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Preventing the anchor and chain from 'slipping' away

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What is the issue?
Anchors and chains spill out fast in deep water and are almost impossible to stop. Even with a windlass the chain can occasionally jump up on the gypsie and start running out. Then the entire chain could shoot out to the ‘bitter end’ before you can react.

The 'bitter end' is a nautical term acquired from the bollards, or bitts, on the deck to which the end of the anchor rode was tied and it refers to the final part of the anchor rope today. Unfortunately, sometimes people forget or provisions are not made to secure the end of the line to the boat. This can result in seeing the end of the line or chain slipping over the bow roller and into the water in a runaway event. Gone for good, or deep-sixed in sailing parlance.

Why address this?
The 'bitter end' is also commonly used in reference to a bad ending of a story which fits this event all too well. You simply cannot afford to lose an anchor and chain in this fashion.

How to address this?
The bitter end of the rode must be attached to the vessel so that if the ground tackle starts to run out it is not lost overboard. It is essential to have at least one more line of defence against losing the anchor and chain. But the bitter end must also be attached by a length of line that enables you to cut your anchors and run should you need to in an emergency. Check that this is all in place before you use a vessel for the first time

If no provision has been made, then set it up on your vessel as a matter of urgency. Find a very strong point where a secure eyebolt can be placed inside the chain locker. It is important that this is a solid reinforced area as if the chain runs out there may well be an enormous shock load on the chosen attachment and surrounding area if the boat comes up short on it.

Attach a short length of nylon line to the attachment. The line should be strong enough to hold the weight of the ground tackle not the weight of the vessel itself which must be achieved by belaying the chain around a chain post. This is to enable the line to be light enough to be quickly cut should the anchor need to be dumped in an emergency situation. The line should be long enough to allow it to pull clear of the chain locker so that it is clearly visible on the foredeck when all the chain is out, but ideally just short of the windlass.

With this set up the bitter end is attached to the boat but there is no need to unturn shackles to drop the ground tackle with utmost speed. You could simply let the anchor rode run all out and cut through the nylon line with a knife. If time and circumstances permit, you could attach a fender or buoy outboard of everything to act as a recovery float just before that last cut is made.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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