.
  • We do not recommend these hooks, commonly available from chandlers. They are atrociously marked, 1,000kg – is this a WLL or minimum break strength and, if WLL, what is the safety factor? Moreover, if you check the internal surfaces of the hook they offer point loading to the chain and in the extreme can damage the chain. The image includes how easy it is to attach a lock-plate to secure the chain: cheap, simple and effective. Ours is made from scrap stainless plate but can be made from any resilient polymer.
    We do not recommend these hooks, commonly available from chandlers. They are atrociously marked, 1,000kg – is this a WLL or minimum break strength and, if WLL, what is the safety factor? Moreover, if you check the internal surfaces of the hook they offer point loading to the chain and in the extreme can damage the chain. The image includes how easy it is to attach a lock-plate to secure the chain: cheap, simple and effective. Ours is made from scrap stainless plate but can be made from any resilient polymer.
  • osepheline at anchor at Providence or North Bay, Broughton Island. The snubbers are about 20m long, 10m on deck and 10m forward of the deck. The wind blew as a southerly with an constant wind speed of 30/35 knots, measured at the masthead.
    osepheline at anchor at Providence or North Bay, Broughton Island. The snubbers are about 20m long, 10m on deck and 10m forward of the deck. The wind blew as a southerly with an constant wind speed of 30/35 knots, measured at the masthead.
  • Overview of Josepheline’s snubbing system. Our snubbers (or bridle) run from the chain hook to turning blocks on the bow, through the stanchion bases to clutches on the transom, to a turning block normally used for the headsail and then winches. We store spare snubber as we do all our running rigging.
    Overview of Josepheline’s snubbing system. Our snubbers (or bridle) run from the chain hook to turning blocks on the bow, through the stanchion bases to clutches on the transom, to a turning block normally used for the headsail and then winches. We store spare snubber as we do all our running rigging.
  • The bridle running off author’s catmaran. Note it runs from the chain hook to turning blocks on the bow and down the side decks of both hulls.
    The bridle running off author’s catmaran. Note it runs from the chain hook to turning blocks on the bow and down the side decks of both hulls.
  • Running the snubber line to a winch for easy alteration.
    Running the snubber line to a winch for easy alteration.
  • Think of your snubber as a bungy cord for your yacht. It works for the bungy jumper – it will work for you!
    Think of your snubber as a bungy cord for your yacht. It works for the bungy jumper – it will work for you!
  • Marlow Ropes table depicting potential energy of nylon versus chain.
    Marlow Ropes table depicting potential energy of nylon versus chain.
  • Bavaria at anchor with a short snubber. The snubber is attached on the bow and the length of the snubber is so short as to offer no elasticity. It does however ensure no shock loads impact the windlass. Use of short snubbers is surprisingly common. The Bavaria locker lid has been left open, an excellent practice as it ‘airs’ the chain locker. Even leaving the locker hatch open in the rain is beneficial as it washes salt from the locker interior.
    Bavaria at anchor with a short snubber. The snubber is attached on the bow and the length of the snubber is so short as to offer no elasticity. It does however ensure no shock loads impact the windlass. Use of short snubbers is surprisingly common. The Bavaria locker lid has been left open, an excellent practice as it ‘airs’ the chain locker. Even leaving the locker hatch open in the rain is beneficial as it washes salt from the locker interior.
  • Multihulls are not immune to short snubbers (or short bridles). The bridle on this catamaran looks well strong enough which, along with the short length, will offer minimal elasticity. The bridle will reduce veering and will keep weight off the windlass – but will do little to reduce shock loads.
    Multihulls are not immune to short snubbers (or short bridles). The bridle on this catamaran looks well strong enough which, along with the short length, will offer minimal elasticity. The bridle will reduce veering and will keep weight off the windlass – but will do little to reduce shock loads.
  • On Josepheline we use a chain clutch (from the lifting industry) as a backup to our snubber and to secure the chain when at sea. The clutch is retained with chain and Dyneema. The arrangement is simply to ensure the windlass can never be under tension. The clutch works well in this situation as it cannot fall out.
A selection of claws or chain clutches. Claws work well where the chain does not move but we have found that in boisterous seas or if the chain hook ever reaches the seabed the device can, surprisingly easily, fall off. It is possible to source such devices with a ‘lock’ but we have not found them sufficiently robust.
This anchor locker contains a horn cleat which would be ideal as a securement point for the fall back short snubber to keep tension off the windlass. But check the level of reinforcement for the horn cleat.
    On Josepheline we use a chain clutch (from the lifting industry) as a backup to our snubber and to secure the chain when at sea. The clutch is retained with chain and Dyneema. The arrangement is simply to ensure the windlass can never be under tension. The clutch works well in this situation as it cannot fall out. A selection of claws or chain clutches. Claws work well where the chain does not move but we have found that in boisterous seas or if the chain hook ever reaches the seabed the device can, surprisingly easily, fall off. It is possible to source such devices with a ‘lock’ but we have not found them sufficiently robust. This anchor locker contains a horn cleat which would be ideal as a securement point for the fall back short snubber to keep tension off the windlass. But check the level of reinforcement for the horn cleat.
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If you anchor often enough a time will occur when your yacht is brought up abruptly against the hold of your chain and anchor. Initially it might be a gentle bump but, as the wind increases, it can become quite aggressive and frightening.

