Saturday, July 5, 2014

Looking Back - Spring Prep: Ground Tackle Upgrade

Old chain - eek!
When we bought Zephyr we didn't fully inspect the chain, rope and anchor system as good as we should have. Last spring as we were prepping we pulled all the chain and rope out along the dock and our boat neighbor, a licensed captain, alerted us to some serious corrosion on the links of the chain - AKA NOT SAFE! We knew then that we'd have to upgrade the chain ($$$) and most likely the anchor as it was quite clearly undersized (35# for 43' boat). So this spring's big project was a full upgrade. First we bought new chain. Now, for a second, imagine logistics involved in buying and moving aboard 150 feet of 3/8ths inch chain...imagine...
Luckily, there's a fantastic place in Portsmouth for ALL THINGS steel, chain, shackle, chainplates and more - Fastener Warehouse. We wanted BBB 3/8ths chain, the good stuff, and we went with our little Jetta Wagon to go pick it up - laughable. Lucky for us and our struts they only had 100' and we wanted 150' so they had to order it and deliver it to the marina - the Jetta thanked us! I can only imagine loading and unloading 150' of chain! 

The half barrel of chain arrived unfortunately at low tide. 
Do the math - 300 lbs. of chain + a steep graded ramp = yea, not ideal. 
The delivery guy at first thought he could do it, looking at me and saying, "You game to anchor me down?" Response: "NO!" 
Delivery Guy: "What's the worst that could happen, it will just fly down and off the dock."
Me: "Ummmm...Yea, let's not lose $800 of chain to the bottom of the river. Let's wait 6 hours!" 

West Marine was our destination for the rope, called rode. We got 300 feet of 3 strand, high gauge nylon rope. Measuring it out was quite a show. 
So we had the chain and we had the rope, now we could do the next phase of the project- marking it all so when we deploy the anchor we know how much we're putting out. When anchoring there's a ratio that you use depending upon the depth of the water you're in - typically it's 7:1, then you add the freeboard or height of your boat from the surface of the water, the ground type, the winds, the forecasted winds, the tide differential and you get the amount of chain/rode to deploy to have the proper scope and angle on your anchor for it to dig in deep. The more chain you have the more weight you have along the bottom of the ocean and more secure you will be, hence the 150' of chain.

I did HOURS of research on the best way to mark your anchor chain and rode, HOURS. The advice and methods are innumerable - everyone's got a way, some super complicated, some super easy. I took to my ever reliable and fantastic womens' sailing Facebook group, Women Who Sail to ask. These ladies are the BOMB they are women all over the world living on boats, sailing across oceans, raising boat babies, generally rocking at life! The advice was awesome and so were the anecdotes - disagreements among husband and wife on the method, painted feet, highly technical methods that were forgotten and more. Over 30 responses! 

We finally decided upon a 2-tier approach - paint and zip ties. So once the paint wore off the zip ties were there and/or once the zip ties rip off the paint's there. We laid out all 450' of chain and rode along the dock. 

First we painted links and rope yellow. We used bright yellow rustoleum.

One Yellow Painted Link = 100's
2 Painted Links = 200's 
3 Painted Links = 300's 
4 Painted Links = 400's 

Had to be sure not to get the dock yellow - though we did leave a small mark on the concrete, Jill & Tim's mark at Badgers Island Marina for life! 

Then came the multi-colored zip ties. We used pink, orange, yellow, green, blue (in rainbow order). Here's the method we used:

- Pink Ties starting at 25-feet, then at 50 feet, then at 75. 
- Orange ties at 100, 125, 150, 175
- Yellow ties at 200, 225, 250, 275
- Green ties at 300, 325, 350, 375
- Blue ties at 400, 425, 450 

And at 10 feet we did an array of all colors so that we have a signal when the anchor has freed itself from the bottom and then we know as we're pulling it up that the boat is free. 

Our fantastic boat neighbor Captain Tim helped us splice the rode to the chain, this is a VERY important part of the system, weak splices = boats adrift! 

The weather for this project was less than desirable, we were FREEZING with cold, raw rain and a frigid Maine April seabreeze, it was one of those many times when we say, "this life aboard sure isn't all Jimmy Buffett songs & margaritas!"  

We have been offered a sponsorship by Mantus Anchors  - a fantastic new anchor manufacturer, cruisers who developed this state of the art anchor that sets the first time, every time. So we'll be ordering a brand spanking new 65 lb. galvanized steel anchor to add to this sweet new ground tackle system we have now. We're going to have it in time for our Summer 2014 cruise to the Cape and Islands - hello gunkholing! 

The ground tackle system is SO important for any cruising sailboat, it means freedom and safety! In a couple years when we're anchored off a deserted island in the Bahamas we'll think of the cold, bitter Maine afternoon that we did our anchor chain marking project and laugh -and maybe we'll sip a margarita too! 

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