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Old 03-03-2011, 22:11   #1
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All Chain Rode Opinions


I am updating my ground tackle for my 36ft sailboat and have placed an order for 200' of 3/8" G4 chain. We currently sail inland waters (average anchor depth 25') but have a long term plan to go to the Caribbean (and beyond?) so I am trying to plan for the future. However, after reading up a bit more I am having doubts as to if an All Chain rode is the right decision (the book I am reading recommends 40-60% chain). Points against it are weight, shock loads and potential complications of using a snubber. All Chain rode is also messy, noisy and of course expensive.

My question is this: is there a consensus (as best can be expected for sailors ) among long distance cruisers on the ratio of chain to nylon rode? Is all chain with snubber best, or is a hybrid approach a better solution?

Comments anyone?


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Old 03-03-2011, 22:16   #2
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

I have 100 meters - 330 feet - of all chain rode for my main bower anchor. It runs through the windlass better and is chafe-proof. In my opinion those are the only advantages of all chain. Among the disadvantages you didn't mention weight in the bow.
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Old 03-03-2011, 22:38   #3
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

You may want to check the specs of your winch to see if it will take all chain.

But for a 36' boat I wouldn't deem it necessary unless you plan to be in some hurricanes.

I use 60' of chain and that pretty much keeps the anchor dug in.
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Old 03-03-2011, 23:22   #4
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

I went the same route as delmarrey... I have a 37' boat with 75' of 3/8" chain and 350' of 5/8" Deep Six nylon rode from Samson. I never anchor in less than about 15' around here so my setup works out perfectly for a 6:1 scope in 15' of water with all my chain out and about 15-20' of nylon rode as a built-in snubber. If the weather turns bad, I just increase scope and have that much more shock absorption.

This way I have most of my weight near the anchor where it does the most good and I have reduced weight in the bow considerably (several hundred pounds) over going with an all chain 5/16" rode that would typically be recommended for this size of boat. I find chafe has not been an issue so far as even the slightest breeze keeps the nylon portion of the rode off the bottom.
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Old 03-03-2011, 23:39   #5
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

5/16" G4 would be more than adequate for a 36' boat. You could either carry more chain or have a lot less weight forward with the smaller diameter chain. If it were me, I'd see if I could change the order to 5/16" if it will fit your windlass gypsy. I like all chain with an electric windlass. Never have to touch the ground tackle. Raise it, lower it, stow the anchor all at the touch of a button.

I'm not a big fan of rope as it doesn't self stow as well as chain and prone to chafe. Chafe on the bottom isn't the problem, it's chafe where the line goes through chocks or other places of chafe. Line can chafe through in less than an hour unless you are religious about chafing gear and/or changing the point on the line where it could chafe in high winds and/or waves. Have spent more than one night at the bow in very nasty conditions trying to save the anchor line and the boat.
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Old 03-03-2011, 23:42   #6
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

Hello Andrew
Chain is certainly most resistant to chafe, but one can sometimes have too much of a good thing. IMHO it seems that Delmarrey has it by the tail - enough chain to avoid most of the chafe and rope beyond that. Though it is a bit dated, I've been impressed with the thoughtfulness of Bob Griffith in his book 'Blue Water'. He favors chain... with polypropylene line. The chain for chafe, and the poly to float off the bottom and thus avoid the snags.

I do like to put a coal weight (half a cwt, as I remember)as a sentinel on the line down to about a meter or two off the bottom. In light winds it acts as a spring on the line, and in heavy winds its only the elasticity of the line that will furnish that spring anyway (sentinel or not). In heavy winds it's scope alone (and the natural qualities of the anchor) that keeps the hook buried. 200 feet of chain on a 36ft boat strikes me as an unnecessary weight penalty.

There's one other small detail I've not seen discussed in this forum, as regards chain to rope splicing. If one has a FOUR stranded line) then you can put in a splice going down the chain, ie-not bent back toward the rope. A three strand rope can be used but it would have slightly uneven strain on it. I've seen the splice mentioned once or twice in rigging texts but it's evidently not commonly used. The main attribute of any splice is its doing away with the shackle between rope and chain, and thus easier riding through windlass and hawsehole. I can't say it's perfect, but it works for me.

Cheers - Guy
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Old 04-03-2011, 00:12   #7
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

All the handling issues and performance issues aside, the area you are in will help guide a decision. If any coral then go all chain, if not then mixed rode is OK.
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Old 04-03-2011, 01:54   #8
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

The average 36 footer doesn't need 3/8 G4 and would be just fine with 5/16 especially in a place with no tide. 3/8 G4 would take you all the way up to a 46 footer. Most windlasses can accommodate several sizes of gypsy so maybe you can check whether yours can take 5/16. The gypsy alone doesn't cost much and with 5/16 you get both less weight and less $$$$$$. Yippeee !

Anchoring on a lake doesn't need a whole lot of chain and somewhere around 40 - 50 ft should be plenty. I am assuming that the bottom where you anchor is mostly mud. The basic idea is to have the bit that is on the bottom all chain and the bit rising up through the water either chain or rope. As the others have said, the main advantage of chain is that it doesn't chafe.