Snatching at anchor is debilitating for crew and, at worst, is probably the most common cause of an anchor dragging. So minimising the effect is beneficial.

It is not only wind that causes this snatch loading. Commonly as the wind increases, the wave action, especially in anchorages with a bit of fetch, also increases. You only need a gust coinciding with a peak wave and a swell at high tide when your scope is at its lowest and you have a classic dragging situation.

Historically there were a number of solutions - the easiest of which was deploy more chain. Another solution, not seen much today, is a riding sail, which reduces veering, historically quite common on ketches and quite feasible on any monohull (See CH March 2015).

Another option is available and that is to use heavier chain. Certainly heavier chain is advantageous up to a point but, if you upgrade your chain, you will need a new gypsy and as soon as you discover how much that costs your enthusiasm may be tempered. Moreover, upgrading from, say, 100 metres of eight millimetre chain to 100m of 10mm chain will add an additional 100 kilograms to your bow locker. Might be good for catenary, but it will do nothing for your windward sailing performance; especially if you have a modern lightweight yacht, affectionately called ‘AWBs’: average white boats. Weight in the bow is a very real issue and this article is mostly, but not exclusively, for them.

There are other disadvantages to increasing chain size, besides the money and the weight: you will need a more powerful windlass, heavier and expensive; it will need more power so a bigger battery or battery bank; and it will need heavier power cables. All of this adds up to even more money. Moreover, bigger chain takes up more room, decreasing the space in your bow locker and furthering the potential for increased frequency of towering.

One useful option is to anchor in a ‘V’. Without entering a discourse on anchor size, you should carry spare anchors such that they are suitably sized to be a primary if necessary. If conditions are concerning you should make every and any opportunity to deploy a second anchor, whatever size your primary anchor might be. Why carry a spare if you are not prepared to use it? There is nothing wrong with belt and braces.

Deploying a second anchor reduces veering, in the same way a bridle of a catamaran reduces veering. Veering directly impacts the tension direction of your anchor. Any constant changes in direction associated with the chain lifting and falling, reduces the shear strength of the soil in which your anchor is embedded. These are not illusory conclusions, but those of both the United States and United Kingdom navies who have documented the effects.

Reliance on one anchor means all your eggs are in one basket. If you use two anchors you both reduce veering but also reduce the risk of your only anchor catching something foreign in its toe: oyster shell, beer can, waterlogged piece of wood; a reason for even modern anchors to drag.

It merits mention: reports of dragging of modern anchors are very limited and commonly have nothing to do with the anchor per se. Often the anchor was the wrong type to use in the specific seabed. Fortress, for example, are exceptional in soft mud, mud and sand; but very average in medium density weed or stony anchorages. Spade are good in weed and cobbles, though only a Fisherman’s works, to a point, in heavy weed; but Spade is pretty unexceptional in thin mud.

So dragging of modern anchors does occur but more due to poor choice rather than a poor anchor. Invariably, when an anchor does not perform as anticipated, it is commonly found that an apparently insignificant object, such as a bit of wood, is impaled on the toe.

Why use chain at all?

For one: it works. To a point but it has stood the test of time. Prior to, say, 1970 the only commercially sensible alternative was galvanised wire or a natural fibre rope.

Another major reason for using chain, in addition to the benefits of catenary, are its abrasion resistance for which it currently stands head and shoulders above anything else. Coral and to a lesser extent rock, has a voracious appetite for conventional cordage and could eat through it overnight. Wire is an option and is accepted by classification societies, but needs to be retired to a schedule as it suffers from difficult to detect internal failures, whether stainless or galvanised. Swages are also an issue as they are prone to failure.

