|Measure twice, oh, to hell with it.|
|A typical modern design with a typical windlass and chain setup. Photo (c) Tom Irwin|
But, having demonstrated love and tolerance for all boats and those who sail in them, why the hell are anchor lockers at the front of most small yachts? It has occurred to me of late that few sailors in my experience does the right thing in terms of the physics of ground tackle. Logically, you would want the windlass right in front or beside the mast, with no centerline hatches in the way, and that centerline space covered in either a stainless strip or even an inset "gutter".
|As one does on HMCS Montreal.|
The chain or rope rode would go down a spurling pipe forward of the mast (the hawse pipe is where the chain rode is routed off the bow and into the water, by the way) into a bilge or keel locker very close to the center of gravity of the boat. This locker could be in the aft corner of a cabin or would be built as part of bulkhead involving the head, so the chain pipe (which would be removable for servicing or inspection) could be stowed inside that, which could actually strengthen the deck.
If the windlass dies, you've got beefy winches on the mast or deck right to hand. If you choose not to install a chain washdown on deck, you could have the chain flake down in the bilges over a perforated plate, under which is a low-profile bilge pump. So you can "wash without slosh", and then pump the bilge-based anchor rode locker a lot drier than something forward. You can examine the chain for defects or service either inside the cabin, or on the deck in a more stable and sheltered location than the actual bow. Lastly, the wire runs to the windlass are shorter and unburied: easier to service and shorter, cheaper wire runs.
|Why, the way this ship does things would wreck the V-berth!|
But let's look at the problems implicit in the current design choicesd: Having a load of chain and anchor and machinery weight at the bow leads to hobbyhorsing, seas over the bow, difficulty staying upright, harnesses and jacklines for the person handling the gear (which is never a bad idea, actually) and a lot of wear and tear from the movement of the stowed chain...despite this, most sailors will tell you that there isn't really a better spot. Not on most modern yachts. Now, sharp-eyed readers will note that on the ship pictured above, the chain fall (the sloped ramp beneath the windlass) and chain locker are well back from the stemhead, leaving the foredecks blissfully clear and largely untrodden by the crew unless it's Titanic Tribute Night. But this is rarely done on sailboats.
|Lots of people put paint dashes or tags or cable ties to indicate the amount of chain rode they've paid out, but not many provide an aide-memoire so convenient. Photo (c) Sauniere59|
|Uh...did another West Marine close? Photo (c) Artofhookie.org|
Of course, while there is no excuse for poor design, the fact is not only that fewer boats these days anchor much, but also that fewer sailors know how to anchor, and on occasion seem to be unaware that anchoring includes etiquette. I'm no Ancient Mariner on the topic, but I see problematic stuff, like insufficient scope, lack of sturdy enough fair leads, rode left on the roller, rarely a snubber or a bridle, etc. Part of that, to be honest, is where I live: it's mostly fair-weather sailors stopping for lunch. But another part is that the habit of anchoring is being lost, I think, because the activity of anchoring is being discouraged. After all, anchoring is in some ways part of the watery version of the commons, and while the tragedy of shared access cuts both ways, there's more money for a marina in renting the visitor to the fuel dock a slip for the night, particularly when some abuse the resource.
|The bigger the boat, the more chance of doing the anchor locker concept correctly by having the chain fall aft, low and with no easily breached lid on deck. This is a S&S 60. Photo (C) 2011 Practical Sailor|
But back to the dilemma of anchoring and ground tackle, which is almost invariably heavy (even if there are exceptions) and is best kept aft and low, but usually isn't. It's not like the problem is unknown: Practical Sailor had a couple of really good articles here and here a few years ago. Many of pros and a greater number of the cons are enumerated. But if the best practice of ground tackle management is to stow chain low and aft, why is this so rarely a feature of modern production boats?
A large part of the reason is that many people who own boats prefer not to be reminded that they are actually on a boat, I think. They want the "working" part of the boat (the backing plates, seacocks, pumps, engine compartment, tankage and yes, anchoring gear) to be invisible in the "living" area, and banishing the often smelly and rusty chain to the pointy end is one way to do this, even if in terms of the physics of sailing the boat it's like putting a fat kid on the very edge of the see-saw seat.
|Custom, homebuilt projects can think outside of the anchor locker if they are willing to commit to non-traditional layouts. Diagram (c) https://framsblog.wordpress.com/|
|I find interesting this blog author's contention that figuring out the angles of his chain fall had to be derived empirically and not from an established set of parameters. Diagram (c) https://maringret.wordpress.com|
|If you're prone to drug, pay out the trug. Photo (c)http://www.odysseyyachts.com/Odyssey_Yachts/BUILDING_BLOG/BUILDING_BLOG.html|
|The best option to my mind involves a willingness to surrender a bit of internal space, but so what? It's a boat! Photo (c) http://www.sv-jedi.org/|
Now, I thought I had all this ground tackle nonsense sussed out years ago. Alchemy came with a relatively shallow, uncovered anchor "well", which carries some 200 feet of chain splayed about only 14 inches below deck level. The positives were (and remain) that this well is dry and protected by pipe rails. Losing 14 inches in height means the forces in a seaway attempting to throw crew off the boat are mitigated, somewhat. The drain hole for the anchor well is relatively high in the stem; even in a plunging sea, there is enough buoyancy in Alchemy's bluff bows to keep the anchor well drain hole out of the sea, and the area is shallow enough that even brimming with ocean, it wouldn't drag down the bows before it self-emptied.
|Conceptually in 2009, because I got absorbed with repowering and detanking.|
|This is actually a vast amount of cutting and welding.|
|"Spurling pipe" is number 11 and is the least likely clue in Pictionary.|
So my new thinking is to leave well enough alone (pun intended). The forepeak workshop space is seven feet aft of the stem; I can move the windlass about five and a quarter feet back, almost to the forepeak hatch frame. This will keep the windlass slightly more protected and out of the weather and will leave the well as a place for chain management and cleaning, a rode footbath, so to speak. The chain fall can then be a simple pipe from the underside of the deck, in the same "empirical" combination of straight and angled spurling pipe down to a floor-bolted trug. This means there is no bucket, no welding, no lid, just a lined hole in the deck that pipes chain into a sort of soft bucket. Chain is cleaned on deck before it is stowed low and several feet aft, and I can keep the buttons to work the windlass when in electrical mode better protected, another win.
I think I'll start measuring twice and cutting once. I may have just talked myself out of an expensive mistake.