Mailport April 1, 1999 Issue

Mailport 04/01/99

Anchor Tests
In regard to your anchor test in sand, you remarked that the Digger anchor refused to set, even though the inventor said he has sold thousands to bass boat owners. Having sailed on Fisher’s Island Sound for several years, and now being a bass fisherman in Alabama, I find that bass fishermen have totally different needs and practices for anchoring than do sailors.

Bass fishermen who actually do own anchors seldom if ever use them, depending on the electric trolling motor to maintain position. As a result, few know anything about scope, set, and the characteristics of various anchors. This is why so many of them buy a small navy anchor and throw it out on very short scope, making no effort to set it. Since low-freeboard bass boats are not well-behaved in high winds and waves, most bass fishermen put their boats back on the trailer when the water gets rough.

Most bass fishing is done over bottoms which are extremely foul by sailing standards. If you’re anchoring to hold the boat in place while you fish an area, you will be over foul ground, since that’s what the bass like. Man-made reservoirs containing flooded stumps with partially exposed roots, drowned trees, piles of chunk rock, submerged piles of driftwood, occasional dense mats of weed, etc. The bottom in between obstacles can range from firm sand/clay/gravel to loose, unconsolidated sediment.

While I used a Danforth and a Bruce in New England coastal waters, I would probably lose them in short order in typical bass habitat. Instead, I carry a “river anchor,” which is basically a mushroom with three segments cut out of the rim. The resulting three flukes give me a better chance of hooking submerged objects or digging into a soft bottom, while still giving me a reasonable probability of retrieving the anchor. It is also heavy enough to penetrate dense mats of hydrilla, where a lightweight might never reach bottom. Quite often, the anchor ends up acting as a grapnel, hooking onto submerged tree limbs or other bottom structure. Ease of retrieval is important here, which is why bass fishermen are attracted to slip-ring anchors, or others which claim to be easy to unhook from the bottom. The Digger will probably hook junk as well as a slip-ring type, and might be easier to retrieve.

George R. Kidd
via e-mail


Another good addition to boating technology. The Spade, indeed, has some attractive features. At some time its capabilities in mud will also have to be assessed.

I think we are nearing a point where we have to recognize that new anchor designs are not a panacea to anchoring problems. Many, if not most, that we have in the marketplace can do the job provided that the human element does its job. Seamanship needs to be recognized as a major part of anchoring success and skippers have to become more friendly with and better understand how to use their ground tackle. Technology can only go so far.

Keep up the good work at Practical Sailor. We continue to need your objective look at boating’s equipment problems.

Earl Hinz
Henderson, Nevada


Great job on the anchor test. I might add that our North Carolina and most other southern waters are made up of mud and sand. Most of us who have weathered several hurricanes have found ourselves good hurricane holes and have noticed that almost all of the anchoring spots around here consist of mud and sand mixtures with soft mud being the most prevalent bottom type.

In most of the anchoring tests we have seen, this bottom type is mostly ignored. During your test you gave high marks to the CQR and lower to the Bruce. However our experience with soft mud has been the opposite. A CQR will not hold in mud. A Bruce does quite well. I have used a tandem anchoring setup for the last two hurricanes consisting of 200' of all-chain rode with a 50-lb. SuperMax combined with 15' of chain leading from the crown to a 50-lb. Danforth. Then the second rode consists of a 60-lb. CQR with another 15' of chain attached to the crown leading to another 50-lb. Danforth on another all-chain rode. Both rodes have snubbers. This setup is impossible to pull out. However as I’m sure you’re aware, tandem anchoring does have the disadvantage of making a god-awful mess if a wind reversal should take place.

As luck would have it, this happened to us as the eye of Bonnie crossed over us last year. The setup made a mess but our boat held in place anyway while others dragged around. Several of my hurricane hole friends anchored with big Bruces alone and did fine. Single Danforths and CQRs fared badly.

With this long-winded experience in mind, are there any plans to test this bottom type at any future time?

Dennis Rhein
Belhaven, NC

We are conducting our tests, for the present at least, in Narragansett Bay. We do have mud-sand mixtures, but they’re probably not identical to your North Carolina bottoms. This summer we will test again in a mud or mud-sand bottom.


Cutting Line
In the January 1, 1999 issue was a PS Advisor about splicing and cutting modern ropes.

The article started off mentioning a restoration project on a wooden boat. If you wished to keep the boat appearing old, there is Dacron 3-strand line available (looks like nylon), which is traditional in appearance yet is fairly low stretch (about 5%). New England Ropes makes some they call 3-strand polyester, available in 3/16"-7/16". It has about double the stretch of Sta-Set, but is still a huge improvement over manila (it won’t rot). Beware, although it looks like anchor line you can’t use it as such or you’ll risk tearing fittings off your hull with the shock loads.

