Your Chain Explained: Understanding Anchor Chain
Understanding the various types of anchor chain and the advantages—and disadvantages—of each will keep you linked in for the long haul.
|Most high-quality chain from reputable manufacturers is embossed with a designation indicating the grade. Without one, you’ll be guessing about the chain’s strength. Failing to use chain designed for a specific windlass wildcat can lead to potentially dangerous overrides (above). This chain is in no-man’s land: It can’t be lowered or raised.|
At one time, though not the strongest option for a given link size, BBB was the most popular anchor chain because it’s specifically calibrated for windlasses. But its primary attribute is its weight. A 100-foot length of 3/8-inch BBB weighs approximately 165 pounds, while identical lengths of HT and PC weigh 153 and 140 pounds, respectively. With anchor rodes, weight is critical. Every additional pound increases a chain’s catenary, the sag induced by the deployed chain. Still, many builders and sailors choose HT over BBB because, for the same tensile strength, they can fit more of it into cramped chain lockers. And, again, it’s less prone to tangle.
Inspect your chain carefully and regularly. Make certain that the links fit evenly into each recess of the wildcat and that the wildcat is equipped with a stripper, a steel bar that separates tensioned chain from the wildcat as it’s being retrieved. If the stripper is absent or bent, jams are more likely to occur. Finally, be sure that the bitter end of the chain is attached to the vessel via a spliced-on section of line that’s long enough to reach the deck. The splice should fit easily through the chain hawser. If you’re dragging onto a lee shore or you’re about to be run down, this line acts as a safety valve allowing you to quickly cut the boat free from the ground tackle.