Take a Bow

En­sure fore­deck hard­ware and lines work to­gether.

Cruising World - - Contents - By Tom Zy­dler

t’s time we sailors pay more at­ten­tion to the prob­lems that loom right in front of us on the bow. On many sailboats, po­ten­tial ne­glect there goes un­heeded be­cause much of the gear for­ward of the mast hides be­lowdecks, out of sight from the sailor at the helm.

Yet an­chor chains and dock lines de­cide how safe your boat will be se­cured in ris­ing wind and fast-build­ing chop. And on the fore­deck, the chain leads and stop­pers, the an­chor stowed on its roller, and the lo­ca­tion of bol­lards or cleats all re­quire care­ful thought to en­sure ease of use and safety in all con­di­tions. In ad­di­tion, sev­eral other fit­tings in the bow area will help or ham­per sail man­age­ment when sail­ing down­wind.

Let’s be­gin with the an­chor locker. The space in the

I

for­ward sec­tion of the boat un­der the deck and in front of the ubiq­ui­tous V-berth has to pro­vide enough space for am­ple lengths of one or more an­chor rodes. For a blue­wa­ter boat that’s sail­ing to re­mote ar­eas of Earth’s oceans, ground tackle should con­sist of 300 to 400 feet of chain and a backup 600 feet of coil­able line with a 40-foot chain lead. Tra­di­tion­ally, on many boats, the pri­mary an­chor chain stows on the star­board side of the locker. The port side re­ceives the line-and­chain com­bi­na­tion re­served for de­ploy­ing a sec­ond an­chor in de­mand­ing con­di­tions. A par­tial fore-and-aft bulk­head should sep­a­rate the two.

Apart from the con­ve­niently shal­low wa­ters of a few cruis­ing des­ti­na­tions in the world — the Ba­hamas, or in­land wa­ters like the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, come to mind — many an­chor­ages are quite deep. To be able to an­chor at a safe dis­tance from haz­ards to nav­i­ga­tion and still keep a pru­dent 6-to-1 ra­tio of an­chor chain to wa­ter depth, one needs much of that 300 feet of all-chain rode. For high lat­i­tudes and the Pa­cific, 400 feet of chain will work bet­ter. Oth­er­wise, it’s some­times nec­es­sary to add line, which com­pli­cates the op­er­a­tion of an elec­tric or hy­draulic wind­lass. (For smaller, lighter sailboats, say up to 40 feet in length over­all, with man­ual wind­lasses, com­bin­ing chain with rope is, of course, per­fectly ac­cept­able.)

Many of to­day’s pro­duc­tion yachts pro­vide an­chor-tackle stowage in a well that is ac­ces­si­ble through a hatch on the fore­deck. Un­less it’s very large, such space might be in­ad­e­quate for blue­wa­ter cruis­ing; an ad­di­tional am­ple length of rope rode must be stowed else­where. Be­sides ad­e­quate an­chor-line stor­age, the ideal ar­range­ment for a far-rang­ing cruis­ing yacht is a wind­lass lo­cated a good dis­tance aft of the bow but ahead of the main­mast. A deep chain locker un­der the wind­lass would then pro­vide the best weight dis­tri­bu­tion for cor­rect boat trim. Keep­ing heavy weights close to the mid­dle of the boat pre­vents pitch­ing, and is par­tic­u­larly vi­tal for light-dis­place­ment yachts. Well-de­signed cus­tom sailboats nor­mally in­cor­po­rate such a lay­out, but by ap­ply­ing in­ven­tive thought and adap­ta­tion, many pro­duc­tion mod­els can be brought up to this stan­dard.

In a per­fect world, the chain locker should be en­closed from the boat’s in­te­rior with a wa­ter­tight bulk­head that has a wa­ter­tight door for com­fort­able ac­cess from be­low, in case at­ten­tion to the rode is nec­es­sary in or­der to undo tan­gles or flake the chain down while haul­ing it in. Oth­er­wise the in­com­ing chain might pile up, and while the boat rolls on the way to the next des­ti­na­tion, the heap could slip into a nasty tan­gle. If this oc­curs, just as you try to drop the an­chor in the best spot in a crowded an­chor­age, the twisted chain will jam un­der the deck.

For off­shore work, a hawsepipe on deck is prefer­able to an open­ing locker that could let in vol­umes of wa­ter. Em­ploy­ing a pipe makes ac­cess from be­low to the chain locker es­sen­tial. An open­ing into the locker that lacks a seal­able door will al­low sea­wa­ter to squirt onto the V-berth through the chain open­ing in the deck. There are a cou­ple of ways of seal­ing off this deck hole, how­ever. Some peo­ple dis­con­nect the chain from the an­chor and hook the last chain link on the un­der­side of a plug that fits tightly into the chain open­ing. An al­ter­na­tive is a cover plate with a slot cut in one side that matches the chain size. It slides over the open­ing and is held in place by a thumb­screw bolt in the deck. In re­ally rough go­ing, small amounts of sea­wa­ter might seep down the chain and end up in the bilge. An au­to­matic bilge pump eas­ily clears that out.

The backup soft line an­chor rode with a chain leader comes into its own when the wind’s song rises to an omi­nous pitch. On our

Ma­son 44, Frances B, I reach it through a 6-inch­di­am­e­ter port on deck. I pull the chain up, shackle it to a spare an­chor of the type suit­able for the bot­tom in the an­chor­age and, voilà, it’s ready to go. This an­chor rode rides on the port­side bow roller, which is made of Del­rin, a strong plas­tic that’s kind to soft ny­lon lines.

