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Old 29-04-2015, 10:19   #1
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Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

Folks,

Any recommendations on how to properly raise an anchor when you are facing strong surging waves? We have had several incidents where the waves were strong enough to get our bow hobby-horsing (bow in the water, bow out of the water.. rinse and repeat) and when we bring up the anchor to get out of that mess it puts an awful lot of energy into the chain windlass when it snatches up. We try to motor into the wind but that takes real coordination between the anchorman and the helmsman and if the timing is not quite right, too much anchor chain gets pulled in.

I don't wan't to be in these situations in the first place but we did not have another option at the time.

Any methods, techniques or tools I could implement when faced with this again?

- z
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Old 29-04-2015, 10:41   #2
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

Indeed, the situation you describe is scary and difficult. We encountered big surging waves suddenly coming into an anchorage at least four times while cruising. An anchorage where that happened to us was the location, a year later, of a 40' boat being rolled by the waves, because the poor single hander could not get his anchor up in time.

Our strategy was to motor a bit past the point where there is no load on the anchor chain or line. The person on the bow then uses the windlass to retrieve as much chain as possible while there is no load on the chain. Our Maxwell VWC 1200 pulls chain at about 1-foot per second when there is no load on the chain.

We can usually pull about 15' of chain before it loads up again as the wind/waves push the boat backwards. The BIG problem is how to prevent the big snatch or shock load on the chain/windlass when all the slack is taken up. And, we've found no good answer to that question.

A good helmsman can keep the boat slowly moving forward so there is little load on the chain but that is tough to do in the wind and waves than occur during these experiences. Earpiece radios allow better coordination between the person on the bow who is running the windlass and can see the chain and the helmsman who is trying to keep the bow into the wind and the engine speed to a level that unloads the chain but does not overrun the anchor.

I wish I could say "do not get into these situations" BUT every time it happened to us - the wind and waves were a complete surprise with no warning.
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Old 29-04-2015, 10:44   #3
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

What he said, it is hard to not snub the chain/windlass at times.
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Old 29-04-2015, 15:01   #4
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
Folks,

Any recommendations on how to properly raise an anchor when you are facing strong surging waves? We have had several incidents where the waves were strong enough to get our bow hobby-horsing (bow in the water, bow out of the water.. rinse and repeat) and when we bring up the anchor to get out of that mess it puts an awful lot of energy into the chain windlass when it snatches up. We try to motor into the wind but that takes real coordination between the anchorman and the helmsman and if the timing is not quite right, too much anchor chain gets pulled in.

I don't wan't to be in these situations in the first place but we did not have another option at the time.

Any methods, techniques or tools I could implement when faced with this again?

- z
Your chain should be lead through a chain stopper so that your Windlass never takes more load than the weight of the deployed bottom tackle when you are hoisting or deploying your gear. To hoist in big waves, idle the yacht forward and take up slack as the bow descends. Discontinue the hoist as the bow begins to rise, letting the chain stopper snub and take the load of the chain. This process will pull you closer to the anchor with no undue strain on the Windlass until the anchor breaks out at which point you finish the hoist and head on your way.

The following Stoppers are available at West Marine and through other vendors:

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Old 29-04-2015, 17:18   #5
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

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Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
Your chain should be lead through a chain stopper so that your Windlass never takes more load than the weight of the deployed bottom tackle when you are hoisting or deploying your gear. To hoist in big waves, idle the yacht forward and take up slack as the bow descends. Discontinue the hoist as the bow begins to rise, letting the chain stopper snub and take the load of the chain. This process will pull you closer to the anchor with no undue strain on the Windlass until the anchor breaks out at which point you finish the hoist and head on your way.
Well 'sorta.

We have the standard chain stopper shown in the image. And it works as described above, most of the time. But, in the bouncy waves and gusty winds the chain has a tendency to jump about and force the lever on the chain stopper open while the chain is being retrieved. When that happens, the chain stopper is worthless for keeping the load off the windlass.

And, the bow person needs to put their hand down there to pop the chain stopper lever back into place... a dicey proposition on a 12 ton pop bouncy up and down three to five feet in the waves.

The chain stopper is a big improvement and really does help but it is still a struggle at times.
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Old 29-04-2015, 22:26   #6
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

A good subject for discussion.

Perhaps a technique would be to use the wave action combined with shortening scope to pop the anchor out. You want the scope to be short enough for the jerks to to pop the anchor out, but not pound the boat/windlass too hard. The problem with a chain stopper is the sudden jolts could break something.

To reduce impacts, you could pull the chain in as much as you dare and attach a long nylon snubber leading to your mainsheet winch. Better, if you can get the bow positioned over the anchor (need a good helper), quickly pull up as much loose chain as you can by hand and attach the snubber. Then drop it and let the snubber take the load.

WARNING. Don't lay the retrieved chain on the deck as it may be ripped away very quickly ... just let it fall back in the water as you are doing it.

You can then reduce scope as needed by winching in between waves, while allowing the snubber to absorb the sudden impacts. Let the wave action do the job for you.

As long as the anchor is not obstructed, this should work.