Another alternative is Dyneema. It is used by the oil industry as an anchor rode; it is very abrasion resistant but floats, making it a major hazard for propellors and keels. Dyneema might appear far-fetched but there are trials with short, 3m to 5m, leaders of Dyneema between anchor and chain and as soft shackles to join anchor to chain.

Consequently, despite being very 19th or 20th century, galvanised chain has real and significant technical advantage over the alternatives.

If weight in the bow is disadvantageous why do we use such heavy chain? There are two reasons, the first reason is strength. At the time and in the absence of anything stronger ‘bog standard’ chain was made decades ago from 200 megapascal steel. Later, as steel making technology progressed, it went to 300MPa steel. The advent of cheap, reliable, high tensile, 1,000MPa chain is relatively recent, think of the last decade; so it has not really surfaced for the leisure marine industry.

Computation of chain size diameter versus chain strength is simple. Based on strength and windage we have spreadsheets that have been developed over decades resulting in the recommendations we see today.

These have proven more than adequate, basically there appears to be a sufficiently high safety margin that chain might actually be well over-specified. We are not suggesting change, but buy correctly-sized, brand named chain and it will be bullet proof. The best insurance policy!.

High tensile chain has only been commonly available since the 1970s and galvanised high tensile chain (G70) was only available from Peerless in America in imperial sizes, which really limited sales to America. This has changed in the last couple of years as Peerless now make metric sizes.

PWB is now part of Kito, Japan, the same company owning Peerless. It is possible PWB may consider holding Peerless’ metric G70 in stock.

Maggi, from Italy and sold through Chains, Ropes and Anchors (CRA) in New Zealand, have entered the G70 market with metric and imperial sizes. The fact that CRA markets and sells into Australia suggests a market niche that PWB could address.

Galvanised high tensile (G70) anchor chain has been used for decades, advocated by Dashew since the 1970s, it is hardly new! Although it has always been peripheral, though now with growth in sales, there were unsubstantiated reports of failure through hydrogen embrittlement and some internet scaremongering that it was so brittle it snapped like glass.

There have also been questions over the quality of some G70 galvanising, which has nothing whatsoever to do with HT chains as the quality issues are also evident with G40 chain. These tales of woe have been a discouragement. Use of even stronger grades: G80 and G100 (see the article in CH November 2016), is recent and now possible through new methods of galvanising; Armorgalv being only one of a few similar processes, Sherardizing and Greencote being others though Armorgalv is the only alternative to HDG in Australia.

On the horizon it is possible that a 6mm x G100, Armorgalv coated chain can be produced with the strength of a traditionally galvanised 10mm x G30 chain. This would offer the opportunity to carry a 100m rode weighing 80kg instead of 100m weighing 230kg. Replacing 10mm with 6mm would seriously free up bow locker space.

For a designer this offers opportunity to better use that bow space or, possibly, move the chain locker nearer the mast. This is getting close to a kryptonite piano wire rode. Unfortunately, some might say fortunately, G100 in terms of strength and 6mm, in terms of size, is the current limit. G120 will not fit a windlass gypsy, it is the strongest chain currently available and 6mm is the smallest available.

One reason for heavy chain was to ensure the tension on the anchor was applied so as to be as near horizontal as possible. A few degrees above horizontal was thought to be acceptable but anything beyond 10 degrees was considered dangerous. Most modern anchors with their ability to bury and bury chain has reduced the importance of this imperative as the tension angle, the angle of the buried shackle, can commonly be much higher and independent of the angle of the chain at the surface.

It is an extreme example but, using US Navy anchor rode prediction programmes, it has been calculated that during the testing of an FX37 Fortress anchor in soft mud with the flukes set at 45° and the fluke at just under 1m deep in the seabed the rode/seabed angle was 12.1° (5:1) and shackle angle 35.9° and at a different scope (6.5:1) the rode/seabed angle was 9.1° and shackle angle 35.4° and the anchor set well.

Continued and increased tension, to 930kg, to the anchor (at 5:1 scope) drove the anchor more deeply to 3.5m, the rode/seabed angle rose to 15.2° and the shackle angle to 49.7°. Basically the tension angle imposed by the shackle is well outside 10° (35.9°, 35.4°, and 49.7° respectively) and totally independent of the rode/seabed angle (9o to 15°). Yet the anchor works perfectly, even though the tension is above 35° to the horizontal.