The all-chain star­board rode runs from the wind­lass through a pawl-type chain stop­per and then through a stain­less chan­nel to its heavy­duty bronze roller. When all the nec­es­sary length of chain has gone out and we are about to back up the en­gine to set the an­chor, we en­gage the chain stop­per, which takes over the load and pro­tects the wind­lass.

The stain­less-steel chan­nel pro­tects the deck while the chain is run­ning out. The sides of the chan­nel have two sets of strate­gi­cally placed holes that we use to help im­mo­bi­lize the an­chor at sea. The for­ward ones re­ceive a large pin that goes through the an­chor. The aft ones re­ceive a pin that goes through a hard­wood wedge and the an­chor. This wedge locks the an­chor firmly in the chan­nel. To fur­ther pre­vent an­chor move­ment at sea, we lash it tight with a length of Spec­tra at the for­ward end of the chan­nel.

On the fore­deck of our boat are two open fair­leads, two closed fair­leads and two large cleats on ei­ther side. We added these large open fair­leads, with per­fectly smooth rounded cor­ners, to use with bow lines and an­chor snub­ber lines. Oc­ca­sion­ally, we have to run two lines through a fair­lead; for ex­am­ple, a bow line and a spring line. The closed fair­leads, which came with the boat, lack gen­er­ously rounded cor­ners, and they are also too small to run two lines through with­out chafe. We also added two more cleats, so now a bow line and a spring can run through a sep­a­rate fair­lead and lie on their own cleat. This makes it easy to ad­just the lines un­der load.

The fair­leads and cleats also do quite a bit of work while sail­ing down­wind with a head­sail or two boomed out on spin­naker poles. The for­ward fair­lead re­ceives a foreguy, and the closed fair­lead re­ceives a pre­ven­ter line of a fixed pre-cut length. The pre­ven­ter holds the pole back from bang­ing into the head­stay while we ten­sion the top­ping lift and the genoa sheet, the lat­ter act­ing as an af­ter­guy. At­tach­ing all the lines to the end of the spin­naker pole is of­ten awk­ward while the boat rolls wildly in swells. To im­mo­bi­lize the pole, we drop it into a U-shaped fork on the bow pul­pit. Nor­mally stowed away, the fork slips when needed into one of the short pipes in­stalled on the out­side of the pul­pit tub­ing.

Re­cent de­vel­op­ments in down­wind sail de­sign have in­tro­duced some vari­ants to the fit­tings on the bow. Hop­ing to do away with spin­naker poles call­ing for la­bor-in­ten­sive

rig­ging and en­er­getic sail­han­dling, sail­mak­ers came up with var­i­ous light sails un­der names such as asym­met­ri­cal spin­nakers, screech­ers, gen­nakers, jib-tops and, in keep­ing with the dig­i­tal age, code zero and code one.

They def­i­nitely help achieve im­pres­sive speeds in light con­di­tions, but to set them, they re­quire new fit­tings on the bow to get their tacks for­ward of the head­stay and furler. They also need to be far­ther for­ward to ex­tend their use­ful per­for­mance into ap­par­ent wind an­gles aft of broad­reach­ing. On rac­ing boats, you will see poles, or sprits, as they’re called, emerg­ing from their own stor­age tun­nels within the bow ar­eas. Cruis­ing boats have a choice of sprits stowed on the fore­deck. They run through a col­lar on the bow and are ei­ther re­tracted or ex­tended for­ward when needed.

The loads cre­ated by these hu­mon­gous sails can be con­sid­er­able, so on boats over, let’s say, 40 feet, the ex­ten­ders of­ten come as hinged or fixed A-sprits sup­ported by fixed or ad­justable bob­stays. But even the largest of these sails will not fill when run­ning di­rectly down­wind. Drop­ping the main­sail or mov­ing the fore­sail tack onto a whisker pole or ded­i­cated spin­naker pole is the only so­lu­tion when a course di­rectly down­wind is nec­es­sary.

So, on days when you’re at the helm, skim­ming along un­der blue skies, the bow might seem far away and out of mind, but to en­sure trou­ble-free ocean roam­ing, look around and in­side the lock­ers for­ward. Is there enough an­chor tackle for all con­di­tions? Do you see ad­e­quately strong fit­tings to tie up in strange places with fixed docks, or enough leads to run all the lines when get­ting ready for a run down­wind? If not, start mak­ing your win­ter to-do list of im­prove­ments now.

Tom and Nancy Zy­dler have spent the past sev­eral sea­sons ply­ing North Amer­ica’s East Coast and the Cana­dian Mar­itimes aboard

Frances B, their Ma­son 44.

Align­ment is the key word on the bow. Chocks and cleats need a fair­lead, while the an­chor rode has mul­ti­ple points for dis­rup­tion.

Boats with twin bow rollers should have sep­a­rate spa­ces be­low to store the pri­mary chain rode and backup rope an­chor line. The taller the locker, the less chance of kinks.

Clock­wise from top right: A re­mov­able deck plate pro­vides ac­cess to the spare rode. A se­cure chain stop­per locks the rode in place. A sim­ple plate seals the hawsepipe and is held in place by a thumb­screw.

On Frances B, two pins lock the an­chor fore and aft, and a Spec­tra line (above right) and wooden wedge are used to fur­ther se­cure the an­chor when un­der­way.

A stain­less sheet on the bow pre­vents the an­chor from ding­ing the gel­coat when its low­ered or raised (left). When sail­ing down­wind, the spin­naker or whisker pole can be se­cured tem­po­rar­ily in a stain­less-steel U-shaped fork that’s in­serted into a tube added to the pul­pit stan­chion (be­low left). This sim­pli­fies adding a top­ping lift and guy in a sea­way.

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