We moved aboard a sailboat because we wanted to travel and live around the world. We thrive on the freedom to move, so we spend most of our nights at anchor.

If we want to sleep like babies, and not lie awake twitching like nervous nellies, we must trust our anchoring set up. Lately, our trust has been wavering.

Jason will explain why in the video but the short story is:  we thought the issue was the windlass. Turns out our anchor chain might be the culprit. Time to bust out a few boat bucks, a pair of gloves and some elbow grease.

Not too bad, right?!? Replacing our anchor rode was afternoon tea compared to the electrical issues we had. Forking over the cash wasn’t easy. But, we would rather spend a bit more money on better anchor chain than save a few bucks and risk our boat, or our lives.

So, you might be curious…how exactly did we go about selecting new chain? First, we took a look at our current set up.

Curiosity Ground Tackle

  • Lofrans Tigres Windlass with Gypsy made for 3/8 HT chain
  • Mantus 65# stainless steel anchor (best upgrade ever!)
  • Mantus Swivel with integrated low-profile Shackle
  • Anchor Mate (Helps seat our anchor and keep it secure underway.)
  • Bridal and Mantus Chain Hook – Still using the factory bridal line but we upgraded the galvanized basic chain hook with the Mantus Hook.  Our old bridal hook fell off the chain 9 times out of 10, our Mantus has never fallen off (mic drop).
  • Old Rusty Chain – Our chain has been a rusty mess since we bought the boat. We don’t have a clue about what type of chain it is. We do know its current size is slightly less than 3/8 according to the caliper.  Spliced into the end of the chain is 200ft of anchor line.  At the bitter end of the anchor line is a shackle with a thin 1/4″ line attached to the boat. This thin line is easy to cut. It’s a failsafe for the unexpected emergency situation where we need to ditch our anchor fast.
  • We also have a spare Fortress anchor with 50ft of chain and 200ft of anchor line. The spare anchor also has the same thin “emergency” line attached to the boat.

 

rusting anchor chain and jumping the gypsyLook at all that rust flaking off around the windlass! Yikes!

inspecting and installing new ground tackleThe new chain looks spiffy on our anchor…but I am sure that shine won’t last long.

Anchor Chain Choices

I’m not going to downplay it.  Going through all the chain details and research made my head spin.  I could easily write a thesis with all the info swirling around in my brain.  All things considered, it’s not a clear cut choice and certainly not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.  The boat, cruising style, bottoms and locations all play into the equation.  Here’s my two cents on the different types of chain available.

  • Definitely Not – G3 (grade 30 proof coil) chain. The lowest grade steel for anchor chain. It’s prone to rusting, incredibly heavy and not designed to work on a windlass.  In other words, not meant for our boat.
  • OK, But Not The Best – BBB or B3 chain. Still heavy but has small, short links that help it grip the anchor windlass drum. It used to be the most popular type of chain until G4 came out.  West Marine doesn’t even sell a large enough chain size for our boat.  Which tells me, it’s not popular for boats our size.
  • Excellent – Grade 43, G4 or HT (High Test). It’s high-carbon steel, has twice the working load of BBB, works well with a windlass and weighs much less than BBB chain.
  • Fancy New Tech – Grade 70, G7 or Transport Chain. It’s 20% stronger than G4 which makes it the strongest, weight for weight, of all anchor chains. Its exceptional hardness resists wear but its not compatible with many gypsy’s nor are there many compatible swivels and such.  Plus, there are some skeptics about the re-galvanizing process used to make this chain. I’m indifferent because I’m no expert.  On paper, it looks very promising.

Our Chain Choice

Looking at all the specs, the clear choices were G4 and G7.  We’re in Panama and at the mercy of what we can find and afford here.  Plus, the idea of additional custom accessories wasn’t something we wanted to tackle.  For the strength, weight and price we opted for the G4 chain. It felt like a solid middle ground for our cruising catamaran. It’s not the newest tech, but it’s a huge improvement over our old rusty.

Chain Type Size Maximum Working Load Breaking Strength Weight Total Weight for 250FT
BBB 1/2” 4,500 18,000 2.73LB/FT 682.5
G4 3/8” 5,400 16,200 1.49LB/FT 372.5
G7 5/16” 4,700 14,100 1.00LB/FT 250

 

We purchased our chain from a shop in Panama City called Centro Marino. The lady’s name is Berta Alicia Arroyo and she was insanely friendly. Originally she quoted us $5.99 over email. When we arrived to pick up the chain we had some friendly Spanglish banter and Jason joked with her in that awkward I sort-of-understand-you kinda way. She printed the bill, smiled and said, “Te di un pequeño descuento.” The final price for our chain was $5.35 per foot plus 7% tax. We said “muchas gracias!”

Grand total for 250 feet of G4 Chain: $1431.13 USD

 

new anchor chain for sailboat

 

installing a new anchor chain

 

installing a new anchor chain

 

Another HUGE consideration we had when upgrading or chain:  We’re sailing to French Polynesia!  There are hundreds of anchorages, miles from anywhere, with major tidal ranges and notoriously deep spots to drop the hook. A solid anchoring setup is a must.  Panama City is the largest marine destination we’ll be in for a long while. It was tackle it now or pay out the wazoo later.  I can’t imagine having to purchase nearly 400 pounds of chain on some remote island in the South Pacific.

 

installing a new anchor chain

But Wait!

Before you go ordering chain, make sure it’s compatible with the gypsy on your windlass. If not, find out if the windlass manufacturer makes one. We did this, but turns out the G4 chain Centro Marino had in stock was labeled 3/8 but it was actually 10mm.  Not a huge deal, but we noticed the chain wasn’t seating as nicely as we thought it should while we were bringing up the anchor.  Luckily, it wasn’t a big deal to purchase a new gypsy because ours was 12 years old. We called up Nance & Underwood in Florida and had them ship one to Jason’s mom since she’d be joining us to transit the Panama Canal.

One last note, while we had the anchor locker empty we took the opportunity to do some serious cleaning.  We had accumulated a ton of rust flakes and bottom-of-the-ocean gunk…which has an oh-so-pleasant aroma.  We wanted to give our new chain a fresh, rust free start (it’s a good idea to do this at least once a year anyway).

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