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Old 11-08-2004, 01:48   #1

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Spade Anchor Unsafe - Remedy ?

From Diederik & Erik Meenken (“Deep Blue”)

” We lost our yacht "Deep Blue" when the Spade Anchor failed. The 8mm bolt retaining the Fluke to the Shank of the anchor failed. Without the Fluke, we were swept into the surf line and lost.

The Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand investigated the accident, and listed one CAUSE of the accident in its findings. Mechanical FAILURE of the Spade Anchor.

Don't let this happen to you. The Spade Anchor company failed to observe some very basic principles of engineering and seamanship when they cobbled their product together.

Let's put that right. It's easy.

1/ The bolt needs to be replaced with a longer bolt, to ensure that the strong, unthreaded portion of the bolt shank goes right through the anchor.

2/ Drill the bolt behind the nylock nut, AND PIN IT.

3/ Some have suggested installing a larger (10mm) diameter bolt of quality marine SS. That's up to you. But PIN that nut.

I understand the company have made some of these modifications since our accident. But if you own a Spade Anchor purchased prior to 2004, these modifications are critical for safety.

Your rigging is held by clevis pins. Would you retain these with only a Nylock nut?? “

The Marine Safety Authority Report (NZ):

From "Spade"
Spade Anchor Manufacturer’s Instructions (no mention of "pin"):

Warranty: "We are so confident in the strength of SPADE anchors that we give you a lifetime warranty against breakage !"
The Meeken's claim NOT SO !!!
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Old 11-08-2004, 07:34   #2
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The first time I ever saw one of these I thought, "nope, no two piece anchor held together by a pin for me, no matter how well they say it stays together".

Bought the Delta.
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Old 11-08-2004, 07:40   #3
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Ditto, got the 55# Delta....USed it for 4 years, never let go or dragged...Sleep very well.
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Old 11-08-2004, 18:29   #4
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ditto main anchor is a 35 delta and fortress back up
Denny and Diane
Lagoon 37
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Old 12-08-2004, 13:06   #5
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I would always distrust an anchor that needs to be held together with some form of temporary fixing. Fine for a lunch hook, but not my choice for a piece of safety equipment.

In UK a lot of boats are now being fitted with the Bruce style of anchor. It certainly makes a very clean fitting on the bow (not like the old CQR). However I personally like the delta anchor, which is similar to the CQR, but does not have the pivot, and does have a lot of weight at the pointy end which definetly encourages setting. What do other people use?
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Old 13-08-2004, 01:02   #6
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I use an all chain (10mm) rode with a 33# Bruce as the main. I also have a 33# CQR on 10 ft of chain and nylon rode, plus a small fortress lunch hook strapped to the cockpit rail on a Nylon rode.

The Bruce with all chain when set holds fast. Only one time has it failled to set on the first attempt, but it then set on the second. Where we cruise it is mostly mud with some amoutn of sand at times. The Bruce comes out nice and easy and being a single piece it just can't do anything except what it is supposed to. You still need to watch the shackle on any anchor. I always replace the stainless steel seizing wire each season.

My CQR is getting old and I don't really like it that well. I did use it in a thunderstorm this year when my windlass died and I had to set anchor by hand since evenmanual operation was not possible. 10mm chain ain't easy to set and hoist by hand so the CQR on the nylon rode was required. Even the CQR held very well in 20 ft of water. The boat sailed in circles for a few hours in strong thunderstorm winds and never broke or dragged. 2 other boats did drag that night. It's got some rust spots so I probably should replace it.

One thing in common is both anchors are one size larger than required. when you do that yu make it far easier to set and hold. With a small hook you just risk a lot more when you get less than a totally perfect set. All chain is also nice too. It's more than just the type of anchor that it for sure.
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Old 13-08-2004, 23:34   #7
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Thumbs up I vote Delta's

I carry a 35# Bruce and a 15# Delta for here in the Sound. Before I got the Bruce I had an old Navy Danforth (1944).
One night I anchored on the lee of an island that didn't have much alititude (50-75 ft). Durning the night a gust came up and over at about 25 kt. and the old Danforth started drag'n and refuse to set. I found out in the morning it was all grass.
Anyway, I tossed out the 15# Delta and it took right away and held all night (used the GPS anchor alarm). The wind died down at about 3 AM. My vessel is 14,000+#'s and that little Delta held her solid. When I pulled up the old Danforth in the morning it still hadn't taken hold and was loaded up with grass. The Delta, I had to get the vessel right over the top of it to get it pull free and it came up with mud half way up it's shank.
As for the Bruce I've used it for several anchorages now and it's grabbed and held everytime. But I still keep that lil' Delta at hand.