This simply underlines that most modern anchors work differently but more efficiently than earlier models and historic experiences may no longer be valid. One conclusion: question dogma!

Without implying the need for destructive debate on anchor choice, our ‘catchall’ word ‘most’ covers: Rocna, Supreme, Excel, Spade, Ultra, SARCA, Kobra and Fortress. These are anchors we have tested and, if correctly sized, they do dive, so burying chain. We are not implying they are all perfect and other anchors might dive, but we have not tested them. When our anchors are set in clean sand, they are usually completely buried along with at least 3m of chain.

The other major reason for use of heavy chain has been the cult of catenary, the idea that catenary is the only way to minimise shock loading. There is no doubt that catenary, that sag in a long length of chain, does offer a way to minimise, or remove completely, snatch loading. But catenary is only successful in certain circumstances.

The big problems are:

  • you only carry a finite length of chain

  • wind might be finite but its top limits are higher than your ability to deploy more chain

  • the weight of chain is fixed, you either have 6mm or 8mm or 10mm etc., you cannot increase the weight according to conditions

  • there may not be room to deploy more chain, the anchorage might be small or full of other yachts

  • at around 30 knots catenary effectiveness disappears, beyond 30kt you are effectively moored with an inelastic steel connector.

Some basics

Commonly a 35’ to 40’ yacht, the sort that most of us can buy: Beneteau, Bavaria, Hanse, all AWBs, would carry 8mm chain. Deploying 30m of chain with 6m between bow roller and seabed, giving a 5:1 scope, would not be uncommon.

In 20 knots of wind all of that chain will be off the seabed, so its ‘all’ catenary. Dive on your anchor in 20 knots of wind and, as your yacht swings, you will find if you touch any exposed part of your anchor that the anchor moves with every movement of the chain. Dive on your anchor in 30 knots, when the chain is as good as straight and you will find that the anchor movement is surprisingly aggressive.

A moving anchor ‘liquefies’ the seabed in its immediate proximity and the shear stresses holding it in place are reduced. A shallow set anchor, think old fashioned, badly-designed or incorrectly sized, is liable to break free and drag. To minimise these effects the anchor should be deep set with as much chain buried as possible since buried chain is also subject to friction within the seabed, which protects the anchor from chain movement effects.

Smaller sized chain is easier to bury than larger sizes. Tests show in sand it is not much, but moving down on size from 10mm to 8mm chain will allow your anchor to dive approximately 5 per cent deeper. Though this seems small the shear strength that is holding your anchor in place increases in strength with the square of depth. A 5% increase in depth is a 10% increase in hold: a good return. Furthermore an overly large anchor is difficult to deep set and more so with a big swivel and big chain.

You can deep set a big anchor, bigger than might be recommended. To deep set a big anchor you need large engine power, larger than would be commonly found in an auxiliary engine of an AWB. Or you need lots of wind, in a constant direction.

An aside, CH developed a self righting device, called a Boomerang, that ensures your anchor self rights at the bow roller during retrieval. For details google ‘Yaffa Boomerang your anchor right back’. If made as suggested the Boomerang is thinner, has a smaller cross-sectional area, than the chain and this slightly enhances the ability of your rode to bury. Moreover, because the Boomerang has vertical area, much greater than the chain, it resists veering forces when fully buried and thus enhances anchor performance, this has been tested independently.

Interestingly Bruce, now makers of oil rig anchors, make devices called Boosters that act a bit like an aircraft aileron and help pull the chain into the seabed, the boosters are like downward pointing vanes on the rode. The concept cannot be used, or not yet, on our rodes as the Boosters would be too wide for our bow rollers. But these boosters similarly enhance rode performance, similar to the Boomerang, so the idea of modifying rode performance is not original!

Chain on the seabed has the advantage of friction between chain and seabed. So chain on the seabed reduces the impact of chain on anchor.

Deploy more chain, so as to get it on the seabed if you have room and more chain. Or use a snubber as it also keeps more of it on the seabed for longer because the snubber and catenary share tension, so the positives of catenary last longer.

The word ‘snubber’ has been used to describe two similar pieces of cordage. Snubber is used to describe a short length of cordage attached to the chain and to a strong point on the yacht with the primary reason being to take load off the windlass and to stop the chain rattling on the
bow roller.

