Thinking Back on Sizing Our Anchor Chain

Cruising World had a little piece by Pam Wall on “Choosing the Right Chain for Your Ground Tackle.” I enjoyed reading it, finding it to be a clear description of the different types of chain and how to go about replacing chain, especially on a new-to-you boat. It was much like the good lesson in chain I received from the wonderful anchoring expert at Defender two years ago when we had first bought Bear and were replacing the chain. However, in suggesting you look to your gypsy for the appropriate size chain, I think the article missed one further possibility that anyone plunking down a thousand dollars for new chain should be aware of: that, over years of using the incorrectly sized chain, the gypsy might actually now fit a different type of chain better than what it was designed for.

I wrote a quick response to the article sharing our own experiences (which we did not describe in detail on the blog) sizing our anchor chain, thinking that it might be a help to others in the same situation. And, I figured I would post that response here as well. Please share your own experiences sizing and replacing chain in the comments.

This is a great, clear article on the topic. There is one further issue that I think folks should be aware of when replacing chain, which we ran into on our new-to-us Tayana 37.

Working with the folks at Defender, who cleaned up a couple links of our old chain that I had brought in with me, we appeared to have G-4 chain. However, they could not be 100% certain given the amount of rust and corrosion on our chain obscuring the stamping. So, they recommended we look at the gypsy on our old Lighthouse windlass to see what type of chain it accepted. It turned out our gypsy was not meant for G-4 (I cannot recall if it was G-3 or BBB). But, now back on the boat, I realized that some other chain on the rode was much cleaner, making it clear we had G-4.

So, we had an interesting dilemma. A gypsy for one type of chain, but a mess of chain of another type that had obviously been used with the gypsy for some time. I made a call to Lighthouse and described the issue. After confirming the type of gypsy we had, their recommendation was to replace the chain with G-4. Their explanation was that even though the gypsy had been designed for a specific type of chain, using the G-4 over time, which was slightly bigger than what the gypsy was designed for, would have worn the gypsy, making the gypsy perfect for only G-4 now.

With Lighthouse’s advice – and the anchoring expert at Defender concurrence that this all sounded logical – we went ahead and plopped down a grand for 200′ of non-returnable G-4. After two years of cruising with the G-4, I can say that the folks at Lighthouse and Defender knew what they were talking about; we have never had any problem with slipping or skipping chain in our gypsy.

In conclusion, do not just blindly purchase chain based on what your gypsy is sized for. If someone put the wrong chain on the boat in the past, you might be better off with the same type of chain that is already on there.

s/v Bear

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