Anchor, Chain Locker, and Anchor Roller, Part 1, Analysis, Part I

Mock-up anchor roller on the bow of Oystercatcher
Ask anyone in the know about the importance of a good anchoring system on a cruising sailboat, and he'll likely discourse on the subject for no small amount of time. Many a sailboat owner finds himself making one modification and the next in order to make his sailboat suitable for cruising, and many a sailboat owner has found himself modifying the bow of his boat to some degree to accommodate an anchor roller. In this first part of a multi-part article I discuss my analysis of the problems I faced as I sought to determine the best location for the mounting of an anchor roller on the bow of my Ericson 25, Oystercatcher.
I'll begin my discussion as I so often begin it, with a look at the boat as she appeared back in 2009 when I first saw her. I inherited many problems when I purchased this boat, and the anchoring system, or I should say the lack of an appropriate one, was one of these problems.
When I first visited the boat in August 2009 in the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina, the owner had just put her on the market. He was unprepared for my visit, so I was able to glimpse the boat in the condition that he normally kept her. Below, we see the pulpit with two clasps hanging down from it. This was where an anchor was supposed to be. At the peak of the bow you'll notice an antiquated stainless steel furling drum for a headsail that was not in place.
When I returned with a surveyor (and with a potential down payment in hand) in September, the boat looked a good bit different.
Now a Danforth anchor hung from the pulpit and a headsail ran aloft from the stainless steel furler. This was a West Marine brand Danforth, specifically, a TRAD08. In other words, this was a traditional Danforth style anchor of 8 pounds. Being the owner of a small powerboat with a 5 pound Danforth, I knew that this anchor had to be undersized. Nevertheless, I purchased the boat. She was, at least by old boat standards, in reasonable condition. She had many more pressing issues than the anchor, and frankly it wasn't a deal breaker or one of those problems that I used in my negotiations for a better price. There were plenty of bigger problems that I used for that.
After I got the boat back home to Charleston, South Carolina, I focused on the most pressing issues first, issues such as the deck hardware leaks and the cracked centerboard. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Eventually, I turned my attention to the anchor. This 8 pound Danforth from West Marine, as I had suspected, was woefully inadequate for this boat. The specs indicated that it was designed for boats in the 16 - 24 foot range. This boat was 25 feet, and at some 7,000 pounds when loaded, she was much heavier than your average 25 foot boat. Aside from this, it's common knowledge that your anchor should be larger than what the specs call for.
Despite their compact shape and stowability, I've never been a fan of Danforth anchors. In my experience, they often skip and tumble along the bottom, and for this reason they often do not want to set. To get to my point . . . I knew I wanted to get rid of this anchor and replace it with a plow type or a claw type - one that I could launch and retrieve from an anchor roller. This, though, raised many questions. Where would I install this anchor roller? How would I route the chain and the rode in and out of the chain locker? How would I cleat off the rode? Would the anchor roller obstruct me in my efforts to cleat off the rode? There are many different shapes and sizes of anchor rollers. Which one would be the best for this boat and my needs?
As I asked myself these questions, I began to look around at how others must have dealt with similar questions. Below, we see one Ericson 25 owner's solution. On the stem he installed a piece of stainless steel that he (or someone else) custom-made for this space. Atop this stainless steel plate is a small, stainless steel anchor roller that is either bolted or welded into place. The stainless steel plate thus serves as a foundation for the roller. This set-up allowed this owner to keep his port and starboard navigation lights in their original places, save for the fact that they were now mounted atop the stainless steel plate. The stemhead (to which the forestay is joined) also is mounted in its original place and atop the stainless steel plate. You'll notice that the owner has installed an oval chain pipe over the chain locker, and he's also installed a chain stop forward of the chain pipe to prevent the anchor from accidentally deploying. On either side of the chain pipe he appears to have replaced the original aluminum bow cleats with bow chocks. As many times as I looked at this picture, I never could figure out how this person cleated off his rode. Also, it appeared to me that this set-up did not allow the chain and rode to have a fair lead from the chain pipe to the anchor roller. From an aesthetic standpoint, I did not like it that the oval chain pipe encroached on the sand-colored non-skid areas of the deck. This made the chain pipe look like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the deck. Likewise, the chain stop, crammed as it was against the chain pipe, made for a crowded look at the bow. No one would ever design a system like this if he were building his own boat from the keel up.
As I looked around, I also found a picture of the set-up we see below, which I believe was on an Ericson 27, a boat almost identical to the Ericson 25 in many respects. You'll notice that this owner has also installed a small anchor roller. Just like the owner we discussed above, this one had to offset the roller on account of the stemhead and forestay/furler being at the center of the stem. This owner did not bother to fabricate a stainless steel plate for the stem. Instead, he simply used the stem itself as the foundation. In terms of the routing of the rode from the chain locker, it was impossible for me to tell how this owner might have accomplished this. From what I could tell, it appeared that the two hex head bolts at the aft end of the roller might have presented some problems in terms of a fair lead or in terms of the chafing of the rode.
As I thought about all of this, I began to experiment with different mock-ups on my own boat. By this point, as I said, I had removed much of the deck hardware for rebedding. The first thing I recognized was that it was indeed necessary to offset the roller on account of the stemhead. Likewise, it was necessary to cant the roller at an angle so that the forward leg (or legs) of the pulpit would not prevent any obstructions in terms of a fair lead of the rode.
