Mailport November 2017 Issue

Stopping Anchor Chain Twist

anchor chain
Ensuring your chain is aligned in the locker makes it easier to prevent twist.

When an anchored boat spins, the anchor chain twists, and the anchor can come up backward. One solution is an anchor swivel, but failures with some poor designs are a concern—a lovely stainless swivel on one of our test boats had an interior crack that became visible only when disassembled. And as we found in our most recent test, many swivels aren’t very effective at reducing twist due to the inherent friction in the swivel.(see “How Well Do Swivels Reduce Twist,” Practical Sailor March 2016 online).

You can reduce twist by making sure your chain does not have any twist in it, and, once you have done this, you simply maintain the same alignment with the gypsy when deploying or retrieving your anchor. When your anchor is deployed and you are re-connecting the anchor chain to your windlass gypsy, there are four possible ways to orient it in the gypsy. There is also a 50-50 chance that your anchor lifts snugly into the anchor roller without adjusting the length.

Once you have the chain aligned as it should be, it should not rotate in the gypsy. The chain is straight, and the anchor will spin slowly on the way up and fit snugly on the roller onto the roller. But how ow do you know it is straight, and how do you maintain the same alignment?

One thing that has worked for me is to mark the “up” side of the chain at regular intervals with paint. By making sure that the “up” side of the chain inboard of the gypsy (on the locker side), is aligned with the next “up” side of the links on the other side of the gypsy, I know that the chain will come up straight and any twist in the chain will untwist as the anchor comes up.

The main problem, as I see it, is that many boaters have twisted chain in their locker, often without even realizing it. In many cases, they had replaced the windlass with the chain still in the locker. In the process of re-feeding the chain, they had introduced a twist that was not there with the old windlass.

The solution? Pull of the chain out into a box on the deck and then re-feed through the new windlass from the topside. Be sure to attach the bitter end to a padeye or u-bolt in the locker with line or lashing that can be quickly cut if you need to get underway in an emergency. By re-feeding the chain into the locker, it should now be aligned without any twist. Since the chain cannot spin in the gypsy, it should stay that way.

Comments (2)

In fact, a swivel on the anchor just about guarantees twist, since it will turn every time the boat moves at anchor. The swivel then helps the twist come out again. Without the swivel, gravity does the job as soon as the anchor clears the bottom.

Another factor that is often ignored is motion. Typically we begin motoring forward, recover the chain and break the anchor free, and then continue forward as we recover the rest of the chain and anchor. However, modern anchors are designed to align with the flow of the water, so if we are motoring forward, the anchor will come up backwards most of the time. The solution is to stop or drift slowly backwards. Many times I've watched folks lower the anchor in an attempt to get it to turn around, but since they are motoring forward, it reverses the moment it touches the water.

If the chain is twisted in the well, either (a), the twist was there when it was installed, or (b) the chain is jumping on the gypsy, suggesting either wear or perhaps a horizontal windlass with insufficiency drop into the chain locker. The test boat also ran the chain out a few months ago, just to hose out the locker, and after 5 years there was no twist. The chain should not be twisting in the gypsy without some ugly noises.

Posted by: Drew Frye | October 23, 2017 11:33 PM    Report this comment

Six years after installing my electric windlass and a year before sailing to Hawaii I decided to reverse the chain (300'), end for end, and install new markers on it. While the boat was hauled I lowered the anchor and all the chain noticing the last dozen or so feet of chain, just before the bitter end shackled to the bulkhead, were badly twisted. I was somewhat surprised as I have both an anchor end swivel and a grooved anchor roller to combat twisting...maybe I need a swivel at the bitter end as well.

~ ~ _/) ~ ~ MJH

Posted by: MJH | October 23, 2017 11:35 AM    Report this comment

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