Practical Sailor recently looked at various ways to take the load off the windlass and roller by means of a short rope snubber or bridle (PS, November 2013), but we did not talk about how to attach a snubber to the anchor chain.
A knot can be used to attach a snubber, and Practical Sailor reviewed a number of gripping hitches (PS, April 2009) that could work. However, even the simplest, most common gripping knot, a rolling hitch, requires a few moments to tie and heavier lines can be difficult to work with.
An ordinary chain hook is another solution. These are relatively cheap and quick to place or remove, but they are prone to coming off unless certain precautions are taken. You need to have some load on the hook at all times. While this is straightforward with a short snubber, its tricky for long snubbers, commonly used on catamarans.
The Mantus Chain Hook takes a slightly different, innovative approach; inserting the chain requires that the user slide it across, then down one-half link and then finally into place. Weve tested the quarter-inch stainless version through over 50 anchoring cycles and dozens of tide cycles. Random shaking won't release its grip; the links simply get caught up in its puzzle-shape. It never released while lowering, no matter how careless we were while deploying.
One problem we did have, and this is specific to long snubbers in shallow water, is that when the wind goes light, it can release itself from the chain. This happened to us three times when the wind fell light enough for the hook to rest on the bottom. We blame the mud and gentle motion of the boat, working together like a pair of mischievous hands.
Retrieval is not so simple as it might seem. While technically, the Mantus Chain Hook can be threaded through the roller and deployed or recovered along with the chain, we found that this presented more risk of jamming. In calm weather, it is a quick matter to reach through the bow rail and release it. In a severe blow, with the bow awash and bucking, it is easier to release than a knot, but we wouldn't want to try it. This is a problem with all snubbers, letting out more chain requires first bringing in chain, or adding line to the snubber.
The Mantus is available in galvanized or stainless steel, in sizes from quarter-inch through half-inch, with load ratings matching that of G40 chain. Prices range from $11 to $67.
Mantus also supplied a bridle for testing on our 32-foot catamaran. It is made of 5/8-inch, hard lay nylon three-strand line, with a spliced eye in the bight where the chain hook attaches. According to Mantus, each 25-foot-long leg of the bridle can manage the safe working strength of the line. Each leg terminates in an eyesplice that is well protected with chafing gear. A large stainless carabiner hook is provided for use with mooring balls. It is available in 5/8-inch to 1-inch line for $176 to $487, including the carabiner and chain hook.
Bottom line: The Mantus hook is a fine solution for monohulls using a relatively short snubber, but on longer, multihull bridles, the hook can come off while lying on the bottom.