BTW I have and antique 35# Navy anchor for sale. Like new condition......_/)
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Old 10-09-2004, 00:43   #8

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Reply From the Designer

Dear Administrator,

It seems that Dieterick Meenken is informing the world-wide nautical community that the SPADE anchor is unsafe.. by pasting the same message across many forums..

This post is obviously designed to damage our company and to put pressure on us to pay a compensation.

Please find herewith our point of view about this question...

Fortunately for us, his approach is probably not in the style likely to readily attract the sympathy of forum's members and we received a large number of very positive comments. I will also enclose a few of them.

With the hope that you will also publish our point of view.

Sincerely Yours,
The case of the grounding of Deep Blue is not as simple as it first seems. A New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority Accident Investigation Report investigated by Jim Lott, NARB, concluded that "the anchor failed when the bolt securing the two parts of the anchor fell out" and "that this could reasonably be attributed to the failure of the nut that secured it". What the investigator seemingly failed to consider is how this could have possibly occurred when the type of nut used is specifically designed not to come loose, and there were no forces acting on it.

Spade anchors are designed to dismantle into two pieces for easy stowage, a very popular feature. The shank is inserted into a socket on the blade and retained by a stainless steel bolt with a "Nyloc" style nut. During normal operation, there is no load on this bolt as the substantial socket assembly takes all the force. At boat shows, we often demonstrate this by removing the bolt completely and pulling the anchor as per normal operation. Even when "break-out" is simulated the shank remains inserted in the socket clearly showing that the bolt simply holds the two sections together.

"Nyloc" style nuts are used extensively to prevent accidental loosening of nuts, normally associated with high vibration situations. In the case of the Spade, there is no turning force on the bolt/nut combination and little or no vibration, "Nyloc" style nuts are used as a precautionary measure to totally eliminate any chance of the nut coming loose. "Nyloc" style nuts require tools and significant force to tighten or loosen them. If the nut was initially tight, and there were no forces acting on it to loosen it, it could not have come undone. In my opinion, it is extremely unlikely that the investigator's conclusion is correct.

There are two other possibilities that the investigator apparently fails to consider altogether..

1. The nut was never tightened properly in the first place. This is a distinct possibility as the anchor was relatively new, was purchased assembled and was not subsequently disassembled. When the Spade anchor was displayed, it is possible that the bolt was only loosely fitted, as purchasers often wish to dismantle the anchor for transport. ("Nyloc" style nuts are designed to be used only once). It is possible that the owner/skipper failed to ensure that the bolt was tight.

2. The nut, bolt and blade were removed after the grounding. Apparently no attempt was made to recover the anchor until three days after the grounding. During this time somebody could have removed the blade.

It should also be noted that the vessel was not insured.

There are a number of other peculiar facts in the case:-
a) The owner was at the top of the mast fixing the tricolor light at 2:30 am when the vessel grounded. The vessel had been at sea for 7 days having encountered rough conditions. They had anchored at 22:30 and then spent two and a half hours providing radio communications for an emergency and helicopter evacuation nearby. It is logical to assume that the crew would be tired. The investigator apparently failed to consider that this could have been a contributing factor.
b) Why was no anchor watch maintained even though all three crew were on deck?
c) Even if the anchor blade had become separated from the shank, the shank and the weight of the chain alone would have been able to hold the vessel under the weather conditions of the time. (NO wind or wind less than 10 knots)
d) The vessel was apparently anchored too close to the shore and unprotected from the onshore wind.
e) The Model 80 Spade is designed for vessels displacing up to 4.5T. Deep Blue was estimated to displace 6T.
f) The investigator concluded that the rope/chain combination was sufficient as the ratio was 3.25/1. He failed to take freeboard into account, which would reduce the ratio to approximately 2.88:1. Whilst, according to the report, 3:1 is commonly considered adequate in calm conditions for an all chain rode, this was below that and well below recommendations of a ratio of 5/1 or better 7/1 for a mixed chain + rope rode, especially if no anchor watch is to be maintained.
g) In my opinion, any combination of factors could have lead to Deep Blue dragging including the lack of adequate scope, but the failure to maintain an anchor watch was the primary cause of the grounding.

Despite doubts over the case, Spade have agreed to modify future bolts, as recommended by the investigator, to include a pin after the nut and a note advising that "Nyloc" style nuts should only be used once. (There is no need to replace the nut after each deployment, but every time the anchor is dismantled). Existing owners are advised that if they have any concerns about their nuts, that they arrange for the end of the bolt to be drilled and have a pin and new "Nyloc" style nut fitted. It is the owners' responsibility to ensure that the nut & bolt (or alternative) are in good condition, secure and suitable for the purpose. It must be emphasised that thousands of Spade Anchors have been sold since 9 years, and that no similar cases have been reported.