It is critical to ensure snatch loads are not placed on the windlass and this is what the cordage successfully does for the first meaning of the word. Windlass are not designed to take snatch loads; nor might the deck, to which the windlass is attached, have the strength to take those same snatch loads.

In testing for snatch loads the largest load we found was between 650kg and 700kg. This would all be imposed on the windlass and its reinforcing if there was no snubber. Windlass are meant to be able to lift all the chain and anchor, in our case around 150kg/200kg, well below the snatch load. It is unlikely the designer and builder of the yacht and windlass will have catered for a load three times the lifting limit of the windlass.

A short snubber could be wire, Dyneema or nylon and has virtually no elasticity and simply acts like the chain.

The second application of the word is to describe a long piece of cordage that cushions the yacht from snatch loading, a bit like the suspension on a car or a bungy cord on a bungy jump. Nylon stretches about 40% at break but about 10% is considered the safe working load limit (WLL), though stretching upto 20% occasionally is acceptable.

A 10% stretch is roughly equal to 25% of minimum break strength and nylon ropes are rated at a 4:1 safety factor. The higher the stretch, percentage wise, and/or the more cycles above 10%, the shorter the snubber life.

The elasticity of nylon is a function of weight: the thinner (i.e. less weight) the easier it will stretch. By measuring weight per metre it is possible to calculate extension.

Nylon is not the only cordage you can use as a snubber, an alternative is polyester. Polyester is suitable but lacks the degree of elasticity of nylon, so you need longer lengths to achieve the same performance. In the unlikely event you cannot source nylon then polyester is an alternative, but nylon is the most suitable.

The elasticity of nylon is approximately linear: double tension and you double the amount of stretch. For the purists, stretch increases faster as tension increases; but this difference for our application is academic rather than practical.

Snatch loads are all about energy: energy of the moving yacht, kinetic energy. Energy is measured in joules and is defined as:

Joules = (mass (kg)/2) x (velocity (m/sec))²

Therefore, a 45’ x 12 ton yacht (12,000kg) moving at 1 knot (0.5m/sec) = (12,000/2) x 0.5². Thus, 6,000 x 0.25 = 1,500 joules.

We do not know how fast a yacht moves at anchor, our equipment is insufficiently sensitive. But one knot seems a reasonable figure; it might be higher for a flighty smaller yacht with a fin keel or lower for a heavier displacement, longer-keeled yacht.

Energy is based on the assumption that the yacht veers. We did some tests on rode tensions and found that the maximum loads occurred as a result of veering, not windage per se. In fact snatch loads, as a result of veering, are at least two times the average load. So a yacht that is in an anchorage and does not veer will have a lower maximum tension in the rode than the same yacht in an anchorage where the yacht veers.

Wind veers in most anchorages, even very sheltered anchorages can be subject to strong bullets of wind from unpredictable directions. We want to consider veering as a worst case scenario.

If the yacht is attached to the anchor with a piece of kryptonite steel piano wire then any energy is transferred directly to the anchor, a snatch load with no catenary, no friction on the seabed that will modify the shear strength of the seabed in which the anchor is embedded.

Sticking with our example of our anchor attached with kryptonite piano wire we could transfer that energy to something elastic, in the same way that the impact of bumps on the road are transferred to our suspension or old fashioned springs. If we had this mixed rode the Kryptonite would give us abrasion resistance and strength, the elastic component would absorb energy. Think of the bungy jumper, at the bottom of their fall they feel almost no shock load just a gentle deceleration. Think of a snubber as bungy cord for a yacht.

It is possible to calculate the amount of energy that can be absorbed (potential energy) by nylon, but, fortunately, Marlow Ropes have made the calculation for us, see Table 1.

A 12mm x 10m length of nylon will comfortably absorb almost 1,500 (1,440) joules, equivalent to about 400kg of tension. Based on measuring rode tensions without a snubber then 400kg of tension is approximately the maximum snatch load developed on a 45’, 7t yacht anchored in 30 knots with a 5:1 scope using only chain as the rode. 400kg is 7.5% of ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of 12mm nylon.

Consequently, if you are using a kryptonite piano wire rode so totally inelastic and no catenary effect, then a 10m length of 12mm nylon cordage will absorb all of the energy developed from snatch loading at 30 knots of a 45’ yacht and work at below the recommended limit of the WLL of 10m of 12mm nylon. If you double the length of nylon to 20m the energy absorption will be the same, i.e. 1,500 joules, but you will only be working with 3.75% extension, so well below the working load limit.

