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Q&A: Swinging on the Hook, Halyard Shackles & Cruising Preparedness

Your technical questions answered by some of the most experienced trawler minds on the water.
boat at anchor

Dear Editors: We have been living aboard our 69-foot Horizon Expedition trawler full-time now for six months and are still learning every day. We have just ordered a stern anchor to (hopefully) help with the swing that we experience while at anchor, which is 99 percent of the time. Good idea? Any concerns? —K. H., Calgary, Alberta

K. H.: Your idea of the stern anchor seems logical, especially when you look at your boat’s track log on the GPS. It appears that your stern is swinging in an arc around your anchor. However, the stern is not the problem.

Most boats at rest, and especially our trawlers with a high freeboard-to-draft ratio, will turn beam-to the wind. It is this condition that initiates the swinging. The wind causes your boat to yaw, taking the bow off the wind. This begins a sideways motion until the anchor chain draws tight, resisting that movement. As the stern reacts to this combination of yawing and resistance, it brings the bow back into the wind, and the process starts all over again in the opposite direction.

The solution is to slow the bow from falling off the wind in the first place. One solution I’ve seen is to deploy a small drogue from the anchor chain a few feet below the water. This resists the initial problem, and dramatically reduces the resultant swinging. This also allows the boat to stay in harmony with other boats in the anchorage, which the stern anchor will prevent. —Bob Arrington

I enjoyed the recent story “Reality Check” and learning about the YouTubers. As a lifelong sailor, I feel compelled to point out an important safety concern in the photo of Sierra and Billy on page 6. (See photo below.) It is not considered best practice to connect the bosun’s chair directly to the halyard with the shackle. These shackles are not designed to stay locked or closed when under load. Best safety practice is to pass the shackle directly through the D-rings on the chair and then tie a new, fresh bowline with the rope halyard. Also, they have a second snap shackle or carabiner of a type not meant for this purpose between the bosun’s chair and halyard shackle, which is another risky point of failure. A good knot tied directly to the chair, with a long tail in the bowline, should be your friend. It is an amazing picture, however, and shows how much fun the cruising life can be. —John Vincze, Newport, Rhode Island


John: Good catch. Coming from a sailing background myself, I can remember my dad cranking me up that tall mast in the bosun’s chair back when I was a kid. Hard to beat the view, or the exhilaration. Thanks for the important safety reminder. —Andrew Parkinson

I plan to set out on a lengthy Caribbean tour soon with my wife and two children. I have a reasonable amount of helm experience, but less with on-the-go maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs. We’re looking at around a 40-foot twin-outboard boat to access shallow water. I’m curious what maintenance skills I should focus on beforehand, and what tools are most important to bring along? —Tyler Howell, Anna Maria Island, Florida

Tyler: The complete answer to your question could fill this entire magazine, but I’d start by taking your boat for an hour-long run. Collect information at different throttle settings to confirm how much fuel the engines burn, that the water and oil temperatures are in range, and especially that the alternators are maintaining battery strength. Whoever services your engines can give you a detailed list of spares to carry, but it should include a set of propellers, spark plugs, fuel and oil filters, oil and grease. Check the connections on your batteries, and if they are more than a couple years old, consider replacing them. A battery-powered drill, screwdrivers, a hammer, Vise-Grips, open-end and box wrenches (make sure you have the size to change a prop) and a socket set should suffice. If you have an electric windlass, carry a spare fuse. I’d also make room for a spare anchor and a towline. A piece of 300-pound monofilament fishing line will come in handy if the outboard’s cooling water exhaust gets clogged. Polarized sunglasses are a must to read the water, and you should avoid cruising at night in unfamiliar waters. —Peter Frederiksen

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