Alain POIRAUD (designer of the Spade and Ocane anchors)
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Old 10-09-2004, 05:36   #9
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I'm reposting my reply here as well.


Lots of reasons why it couldn't have happened and lots of finger pointing at the crew.

" g) In my opinion, any combination of factors could have lead to Deep Blue dragging including the lack of adequate scope, but the failure to maintain an anchor watch was the primary cause of the grounding."

Seems to me that if an anchor comes apart, that is the primary cause of grounding. And how many of us have ever maintained an anchor watch with winds of "less than 10 knots"?

It's well known that nylok nuts should only be used once - it seems, perhaps, that the anchor manufacturer didn't mention that in the instruction manual.

I don't doubt that there is blame enough to go around, but to say that the anchor failing was not a cause is disingenuous.

I'm sure the Spade anchor is effective (as proven in Practical Sailor and others on this board) and nearly reliable. However, it's the possibility of a two-piece anchor coming apart that would prevent me (and many other cruisers who travel with no more insurance than common sense) from using it. There are enough things to go wrong with an anchoring system (failed shackles, twisting chains, chafe, fouled anchors, weak cleats) that don't need to be compounded by anchor that could come apart.
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Old 07-12-2004, 16:52   #10
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bolt together anchors

I am a fan of the Spade and use it as my primary (delta secondary and West marine performaace 39 for doubling). It requires maintenance as all items on a boat. Fortress has had bolt together anchors for years and the same comments are not mentioned about them.

I have found it to reliable and was glad to have it during Ivan. I have met more cruisers have complained about failures with twist shackles than anchor breakage.

I agree that a pin would be an improvement and have retrofitted mine. Never enough safety. But ultimately the anchor is a system with many parts and the life line of the boat and should be inspected every time it goes up or down and during regular maintenance.
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Old 15-06-2005, 14:46   #11
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Arrow No good tradesman blames his tools

Have to say I agree with sv_makai above. In theory the Spade shank will not easily come out even if the pin is not present, so who knows. Anyway, it is the responsibility of the owner to learn and understand his or her equipment.

We initially stayed away from the demountable concept, a little scared of the problems Spade experienced as a result of the above debacle, but recently have decided to custom build two of our anchors with both demountable shanks and demountable roll-bars.

A simple pin will hold the roll-bar, and we will use a system that requires the shank to be slid up and through the blade, so that even if the pin and assembly totally disintegrates, there is no way the shank will seperate from the blade.

We were thinking we might make this an option on all our anchors, at least the mid-sized ones. Any comments?
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Old 29-06-2005, 19:51   #12
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Old 29-06-2005, 19:53   #13
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I'm very pleased to inform all of you that now ALL Spade anchors are supplied with the Nylon nut AND a split pin..

By the way, did you check recently your stainless shackle:
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Old 26-09-2005, 18:33   #14
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I, for one, am not for nylon nuts - there are better choices to serve the purpose. MY mind is thinking the type of nut that ball joints on cars are used on. I forget the name that they are called - I'm thinking its called serrated? There are also stainless steel "crushed" nuts that are slightly oblonged in width that jams tightly against the threads when tighten on the bolts. The first thing someone will do with nylon nut is to lose it and than replace it with something that will work for that situation... Forgetting to replace the nut later.

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Old 26-09-2005, 21:12   #15
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I had not really formed an oppinion until I saw Alain POIRAUD's response. I do not know these people, or their company, but this sounds a lot like the response of someone who has never done any real sailing. If I am mistaken, so be it. To the statement that the nut should not be reused, I can not believe the legal department of any manufacturer would allow that to be left out in the literature. To say the nut may have not been tight, well, you are selling a product ot all sorts of people. I hate to say it, but if you do not make it idiot proof, you are asking for a lawsuit. As for the anchor watch, tenknots made that point. To say someone may have dived down and disassembled the anchor before it was retreived, you have got to be kidding. As an insurance investigater, I have seen people do all sorts of things to change evidence, (I saw a guy stuffing gravel into the drain plug of his oil pan during my inspection for vandalism to an engine once)but this sounds absurd even to me.
The fact that the manufacturer demonstrated the fact that failure of the bolt would not result in failure of the anchor would lead me to believe that most people would not put as much importance on checking the bolt.
I have not used this anchor, and have no opinion about it's quality, but I think the manufacturer should take a hard look at marketing vs market. Anyone can buy a Boss Hoss 350 cu in motorcycle, but not just anyone should. When someone drives one through the side of a car, the first thought is more power than the rider could handle. This is something any manufacturer should consider, or expect to get sued.
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