If you increase the weight (diameter) of your nylon cordage to say 20mm and stick with a 10m length then, at the same 400kg tension, you can only absorb approximately 885 joules and there will still be a snatch load; the difference between the kinetic energy of the moving yacht (1,500 joules) and the potential energy (885 joules) of the cordage. This simply illustrates that too thick and heavy a cordage the less it stretches
at a given load.

Simplistically, it is too inelastic, resulting in snatch load.

Consequently there is a compromise, between having enough stretch (with a limit to the WLL) and minimal or no snatch loading at all; or too little stretch (and having plenty of WLL potential) but still the risk of snatch loading. There is another compromise (related to WLL) that thin nylon, 12mm, has an ultimate strength of around 3t and 20mm nylon with an ultimate minimum strength of almost 8.5t.

If we now return to reality and dump our illusory kryptonite piano wire and replace it with 30m x 10mm steel chain, how will it perform?

Recall that kryptonite has no ability to store energy at all; our 10m x 12mm nylon will store 1,500 joules at a tension of 400kg with a 7.5% stretch. The maximum energy absorption of our 30m of 10mm chain at a 5:1 scope is around 1,300 joules at a totally unrealistic 3.5t of tension. At 400kg tension, still 5:1 scope, the chain’s potential energy is around 950 joules. Basically beyond 400kg of tension the chain is a virtually straight steel wire as the incremental increase in potential energy beyond 400kg tension is of minimal value.

If we increase tension to 600kg then the chain alone only has around 1,100 joules of potential energy and the nylon 2,700 joules. Chain and catenary is better than nylon at low wind speeds at energy absorption. But at low wind speeds there
is little concern anyway.

We have confirmed this ourselves with our 6mm (so lightweight) high tensile rode and our snubbers. In light winds, around 10 knots, the snubbers contribute nothing they simply only imperceptibly stretch. Any dampening is from the chain, confirming, at least in part, some of the theory.

At 30 knots our 30m x 10mm chain at a 5:1 scope behaves like kryptonite wire and offers no beneficial catenary effect. Meaning we have had 70kg of chain (the weight of 30m of 10mm chain) in the bow locker to no benefit other than abrasion resistance.

We can obviously deploy more chain if we have swing room in the anchorage. Heavier chain is ‘better’ than lighter chain, 10mm chain will develop almost twice the kinetic energy of 8mm chain and around three times that of 6mm chain, but it costs more, weighs more, takes up more room etc. So you can use 100m of 10mm chain and have useful catenary, but it will do nothing for windward performance on a 33’ AWB; think of two men standing on the bow, let alone where you would store it.

Suddenly the idea of a mixed rode, some nylon some chain, might look appealing. Plus, maybe the reasoning behind lightweight high tensile chain looks less controversial and possibly even palatable. We simply marry the abrasion resistance of the chain and keep some of its ability for potential energy at lower wind speeds and marry it to the benefits of nylon’s ability to add potential energy to the rode.

The big issue is: we need to join the two together, chain and nylon, making a decision what length of each we need. The alternative is to have an all-chain rode and a nylon snubber which can be attached anywhere using a chain hook or some form of hitch.

Though keeping within the WLL will maximise snubber life, it is accepted that snubbers are consumables and will need to be replaced, say every two years depending on how often you anchor. If you do not replace them you should expect your snubbers to fail, which they will do with the noise of a rifle shot! Consequently, the occasional exceeding of the WLL is common, recalling that WLL of nylon is based on a 4:1 safety factor and that you are not reliant on the snubber, the snubber is only part of the whole.

Finally, to maximise snubber life and effectiveness you should either have the ability to deploy more snubber, extra length, or have a second set of snubbers for stronger winds. So, have one set of snubbers to use up to 30 knots and another set of snubber, heavier duty, to use beyond. Most people will never, ever, experience winds in a recognised anchorage that register 30 knots or more at the masthead, though internet gurus want you to plan for 70 knots across the decks, so the need for ‘storm snubbers’ is exceptional and the occasional use of a ‘standard’ snubber at 35 knots will not be catastrophic.

For cruising around your home port the absence of storm snubbers is not going to be an issue, you will have access to decent forecasts and know local boltholes. If you are going to spend three months on Tasmania’s west coast or are a live-aboard at anchor, then storm snubbers and spares are strongly recommended. Its horses for courses.

