Thursday, December 17, 2009

I learned about sailing from that: Bitter End of the Anchor Rode

We haven't always had Eolian. Before her, we had Deja Vu III, an O'Day 25, a perfect family boat, and a great platform for learning. And boy, did she teach us. Here is one lesson:

The city of Coeur d' Alene, Idaho puts on a fireworks display on Independence Day, over the waters of Lake Coeur d' Alene (for those of you not from the area, that is pronounced "core duh LANE", and means Heart of the Awl). We, along with about a billion other boaters liked to view the display from our boat, out on the water. So that we could focus on the display and not have to worry about the boat drifting into other boats, we wanted to anchor. But the lake is deep, and we carried only 100 feet of rode, just enough to reach the bottom, You know that means we weren't really anchored, but it did slow the drift enough so that we weren't starting the engine every 5 minutes.

As usual, it was a great display. And as usual for the beginning of July in the Inland Northwest, it was cold. When the fireworks were over, I went forward to release the rode from the bow cleat and retrieve the anchor (no windlass here, and the rope rode was fed out a Nicro ventilator on the bow). But my hands were cold and stiff, and when the rode came off the cleat, it slid thru my unresponsive fingers. Since we had it all out, it was only an instant later when the bitter end zipped over the side.


  • Anchors are expensive
  • Have enough rode to properly anchor
  • Always, ALWAYS attach the bitter end of the rode to the boat

Applying these learnings when we became Eolian's owners, we spooled out all the rode (300' of 3/8" chain on the starboard side, 300' of 1" nylon on the port side) to inspect it. Sure enough, neither rode was attached to the boat.

Eolian's chain locker is divided by a partition, separating the port side from the starboard side. I drilled a 1 1/4" hole in the partition and planned to put the bitter end of the nylon thru it and tie a stopper knot.

But how to attach the chain? And with chain rode there is another consideration. If it were necessary to cut the rode and run (the origin of that expression), how might that be done, in a hurry, and under bad circumstances? Here's what I came up with:
  • Pull enough nylon rode thru the hole in the partition to reach all the way out the deck pipe on the chain side, and out onto the bow roller.
  • Tie stopper knots in the nylon on both sides of the partition
  • Make a rope/chain splice, attaching the bitter ends together
In this way, when all the chain is out, there is a rope pendant on its bitter end which could be cut with a knife, in a convenient location out on the bowsprit.

Thankfully, we've never needed it.

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)



Scott M said...

I sure enjoy your blog. One finds the most interesting things there! I found it through a search for Downeasters as I am in the process of refitting a DE32. The "I learned about sailing from that" series is most informative.

I too hail from N Idaho and have enjoyed the fireworks in Cda while floating on the lake.

Keep up the good work!

Best regards,

Scott Maxwell

PS - I think Coeur d'Alene means "heart of the awl". Heart of a lion would be Coeur d'Lion. So why would someone name the city Heart of the Awl? I've always wondered...

bob said...

Scott -

You're right (or at least you and net wisdom agree)! We were told Cd'A meant Lionheart when we first moved to Spokane many many years ago, and I had never checked beyond that.


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