To cut some of the modern lines that don’t melt, use bolt cutters. A pair of medium-sized ones will nip easily through most modern lines. They also cut by crushing and can be resharpened with a diamond file. This produces a nice clean cut about 90+% through the line on the first try. You can get a good pair at most hardware stores.

Douglas Axtell
via e-mail


Bottom Paint
I would like to comment on Norman Budde’s letter talking about his poor results using Pettit ACP-50. I had used Pettit Trinidad for 20 years here in Florida with good results, and switched to ACP-50 on your recommendation at our last haulout, now more than three years ago.

It’s great stuff.

The first year we moored in an area known for extreme growth problems, and did grow grass at the waterline but very little of anything below. The boat then sat on a trailer nearly a year. With some trepidation, we relaunched without repainting about 18 months ago, and the boat has lived at our dock behind our house on a canal. It has been cleaned twice, and except for the bottom of the keel, I don’t think there have been a half dozen barnacles. There may not have been much paint on the keel bottom to begin with. Here on the shallow west coast of Florida we do tend to use the keel as a sounding lead more often than we should.

Expensive yes, initially, but I think very cost and labor-saving over time.

Helen K. Pell
via e-mail


The following was reported in Practical Sailor December 98, as a Letter titled “Disappearing Bottom Paint”.

“In the July 1 issue, Cliff More says that, ‘…Copperkote worked well on the rest of the bottom, except the J strut and the shaft, which were thickly coated with barnacles and soft growth.’”

We had a similar problem until we primed all the metal parts with Woolsey #640/#649 two-part epoxy primer before applying the bottom paint. I think the problem was that the bottom paint is slightly conductive electrically. If you put a piece of copper in seawater it will resist fouling pretty well as long as it can give off copper ions. However if you connect a zinc to it and protect it from corrosion, it will foul.

In some tests I have done, Woolsey #640/#649 is a very good electrical insulator, plus being a good mechanical primer. Woolsey no longer makes #640/649. They have “improved it.” I hope so. My last can is almost empty.

David Heath
Kemah, Texas


I have to add an intriguing piece of Northwest experience to the above. In the early 80’s, a Canadian company called Donar Chemical Ltd., marketed Prime Cut with Epoxy Finish, a “one-step cutting and polisher.” It was designed “To achieve a hard epoxy-type finish on any oxidized surface, easily cleans mag wheels, vinyls, oxidized paint, tires.”

Local boatyards had learned that this stuff was the best underwater metal anti-fouling mechanism known to man, but you had to put a glass marble in the bottle to help stir the sediments up well. It wasn’t cheap at $23 US, but you barely used a smear to do the job, and it lasted underwater for about three years.

I can no longer find Donar Chemical; certainly the product is no longer available, and I too have my last can. So I set out to discover the mechanism behind this phenomenon, and hopefully find the modern equivalent.

I hauled out a Cal 2-25 last month after three years of duty in alternating fresh and saltwater. The prop and shaft were close to being still polished. The J strut had lost the bottom half of its Bottomcote, probably from scrubbing. The shaft always carried a zinc, and a diver replaced it every three to six months.

The shaft was conventionally attached to a Yanmar diesel, neither (brush) grounded nor insulated. There was no sacrificial zinc on the bronze J strut, which is insulated from the shaft by the cutless bearing (and electrically isolated from all wiring), but did carry SS bolts (since changed back to bronze).

During shaft and prop clean-up, telltale surface patches of pink were apparent, hinting at some zinc loss from the brass (in spite of religiously replacing the sacrificial shaft zinc). Since the Prime Cut compound may be acidic (it cleans up brass, black, like Brasso), it’s possible that trapped acids is what brings out the red rash. But clearly the main antifouling mechanism is epoxy.

I suspect that epoxy acts as an insulator which harbors a static charge on its underside, and scares the microbes off when they get close enough. Does long anti-fouling life mean short sacrificial zinc life?

Without knowing the physics, I went looking for an analytical chemist, just to learn how to replace this Prime Cut stuff. Good fortune sent me Patrick Au-Yueng, who happens to have spent some time marketing epoxies for Ciba-Geigy. You can build your own brew, it turns out. Which is probably exactly what Donar Chemicals did back in 1983. Preliminary investigations are that Donar used a one-step Type 9 epoxy resin, which happens to be FDA approved, and is the same stuff you find inside tin cans to preserve food.

Hopefully, someone will tell me that Donar didn’t go out of business after all, just moved to Quebec.

Adrian Barraclough
Woodinville, Washington


Wind Power
I am probably not alone in writing to correct the error in your January 1, 1999 editorial on the Fantome loss. Wind (or any other drag force) increases as the square of the velocity, not the cube. It is power which increases as the cube of velocity.

Still, 180-mph. winds exert a force 3-1/4 times greater than 100-mph. winds, just not 5.8 times as much.

Sid Shaw
Falls Church, Virginia

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