We are possibly overstressing the advantage of a nylon snubber, the reality is there is opportunity to store energy in the chain, primarily at lower wind speeds plus to store energy in the nylon snubber, which actually works almost to point of failure at higher windspeeds. It is not one or other, but a combination of both.

At low wind speeds your chain will reduce the ability of your yacht to wander around the anchorage and your snubber(s) will show little stretch. As the wind increases your snubber will increasingly take the load until, at around 30 knots, your chain will look straight and your snubbers will absorb all of the extra energy of the wind gusts. You will still enjoy the abrasion resistance of the chain as the snubber can be deployed to be never near the seabed.

Anyone reading this may now be shaking their head in total disbelief and preparing to write a letter to the editor: how can you use a 10m snubber and also have the ability to deploy more, say another 10m?

Some application/installation methods are yacht specific, it depends on your yacht and your need to devise a sensible technique; but the basics are as follows and are used on both monohulls and catamarans by a number of people tested by a cross section of people, internationally.

How to deploy a snubber

Working with a 10m yacht, the flat of the deck (the usable length) will be say, 9m long plus there will be 2m to 3m of snubber extending beyond the bow roller.

Run the snubber through the stanchion bases from transom to bow. Secure the snubber on the aft horn cleat, or better on a transom located sheet winch. If your winch is inboard, simply use a turning block as you would a spinnaker sheet. Using the winch gives you the immediate facility to deploy more snubber. We have two spare clutches, we used one on each side and can run to a turning block and then a winch should we need to extend or shorten.

The run through the stanchion bases is largely straight (especially on a catamaran) with minimal risk of abrasion. You are running the snubber as you might a headsail furling line. Running through the stanchion bases keeps the snubbers clear of the working deck.

The personalisation for your yacht is how to get the snubber outboard so you can attach to the chain with a chain hook or hitch. The easiest way is through a fairlead in the toe rail but you could set up a turning block as you might for barberhauling. On our catamaran we installed bow located turning blocks with suitable reinforcing. You might also need something to reduce friction and abrasion. Leather covers work well, as does hosepipe or old fire hose. Nautilus Marine in New Zealand make hollow Dyneema tubing (or tape) which is excellent as it is very slippery and highly abrasion-resistant. Hollow nylon tape works well.

If you follow this concept you effectively have an approximate 12m to 13m snubber that operates within the length of your yacht. If you have a bigger yacht you obviously have the facility for
a longer snubber.

Extending the snubber when the winds develop beyond the forecast simply means adding up to a further 7m to 8m giving 9m to 10m on a 10m yacht, which is hardly an excessive length when the wind is gusting at 35 knots.

If you were going to high latitudes with the chance of extreme winds: Patagonia, Alaska, Labrador, then you could cleat off at the bow, run aft to a turning block on the transom and back to the bow and the chain hook. Layout depends on the specific yacht and the imagination of the owner, think outside the box!

If the winds are light but expected to develop, you simply reduce the excess beyond the bow to ensure the chain hook does not rest on the seabed as they then inevitably fall off. When the wind picks up simply extend the length deployed.

You will roughly double the snubber life if you install one on each side and join at a common chain hook. If you do this on a monohull you can then have a bridle which will reduce yawing and is strongly recommended.

Snubber life can be extended simply by end for ending. We leave our snubbers permanently installed, they are simply not in the way and the excess is stored
as you would store sheets.

Snubbers are best nylon-based and three strand or multiplait are ideal. We use 11mm lead climbing rope from indoor climbing walls and carry two complete spares. Climbing rope is specifically designed to stretch but has a limited application as it will simply not be strong enough for larger and heavier yachts.

Another option for monohulls is to have an everyday snubber on one side and a storm snubber on the other. Let the two snubbers meet at a common chain hook and only bring the storm snubber into service when needed: simply slacken of the lighter snubber so the storm snubber takes the tension.

We have tried all sorts of methods of attaching the snubber to the chain and the simplest is a cheap G70 cradle or saddle hook, used in the transport industry. We cannot recommend using the hooks available in chandlers or marketed to the marine industry, they may damage your chain and/or the hooks can be too weak. An alternative is a Prussik knot, which is our recommendation for a tied attachment, or some form of hitch, or a Dyneema soft shackle. We have found Dyneema soft shackles virtually impossible to apply to metric chain, the link aperture is simply too small.

