Gearing Up With New Ground Tackle!

By Rich

We are gearing up up for our late June arrival in Maine to start the 2023 summer season aboard our new baby: Sabre 38 MKII #12, Blue Moon! First on my short list of gear to upgrade: her ground tackle! She came with a 35lb CQR anchor, 75 feet of chain, and 150′ of brand new rode. Not bad, but for ground tackle I won’t settle for less than the absolute best I can get! We LOVE to be at anchor and enjoy it all the more if we can feel snug and secure in big winds.

The majority of Sabres born during Blue Moon’s era were delivered with CQR anchors, so hers is likely original. Our Sabre 42 came with a 45lb CQR, so I have a lot of experience with this design. Today the CQR is considered something of an antique compared to more modern designs like the Rocna, although I think the armchair internet “experts” often exaggerate the differences in performance between various anchor designs. To hear the online pundits tell it, CQR users should run for a marina if the forecast exceeds 10 knots of wind, while Skip Novak is happy to ride out a gale with his:

In my own experience on the Sabre 42, once my CQR set it never let me down anchoring everywhere from Block Island to Georgetown in the Bahamas across a variety of bottom types (soft mud, sand, etc). In both Boca Raton and (especially!) the Bahamas, I thoroughly tested its holding power in sand by anchoring for days at a time in winds well north of 20 knots.

Le Saberage held firm by her CQR off of Chub Cay in the Bahamas.

The key phrase in the above statement, however, is once it set. The biggest flaw I encountered with this design was its tendency to land on its side when deployed, then slide along the bottom happily without digging in while Le Saberage blew across the anchorage. On these occasions I was sent running aft to stop the boat’s backward motion with the engine, then running forward again to raise the anchor so I could return to the desired anchoring spot to attempt a reset. This was entirely too much drama for a single hander to accept, especially on occasions when it failed to set three times in a row, as happened to me once in Beaufort. The CQR’s second flaw, which is very much related to the first, was the lack of conviction it showed when it set in the bottom. It sets gradually as it is drawn across the substrate, often with little obvious “grab” that gives the crew immediate comfort that it has dug in.

The more modern Rocna design solves both problems. The rollbar makes it impossible for it to drag along the bottom on its side (let alone upside down), and its design produces a decisive “grab” on the chain as it sets. As a result, the crew is immediately confident that a Rocna has dug in. This video may come from the vendor, but the contrast it depicts between the performance of the CQR and the Rocna is entirely consistent with our experience over the years:

The holding power of our Rocna proved awesome as well. Having taken the Hylas from well north in Maine all the way down to Iles Des Saintes in the Carribean over three full seasons of live-aboard cruising, it dragged on us a grand total of one time, and in that case through no fault of its own: we had inadvertently anchored in grass on the western shore of Guadeloupe.

Blue dots mark the range of places we have anchored Le Saberage and Rover since 2014.

On every other occasion when it was given reasonable substrate in which to bury itself, The Rocna had our back – including in a 45 knot gale we rode out north of Fisher’s Island:

So, upgrade #1 for Blue Moon is our new 44 pound Rocna!

Upgrade #2 is 150 feet of new 5/16ths BBB chain.

To this I will splice the 150′ of new rode she already has, for a total of 300 feet of rode. In over 17,000 miles of passage making, the only place we have anchored where we would have preferred to have more than Rover’s 200′ of all-chain rode would be the 60 foot-deep outside anchorage at Provincetown, but that is hands-down one of my favorite anchorages in New England and I was never super comfortable maxing out at 3:1 scope there on the Hylas. I am definitely looking forward to having more than the bare minimum necessary scope so I can enjoy that very special spot in future seasons.

Last but not least, I have had two new snubbers fashioned out of 5/8ths three strand nylon. The primary snubber is a single length of 25 feet which will connect to the chain with a rolling hitch, as is my standard practice. The second is a 9.5 foot with a chain hook spliced on to the end.

We really enjoyed this combination on the Hylas. The smaller snubber is easily attached with the hook to set and retrieve the anchor, but I don’t trust hooks when the breeze comes up, so our primary snubber is always attached with a rolling hitch. Once the anchor is set, the smaller snubber serves as a backup in case the primary chafes through, unless the weather is dead calm, in which case we’re perfectly happy with the hook snubber alone.

In weather like this dead calm day in the Exumas, a hook snubber will be fine.

So there we have it – Blue Moon now has my ideal ground tackle set up, all being deployed via Roger Hewson’s brilliant stem head design, which is the best I have ever seen on any boat.


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