A Better Chain Grabber


Like most long-range cruising boats, Calypso is anchored on an all-chain rode. Deep water, windy anchorages and uncertain bottom conditions-including rope-eating coral heads-make chain the only really suitable rode if you want a good nights sleep.

Anchoring on chain, however, creates its own set of problems. The shock loads on an all-chain rode in extreme conditions can snap the chain, rip your windlass out of the deck, and wreak general havoc.

There are a variety of answers to the problem of preventing shock loading on a chain rode. The most common solution is a simple galvanized chain hook secured to a short length of nylon line, slipped over a link of chain, with the bitter end of line cleated off on deck. The chain is then eased out, so that the strain at the deck is taken on the line rather than the chain.

Like a lot of boats with high bows, Calypso tends to sail around on the anchor. On our mooring, we reduced this tendency by using a mooring bridle to cleats on either side of the stem, rather than a single line. For anchoring, we have found a similar solution-a better type of chain hook-that serves the same purpose.

Our improved chain grabber consists of a flat, heavy stainless steel plate, about 3-1/2″ by 4-1/2″. A slot cut into the plate slips over the chain, working just like a chain hook. In the corners of the plate, a pair of holes allow you to shackle in shock-absorbing nylon line. We have used 1/2″ three-strand nylon for the last six months, merely tied into the shackles. For a more permanent arrangement, I intend to splice 5/8″ three-strand nylon to stainless steel thimbles, which will be shackled to the plate. The thimbles will reduce chafe on the line, compared to the current method of securing the line with a bowline.

In the interim, I have just used conventional canvas chafing gear on the line, but when the finished version is made up, I will sew leather chafe protection onto the line where it passes through the hawse holes at the bow.

Using a bridle instead of a single line has the added advantage of reducing chain twist over time.

The grabber we have was made years ago by a long-gone company, but a virtually identical version is now available from ABI. Their figure 1044SS chain grabber is cast from type 316 stainless, rather than fabricated from plate. You supply the shackles and the line.

Unfortunately, this ABI product is rarely seen in stores or mail-order catalogs. You could probably get any marine store that deals with ABI-virtually all stores do-to special order for you. At a list price of $22, this is a cheap and effective piece of equipment.

Contact- ABI, 1160A Industrial Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952; 707-765-6200, fax: 707-765-1716, e-mail: abi3@ix.netcom.com

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here