An alternative would be to attach one end of a line to a bow cleat and pass the other end through a chain link, then back to a winch. This can be a faster attachment with the advantage that you will be sharing the impacts on 2 fittings. Expect some chafe at the chain link if it's there for long.
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Old 30-04-2015, 08:48   #7
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

Would this be a good time to use an independent anchor retrieval method, like any of those products that lift the anchor clear using a separate chain? Once the anchor is out, I would think the strain would decrease significantly.
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Old 30-04-2015, 09:05   #8
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

Variation on theme... We use a marker float over our anchor - a method we learned from our trawler friends. We deploy it both to help motor to the anchor when departing and to use as a trip line if needed. We use 1/4 nylon line on a 45 lb. CQR and a cheap pool lane marker float. In strong surge you can motor directly over your anchor, take up the slack, and if you have surge it should pop the anchor without terrible strain on your windlass.
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Old 30-04-2015, 09:24   #9
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

Two MORE thoughts:

1) If it's that bad - stay. Let your snubber do the work it is intended to do.
2) This might be one of those times when, particularly if you're local, you may want to put that marker float on your rode and leave the anchor and rode behind to retrieve when it's safer.
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Old 30-04-2015, 09:32   #10
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

You know when you are anchoring in an environment with capacity for wave, current action! In that environment good to fit nylon line to chain, close to anchor so that is 2 meters less than depth, with anchor hook or rolling hitch pass over spare bowroller and to windlass rope drum, or to mainmast halyard winch. The elasticity of the nylon libe, once winched in, will allow you to absorb the shocks produced by the hobbyhorsing boat. To my experience the elastic action of the nylon line will work out the anchor wgen motoring just past anchor. This will always work in anchored in sand, but wont work if anchor fouled by rocks, coral or debris. So it is very important to anchor only in sand in such wave prone environments.
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Old 30-04-2015, 09:41   #11
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

We have a very good nylon snubber (two 5/8" 30 foot legs with galvanized eyes connected to a mantus chain hook using high test crosby chain shackles) that we normally use to run two stout cleats.

However, I had not thought about using an anchor marker float with a long nylon snubber. Thats a great idea if you expect surge.
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Old 30-04-2015, 09:44   #12
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

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Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
Well 'sorta.

We have the standard chain stopper shown in the image. And it works as described above, most of the time. But, in the bouncy waves and gusty winds the chain has a tendency to jump about and force the lever on the chain stopper open while the chain is being retrieved. When that happens, the chain stopper is worthless for keeping the load off the windlass.

And, the bow person needs to put their hand down there to pop the chain stopper lever back into place... a dicey proposition on a 12 ton pop bouncy up and down three to five feet in the waves.

The chain stopper is a big improvement and really does help but it is still a struggle at times.
I think the answer is in the stopper, and how it is installed. Tacoma, you may remember me from Mexico as Casual Water, and I went through Marty, as you famously did. Anyway, on that boat I used to lift my rode, which was 250 feet of 1/4 inch HT chain, by hand. This I found very easy, and have always been puzzled that more people on small boats don't do it the way I did, which was to sit over my opened anchor locker, with gloves on, and just rock back and forth like I was rowing. The chain would then simply drop into the locker between my legs. I could pull in two feet per second but what made this work, in very rough conditions, was my installation. I had taken one of the pictured stoppers and removing the actual "blade", for lack of a better term, and installing it in my bow roller, at the roller, drilling holes in each side for the shaft to slip through. The angle of the chain up to the roller is such that it won't flip the blade over into the "up" position. I was not uncomfortable with anchoring in 60 feet of water, either, and never had to worry about windlasses or anything. It was a reasonably good workout, too, and sometimes I just pulled the anchor chain in and then let it out for that very purpose. If the wind blew hard, I put the engine in gear running very slowly, and used the handheld autopilot from the bow. I have yet to see a more trouble free and effective system for a small boat and I was able to anchor on all chain. I actually had two further lengths of chain that I could attach to the main one for really deep anchorages.

Currently, on my Leopard 45 cat, it's more complicated, because I use an electric windlass. But it, too, has a very strong stopper where the chain comes from the roller to the windlass, which also can't get flipped over by the chain. I pull in the slack on the chain, and then when I feel the surge or gust coming, I quickly let out a few inches, with the windlass, which re-sets the stopper in place. When the surge or gust abates, or we have motored a bit further forward, I raise more chain, and so forth. Works like a charm. I agree that getting fingers in the works is a bad idea, but think that the installation can avoid that being necessary. That, and letting out a few inches of chain, which pretty much keeps the fingers out of the equation!
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Old 30-04-2015, 10:15   #13
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

Using a Maxwell 1200 HWC and a handheld up/down control (I'm already tap dancing trying to stay at the bow, never-mind trying to step on the correct button) to lift a 45# CQR into place on a bowsprit , after releasing the 30' snubber from the chain (the hard part in rolly anchorages), I find that if for whatever reason the boat no longer lines up with the lay of the anchor chain, or the surge is too much, I let out whatever chain is necessary and start over again.
However, even then, not everything goes as planned - sometimes the bow is blown sideways allowing the chain to push against the bobstay. At this point or even before, unless you are really good at hand signals, I believe that radio communication between the person pulling up the anchor and the person at the helm would be a great help in quickly resolving the "problem."
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Old 30-04-2015, 10:20   #14
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pirate Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

The RichandHelen solution is the correct one since the old centuries. If you are not local you will manage with your GPS MOB and will change your sailing programs accordingly. Safety first.
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Old 30-04-2015, 10:56   #15
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Re: Raising Anchor Using Windlass in Surge/Waves

I think this is only a concern if your boat"s installed mooring and anchor handling fixtures are not designed to take the surge loads you describe.

If caught in an uncomfortable anchorage with rising swell and wind I would usually shorten up until I felt the anchor / chain start to chatter indicating drag then simply watch the wave sets as I haul to the up and down position and trust my well maintained windlass.

If sea room permits ...once off the bottom, I like to slowly reverse away from the wind in a natural turn where the stern quarter finds the wind and you can hold and secure/clean in that downwind position where the boat is making a nice Lee for those working on the Bow.
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