Hooks used in the lifting industry are made for specific chain sizes and chain retention is much more secure than
the hooks sold for marine application. If you source a cradle hook you can be sure it will not cause damage to your chain and will minimise damage to the galvanising.

G70 cradle hooks can be bought electrozinc coated and are cheap. The coating will be adequate for a few months and then you will need a repaint with a zinc paint. But if you have a local and friendly galvaniser who can add it to a small batch run then it will last longer than the galvanising of your chain.

If you buy a clevis saddle hook it is very easy to devise a very simple locking gate (see CH December 2016 ‘Ideas locker’). Chain clutches from the lifting industry and its claws tend to detach from the chain too easily but are quite suitable for securing the chain on deck to keep the load off the windlass. Saddle hooks and clutches, as used for lifting, are available from Beaver, Robertsons now known as Bunzl, Bullivants, local distributors such as Sydney Lifting and usually are available off the shelf.

We use a halyard or scaffold knot to attach our snubbers to the chain. It is an easy knot to tie, self-tightens and can be difficult to undo. Once your snubber is assembled we cannot think of a reason to undo it.

Snubbers can fail

Remember, they are consumables. As back up you still need to secure the chain to a strong point so that there is no chance of the snatch loads being taken by the windlass.

Simply attach a short snubber to both chain and a strong point. When you use a snubber you need to allow some chain slack between chain hook and bow roller, sufficient to allow the snubber to stretch. If you are really clever you can estimate that slack to be, say, 15% of snubber stretch. This then limits the amount of stretch to which your snubber can be exposed.

If you have an everyday snubber on one side and a storm snubber on the other you can arrange your storm snubber to come into play when the everyday snubber reaches 10% to 15%. This then allows both snubbers to work together. There are a number of refinements.

Snubbers are not a panacea, they will not make a poor anchor reliable though it will make it less unreliable. Snubbers are simply part of your ground tackle wardrobe along with chain, spare anchors, spare rode and rated shackles etc. If your spare rode is a mix of chain and nylon it does not need a snubber, the nylon spliced, commonly a long splice, to the chain will offer the required elasticity.

Our attitude, this was with 8mm chain but more so now with 6mm chain, is to assume the chain offers no catenary benefit, but whatever benefit there is adds to our safety margin.

We are effectively treating our 6mm x G80 chain as kryptonite piano wire. We rely only on the elasticity of our snubbers to absorb snatch loads, we have one each side and a complete set of spares. We will deploy two anchors in stronger winds, the second with a mixed rode so doubling our safety margins as it reduces veering and this itself reduces the snatch loads.

In case it is not yet obvious your chain catenary has finite benefits. You should assume, due to the amount of chain you can carry, a limited space in an anchorage in which to deploy more chain and that any useful catenary will effectively disappear at around 30 knots of wind impinging directly on the yacht.

You can choose nylon snubbers for any and every eventuality, from 20 knots to 70 knots. They will offer elasticity for anything the Bureau Of Meteorology can throw at you. You simply need to decide what you think is reasonable and carry
for that eventuality.

For a yacht with G30 chain, 10m x 10/12mm nylon will be adequate for yachts from 30‘ to 45’ and 14/16mm adequate for yachts from 40’ to 50’ for everyday anchoring. If you install 20m of snubber you can ensure a more than adequate safety margin.

For anyone with high tensile chain, G70 or better, you must use a snubber; it is not an option. You have sacrificed some catenary to save weight.

Based on working with our light high tensile chain we have extended our snubbers to 30m and feel supremely confident we have ground tackle suitable to at least 45 knots. Plus even higher windspeeds if we deploy two anchors. 30m give us complete flexibility and we simply deploy more by easing additional cordage via the winches as we think fit.

Spare cordage is simply stored as you would a sheet or halyard. Paraphrasing Dashew: your snubbers are long enough when people laugh at the length you carry!

Our mantra for anchor choice is simple, there is no perfect anchor. You need more than one anchor and ideally you should have anchors with strengths in different seabeds. Similarly, there is no perfect rode and you need to think flexibly, as you do with anchors. Flexibility means using the best of what is available and not accepting second best.

Finally, if the conditions are going to be worrying never forget that anchoring does not mean relying only on your anchor. In the Mediterranean, Baltic and high northern or southern latitudes it is very common, in fact standard practice, to tie to shore. We use it in tight anchorages. All you need are long shore lines. We will cover shore lines in a future article.

Question dogma, think outside the box!

Jon Neeves
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