The pictures above and below illustrate why it was not possible to orient the anchor roller parallel to the centerline of the boat. The legs of the pulpit were an obstruction.
This parallel-to-the-centerline orientation was pleasing to my eye and my sense of symmetry, but it just wasn't practical.
Nevertheless, I battled against this more practical and immediate solution and sought some means by which I could nurture my fondness for the symmetrical and find some way of translating this into the practical and utilitarian. Along these lines, I discovered several others, with other types of boats, who had found a way to carry this out. Below we see a Tanzer 27. This owner created an anchor roller platform that appeared to be both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Yes, the roller is offset, in order to account for the stemhead. Nevertheless, the roller is parallel to the centerline of the boat. It appeared as if this owner had to modify the legs of his pulpit to account for this platform. Also, he had to mount his nav lights atop it. Additionally, it appeared as if he installed a cleat or chock atop the platform for the routing of the rode.
I found a somewhat similar set-up in the picture below. This one is on a Pearson Triton 28. I really loved the craftsmanship of this anchor platform, just like I loved all the work that Tim Lackey, the owner of this boat, Glissando, did in his refitting of her. To read more on Tim's work in this regard, check out this link ( or simply click on the link to his webpage on the homepage of this Ericson 25 blog you're reading right now. ( Either way, your time will be well spent.
Mindful of Tim's work, I created a mock up that was similar in some regards, but different in others. For one thing, it had a cutout in the center for the stemhead, and it was symmetrical. Nevertheless, it was one that required twin anchor rollers, and it required that these twins be to be canted off of the centerline. This was necessary, of course, due to the orientation of the legs of the pulpit on the Ericson 25.
Yes, this was symmetrical, but the more I thought about it, and the more I considered the advice of others, I decided that this set-up was impractical, one that invited the fouling of the rode when the anchor was deployed or, even worse, the destruction of the the platform (and the stem for that matter) in the event that the weather turned nasty. Tim, in fact, had something similar happen to his platform when Glissando was on a mooring, and his platform did not project outward as much my mock-up did.
With this in mind, I began to consider other possibilities. I communicated with an Ericson 25 owner in Alaska who had come up with a solution to the anchor roller problem that was unique compared to other set-ups on other Ericson 25s and 27s that I had seen. Instead of purchasing a small anchor roller and installing it on the stem, this owner had purchased a large one and installed a piece of teak as a foundation of sorts, just behind the stem. This allowed him to bolt the large roller both to the stem and to the teak. Behind this piece of teak he had installed an oval chain pipe. As far as the cleating off of the rode was concerned, this owner said that after he had deployed the anchor (but before he had set it), he would reach up beyond the end of the roller, grab the rode, and cleat it off to the starboard cleat at the bow. This, he said, kept the rode free of the roller.
This seemed like a good, practical solution to the problem. Still, though, there was just something about the appearance of this set-up that I did not like. It was, of course, not symmetrical, but it also seem crowded with the teak and the chain pipe encroaching on each other's space. Moreover, the chainpipe was not at the same level as the teak. This must have inhibited the fair lead, and it must have presented some problems in terms of chafing.
One thing that was constantly in mind as I researched all these options was the fact that my boat had a plastic cowl at the bow that served to ventilate the chain locker. This was something that I had to take into consideration, whatever route I might take.
I found one Ericson owner's solution to the problem. I believe this was an Ericson 27 owner. At any rate, he had installed a large anchor roller with what appeared to be a small block of wood aft of the stem. He also had installed an oval chain pipe. In terms of the white plastic cowl, as I recall, he said that he would remove this cowl whenever he needed to deploy or retrieve the anchor. Then he would put it back into place. This worked for him. I, however, did not find this to be an attractive solution. Contemplating this photograph, I realized that the only way I could get around this would be to get rid of my cowl and fill the hole.
But how could I fill this hole and still keep the bow attractive with regard to the appearance of the fiberglass patch? I decided that if I used a large enough block of wood, sort of like the Ericson 25 owner in Alaska, then I could conceal the patch. Yes, this owner's solution to the anchor roller problem was not my ideal, in terms of appearances, but it was practical in many ways. For this reason, I decided that this would be the model I would use for my own set-up on my own boat.
Therefore, I started shopping around for large anchor rollers. I considered some in the Lewmar line, but ultimately I opted for a Garhauer brand roller. I had heard good things about Garhauer on different forums. This California based company had a reputation for quality hardware at a reasonable price. I ordered this roller directly from Garhauer.
I also shopped around for chain pipes. In the end, I opted for a Suncor brand chain pipe. Suncor Stainless, is a company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Like Garhauer, Suncor has a reputation for quality, 316 stainless steel hardware at a reasonable price. As I recall, I ordered this from Defender, the large, online retailer in Connecticut, well-known to many a person who has refitted a yacht.
Yes, it seemed like this project would not be very tough. I'd done my homework, I had ordered the necessary parts. All I needed to do now was to put it all together . . . or so I thought. What I didn't realize was that there were many unforeseen problems ahead and that this project would take far longer than I had ever expected.
This ends this first of many postings on the steps I took to create a new and useful anchoring system for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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