Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Swarthmore, PA
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Windlass technique: use messenger/snubber line with chain?
Our new (to us) C34 has a very nice windlass. Although I have not used it yet, it's identical to the ones on other boats that we've chartered, so I have some familiarity with its pluses and minuses. It is designed for rope rode, with no gypsy to accommodate chain. Unlike chain windlasses, it pulls up only (not down). For lowering the anchor, you just wrap the rope it like you would a manual winch and let the rope slip out as you drop the anchor.
On the charters with heavy plow anchors and rope/chain rode, it was always difficult pulling the anchor in once past the rope. The last bit of chain needed some pretty hard manual pulling. And on midsize cruisers like the C320 and C34, it was always difficult getting the shank of the anchor under the furler drum - it required a horizontal pull angle that's perfect for the windlass, but a very bad angle for manual pulling. On of the charter checkout skippers said that I could just wrap the chain around the windlass, which did make it a little easier, though not without its own faults (including the risk of gouging through the chrome on the windlass or damaging the gelcoat behind the winch head).
I got to thinking about this, and I was wondering if it might be feasible to attach a rope to both ends of the chain, 18-24" longer than the chain itself. Call it a messenger line or snubber, or maybe there's already a term for this. When anchored, this rope would lie on the bottom adjacent to the chain (thus it would get rather muddy), so that the chain would function as normal while anchoring. But while pulling in the anchor with the windlass, once the rode was fully into the anchor locker, you could unwrap the windlass and do a few wraps with this snubber line. This would allow you to continue to pull the chain and anchor into the boat using line instead of the chain. The chain would drop into the anchor locker, while the rope would be wrapped around the windlass pulling the chain and anchor into the boat.
Have any of you heard of this before? What are the potential pitfalls that I have not anticipated?
My boat currently has an aluminum Fortress anchor, so manually pulling it in will be pretty easy. But I would like to replace it with a heavier "MansRocMant" at some time in the future, so having the windlass assist will be more necessasry.
Rick S., Swarthmore, PA
USCG Certified Captain, OUPV and 50 Ton Master
ASA Certified 101/103/104/105/106
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2001 Catalina 34MkII Tall Rig Wing Keel Breakin' Away, Universal Diesel M35B, Mantus 35 lb. anchor, sailing out of Rock Hall, MD