An all chain rode is really only necessary when you head for far flung places with a bottom that is either coral or rock or something unknown. Both can chafe through rope in a few hours. Opinions vary on how much chain you need and they will be in the 200 - 300 ft range.

I carry 200 ft of 5/16 G4 but plenty of others prefer longer.
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Old 04-03-2011, 01:55   #9
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

There is never a consensus concerning anchoring.

If the boat and you can handle the weight of chain and especially if you plan to anchor in coral areas where rope would be subject to abuse, I'd say it was a "no brainer" to go with all chain, but do have a snubber to counteract yanks on the chain when there is heavy weather.

Anyone disagreeing confirms my first statement.
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Old 04-03-2011, 02:55   #10
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

I agree with Mark. See, anchoring threads don't have to be contentious.

Here in the eastern Caribbean, with coral around, I found 150' of 5/16" HT backed by 5/8" nylon rode to be ideal. In all the anchorages we visited, I never needed to deploy the nylon, just the chain. I don't think you'll find using a snubber to be a problem.
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Old 04-03-2011, 02:58   #11
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

Mate................. if you want to sleep at night without listening for the anchor alarm, then go with the 10mm chain, all chain rode, and at least a 1Kw windlass to handle it. Why buy rope/chain rode when you only have to buy all chain later, if you are still off the rocks?!!
Anchoring is a huge....huge.... part of sailing, and you like to sleep when at anchor?
Biggest problem I found was finding a yacht with an anchor locker big enough to take 60 metres of chain! Self flaking that is, without you having to knock down the pile as you pull the chain in. Remote controls for up and down at the windlass and helm are a huge help if short handed. Buying stainless steel chain helps as it self flakes a lot better.
Use a good snubber and drive the boat forward as you pull in the chain, dont use the windlass to pull the boat over the anchor. Plus, all the other good stuff about proper scope and digging in a 20% bigger delta anchor than you need.
Safe anchoring from keith.
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Old 04-03-2011, 03:26   #12
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

Originally Posted by savoir View Post
The average 36 footer doesn't need 3/8 G4 and would be just fine with 5/16 especially in a place with no tide. 3/8 G4 would take you all the way up to a 46 footer.
My 36-foot, 14-ton trawler is coming with a combination 5/16-inch chain and nylon rope rode, but then I'll be anchoring in mud. If the need comes, I'll replace the nylon with chain.
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Old 04-03-2011, 03:42   #13
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

All-chain offers chafe protection and longevity. Rope-chain saves weight and money. Otherwise, it's different strokes for different folks, depending on the boat and the cruising grounds. A few thoughts:

- 5/16" G4 is plenty strong enough for your boat
- If you go with chain-rope combo, you'll find that 8 or 12 plait flakes nicely in the anchor locker
- You can use a sacrificial snubber on a rope rode to alleviate chafe
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Old 04-03-2011, 03:46   #14
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

Our boat is a tad bigger and she has 200 ft of 5/16 chain. The previous owner sailed it 5 years then cruised continuously for 7 years with it. That included the Pacific NW, Carribean and Atalntic coast.

I would use the weight savings for a second anchor of another type and a short chain with nylon rode. The second anchor would prove more useful than the heavier chain. A second rode also has potential uses you may not envision. This would still net out to weight saved.
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Old 04-03-2011, 03:49   #15
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Re: All Chain Rode Opinions

We've been cruising the Caribbean for 8 years on a 35 foot boat. We use 200 feet of 3/8" chain with another 250 of 5/8" nylon 3 strand. We rarely let out enough scope to get to the nylon. We started out with 5/16" HT, but quickly switched to 3/8". The reason has nothing to do with strength -- it's the additional weight of the catenary that drove us to 3/8" chain. The holding power at a given scope is far greater with the 3/8" chain. It's 50% heavier than 5/16", and it's the weight that makes it hold, no matter what anchor you put on the end.

If you go with a rope/chain combination for the Caribbean, be very careful to make sure you have plenty of chain. Never let the rope get close to the bottom. That means that your rope length is not much more than the water depth. It's quite common to find your rode wrapped around a coral head. The life expectancy of rope is measured in minutes when that happens. Even chain has a relatively short life in broken coral and coral sand. We replace our chain at around 3 years, as the wear is such that the links elongate -- not stretch, but the steel is ground away where the links rub -- to the point where it doesn't run through the gypsy well. That's anchoring 365 days a year; part imers get much longer life from their chain. Imagine what those particles of coral would do as they work their way into a rope rode.

With an all chain rode, you need a good snubber. We use about 15 feet of 1/2" nylon, run carefully through snatch blocks to eliminate chafe. In windy or rough conditions, we lengthen the snubber. The common practice of running the snubber over the bow roller with the slack chain can quickly result in a frayed and broken snubber, as it chafes against the chain sharing the roller. If you must do that, tie the slack chain to the side, so that the snubber is all alone on the roller.

If you're anchoring in mud, a mixed rode is fine -- the holding is better and you don't have the chafe problems.
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