When is Enough Chain too Much Chain?

The general thought on this you might think would be that more is better, is as a general rule this is mostly true. However, when you’re in a tight anchorage the rules tend to change and several things come into play.

Anchored at Little Harbor

First, you have to, of course, consider your depth and the expected winds. You have to have enough scope (length of chain/rode) to be able to ride out whatever winds blow up at your anchorage. A good start would be to expect to pay out at least 5:1 scope if you expect winds to pick up. If you’re anchored in 20 feet of water, pay out 100 feet and you should be good. In more extreme anchorages with winds that are expected to blow hard, you may need as much as 10:1 scope for the anchor to stay set.

Mantus 65

There are so many things to consider along with the above. The size of your chain, the size of your anchor and the type, the bottom of the anchorage (sand, mud, rock), and also pay attention to the tides. If you are anchored in 20 feet and expecting a blow, make sure that if the tide rises six feet or so you have enough chain payed out to handle the rise.

Lastly, and this is something that came into play during our last sail to the island, understand that in a blow the chain will be at least partially pulled up from the bottom and your swing will increase. Make sure that you have enough room to safely swing around the anchorage without running into other boats! Then if the tide goes out and you are in a tight anchorage, understand that your scope will increase and you may also swing more.

These are mostly thoughts from years of experience anchoring, and not rules of thumb. There are other things that could also be taken into account, but these are the things that we consider most important. Protip would be that it is always better to oversize your anchor rather than going small.

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About Captain Tom

Over 10 years sailing and over 3500 miles under our keel. Was an engineer (EE) for over 30 years, then after moving into management, decided that the corporate world was no longer for me. Ran my wife's law office for 15 years and recently retired. Now we live aboard and sail the California coast, soon to leave for the Sea of Cortez.
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