Kellets On the Rode
The day after our anchor tests this year we took a couple of commercially made anchor rode sentinels (also called kellets) out into the Gulf of Mexico off Sarasota, FL, to see what we could make of them. Our previous experiences with kellets have been with the home-made variety—a bucket or bag, for example, carrying a length of chain or some bilge ballast, sent down the rode on a snap hook or shackle, with a retrieving line.
What exactly does a kellet do? We'll defer to Earl Hinz and his authoritative work, The Complete Book of Anchoring and Mooring:
"Sometimes your available anchorage area may be just too small or the water too deep to let out all the scope you really need for the occasion. This situation will arise more frequently with the combination rope-chain rode than with the all-chain rode. The solution is to place a concentrated weight along the anchor rode that tells it to behave like a heavy chain rode...
"The function of the kellet is to steepen the initial drop of the rode and to flatten out the rode on the sea bottom to decrease the anchor lead angle. A kellet should weigh about 25 to 30 pounds for a 40-foot boat, and it should be located so that it is about halfway along the rode from bow roller to anchor ring. If better holding is what you want, place the kellet closer to the anchor. If more cushioning of surges is needed, place the kellet slightly higher on the rode."
The two kellets in hand were the 20-lb. Rode Rider, sold by Ada Leisure Products, meant for rope only, of 3/8" to 3/4" diameter ($189.50); and the 30-lb. Kiwi Anchor Rider, Model CAR 30, meant for both rope and chain rodes and boats up to 60 feet ($219).
We were interested in seeing what would happen if we set an anchor and measured the pull it took to break it out, then reset it, rigged a kellet on the rode, and pulled again. Would the kellet make a difference? Would it help set an anchor in the first place?
Our "testing" of these two products got a bit absurd, as anchoring matters sometimes do. Armed with our trusty Dillon dynamometer, a willing crew, and capable powerboat, we made 16-20 sets (we lost count) with two anchors, in two locations, and only once got what we could deem a quantifiable result—so it should be taken with a big chunk of salt.
Initially, we used a 12-lb. Vetus aluminum Danforth-type anchor, but it dug in so hard at a 3:1 scope in 12 feet of water that we were reluctant to try pulling it free, for fear of ripping the midship cleats out of the boat—much less test it with a kellet. We then rigged an even lighter, grimy old galvanized Danforth type of unknown provenance —and couldn't get that to set at all, with or without kellets, at any position, at any kind of scope. The bottom, by the way, was fine, hard sand, which could be penetrated with a finger down to the first knuckle.
We went back to the Vetus anchor and now had trouble setting it again with either kellet. So we went miles back to the anchor test site, where we were intimately familiar with the bottom. There, we finally set the Vetus at a 3:1 scope in a layer of soft sand over hard sand, and brought it up to 200 lbs. on the Dillon, at which point it broke it out. We reset, applied the 20-lb. Rode Rider to the rode, and lo and behold—it withstood 420 lbs. before breaking out again. A result!
We repeated the experiment with the Kiwi Anchor Rider, and this time, with the heavier sentinel down, the anchor broke loose at about 230 lbs.
By this time, despite our faith that kellets can be helpful, not so much in high-load conditions, but in helping anchors set at poor scopes and in iffy bottoms, we were hearing things around the boat: "I hate kellets." "Kellets are no fun."It is what it is. Aside from weight, and the rope-only versus rope-and/or-chain difference, the two kellets are distinguished mostly by different design details. The smaller Rode Rider is made of cast bronze, which is both non-magnetic and virtually impervious to corrosion in salt or fresh water. The bottom is covered in soft plastic (like the rubbery dip for rope tips or pliers handles) to keep it from dinging decks or woodwork. It has a hook cast in the bottom so that it can be hung temporarily on the bow rail while anchoring ops are underway. Hardware is stainless and plastic. If there's a weak point, it's the plastic gate that closes over the channel into which the rode is inserted. It doesn't seem too vulnerable when new, but after exposure to a lot of sunlight and repeated anchorings, it might be. Height is 10.75", diameter is 4.75", and it comes for now in only the one size.
The Kiwi Anchor Rider is made of a heavy aluminum and zinc composite, also non-magnetic and corrosion-resistant. It has two halves, bolted together, and the top parts form a carrying handle—very convenient. The rode is inserted into the channel and the kellet is given a quarter-turn in order to seat the pulley on the rode. Then the locking lever (made of stainless steel) is put in place. A 50' line for lowering and retrieving the kellet is included, made up to the handle.
The Kiwi also comes in models for rope rode only, the AR20 at 20 lbs. ($179) and the AR30 at 30 lbs. ($199).
If shopping for apples and apples, choice becomes a matter of detail. We'd be tempted by the cast bronze and thoughtful anti-ding measures of the 20-lb. Rode Rider, but the equivalent 20-lb. Kiwi AR20 comes with the 50 feet of line, the carrying handle, and the stainless gate. It's also a bit less expensive.
If you regularly anchor in places where you think you need a kellet, it might make sense to invest in one of these products, or at least to make your own dedicated kellet. For occasional kelleting, try a canvas bag (it won't hurt your deck), 15 feet of chain, a shackle, snap hook, or caribiner, and a length of any old line. All these kelleting elements can serve other purposes.