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2011-08-05

On the rode again


I have, as I believe I've mentioned, obtained a nifty 15 pound aluminum FX-23 from the fine folk at Fortress Anchors. It's designed for 39-45 feet LOA boats, like what my currently beached Alchemy is, and is therefore oversized for Valiente, my 9,000 lb., 33 footer that is the "operational" part of our Swiss navy.

C'est la vie: Nobody ever resented an oversized anchor that weighed 15 lbs. My nine-year-old can hoist it into the cockpit if I don't mind buffing out scratches. My compact spouse can haul away without resorting to the seaman's vocabulary.

The existing 13 foot chain and 200 foot rope rode on Valiente is three-strand 7/16" mated to slightly larger chain and shackled to a 22 lb. steel Danforth High Tensile anchor of indeterminate age, if relatively good condition. Certainly, it's the classic "lunch hook" and we've been using it as such. It has held in every unchallenging case we've thrown at it, which is to say it might as well have been a cinder block on 12 gauge wire for all the holding power demanded of it.

In testing the larger, if lighter, Fortress on this modest rode, however, we found it impossible to veer out in reverse under power, "under power" in this case being understood to mean a direct-drive Atomic 4 (about 17 HP) in reverse spinning an 11.5 x 8 inch Gori folding two-blade prop at 1:1 gearing in six knots of wind...not exactly a tractor pull. Nonetheless, we were concerned that the new, grippier anchor and the old rode were not a good match, so off to the marine store I went (And Princess Auto, like a marine store, only cheaper).

Not only did I want the security of a right-sized rope and chain (and shackles) rode for the Fortress's size, I wanted the opportunity to splice. 12 years of boat ownership, and it's never come up, even though I have sewed patches, reeved all sorts of line and have sealed, whipped and knotted many, many things. I have yet to SCUBA, too, but that's another post.


Obviously, more practice is required. I did test the thing, however, and 'backspliced' a full 18 inches, with three tucks before trimming instead of two. My biggest challenge was keeping the taped strands similarly twisted as they preferred to undo into a sort of yarn-like limpness, hence the somewhat irregular braiding. I suspect that this will actually look a bit better after use, and next time, I'm going to heat-shrink the ends instead of taping. The brown bit of leather is covering a spot of whipping I did to cover over the last pokey strands, and I did the recommended touch up with the recommended hot knife. It took about 90 minutes. I know, because that's how long my son whined "is it done yet?" from the shady, beveraged-filled cabin while Daddy paid court to Madame Melanoma in the sun-drenched cockpit, the scent of burning nylon vying with the smell of dead carp. Sailing: Come for the glamour, stay for the slaving.

The new rode is 200 feet of 5/8" three-strand with an 18-inch back splice (as this is my first, it's a little lacking in art and is untidy) to 15 feet of 3/8" chain. Shackles hold the anchor to the chain. This gives us 7:1 scope in 30 feet of water with a little left over, which is going to suffice 90% of the time in the Great Lakes and pretty close to 100% of the time in Lake Ontario.

I will leave the Fortress unshackled from the rode as they are awkward to move together. I also have made provision for the lashing of a light line leading to a float to go on the crown of the Fortress as an anchor buoy and, if ever needed, a trip line if we snag a log or something. I have not yet had a problem, however, merely driving over the anchor as I haul in rode and just yanking the anchor directly up. It comes up cleanly and the chain/rope/anchor combo is, I would say, less than 40 pounds...not a big deal for us and there's no budget for a windlass!



Note the expression of the crew when hearing the familiar refrain of "no budget for that".

We will likely use the existing "nothing wrong with it and it fits the anchor hangers" Danforth for a lunch hook, and bring out the Fortress and this new rode for overnight and heavy weather. As I intend it to be the lunch hook for Alchemy, it's certainly sturdy enough, and we anticipate sleeping soundly at anchor when we go down the lake in a couple of weeks.