Anchors, Rodes and Chain-Lockers

Chain-lockers store the anchor-rode and, often, the windlass. The anchor is used to keep the boat in more or less the same place, preventing it drifting away.

The chain-locker in cats is at the foot of the mast where the heavy weight of the anchor and its rode (which can be upwards of 350 pounds) is centered and low on the boat. On a monohull, which due to its heavy keel is not as sensitive to weight as a cat, the chain locker is in the bows.

The rode is the chain/rope used to attach the anchor to the boat. Most cruising ships use chain only, but in some cases, a rope, tied to the end of the chain and the boat, is used to lengthen the rode.The rode must be long enough to allow about 4 times the depth of water to be paid out for a chain, and 7 times for a rope, to ensure that the anchor maintains the correct angle to the sea-bottom. Less scope, as this amount of rode is called, and the boat may drag its anchor.

A windlass is used to raise and lower the anchor. Usually electric, the rode runs through a special gypsy on the windlass’s winch, which grasps each link as it turns.

On an old ship, the anchor was often called a Bower and was made of cast-iron, while the rode was a thick cable of rope, raised or lowered by men using the capstan:

The Amsterdam's Capstan Spade anchor

Stout sticks were inserted into the capstan’s slots allowing two men to grasp each stick and walk the capstan around. The rode was attached to a smaller rope called the messenger, which was wound around the capstan a few times to give it purchase. The messenger had to be released and retied to the cable, as the rode came in or paid out, and small boys were used to “nip the messenger to the rode,” and keep the bower moving.

The photo next to the capstan is one of Bit-by-Bit’s anchor. It’s called a Spade by its manufacturer. The type and weight of anchor and the length, weight and type of rode, and the best way to anchor, are the subject of books and indeed even brawls.

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