“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Let’s Talk Ground Tackle

“You know you’re a cruiser when other boaters look at your anchor and say it’s too big.”  – Unknown internet quote (can’t remember where I read it but it sounds good to me)

In Garry (aka Cap’n Fatty) Godlander’s book, Buy, Outfit and Sail, he gives some first hand experience on how important anchors are as safety gear on boats but I don’t plan to carry 7 or more like he does.  Nor do I think carrying only one anchor is the right choice to go cruising, or even day sailing for that matter.  So what is the right setup for grounding tackle to go cruise the ICW, Bahamas and the Caribbean?

Primary Anchor

From reading and my own experience I think having one oversized, primary anchor is better than trying to set multiple anchors for typical use.  I am also firmly in the “new generation” anchor camp as I believe science and engineering can improve on the old designs.  A couple years ago we were ready to purchase a new primary anchor for Smitty.  So I went my typical route and over-researched the decision.  I came to the conclusion that the best anchor for the money was the Manson Supreme.  So based on the specifications of Smitty (30.73 LOA, Displacement of 10,700 pounds, Cruising Weight of around 13,000 pounds, and a relatively high freeboard) it appeared that the correct size Manson Supreme would be the 15 to 25 pound anchor.  So we bought the 35 pound version.

manson Supreme on bow

We have been very happy with this anchor over the first two years.  It sets quick, holds well and we have not found a bottom it didn’t like.  Its a bit big on the bow but see the quote above.  No need to change anything here.

Primary Rode

The current rode is 30 feet of 5/16″ G-4 Hi-Test galvanized chain with 200 feet of 1/2″ three strand nylon line.  The chain has a working load limit of 3,900 pounds and the nylon line has an average tensile strength of 7,500 pounds.

In doing some research for our trip, I have decided that we need more chain due to chafe reasons.  Our windlass does not have a chain gypsy, so what ever chain we have will have to be manually weighed to retrieve the grounding tackle.  From what we experienced in the BVIs and what I read from others, we will typically find ourselves anchoring in 10 to 20 feet of water.  This will mean that our typical scope (plan for 7 to 1, but more likely will have 5 to 1 due to crowded anchorages and limited swing area) would have us putting out 70 to 140 feet of rode.  Given the curve of the rode based on catenary geometry, I would be comfortable with 90 feet of chain for chafe protection.  I would also want a total rode of 250 feet for max deployment in case of a storm.  Long story short, we are going to get a new primary anchor rode.  Our current primary rode will become our backup rode (more on that later).

To be safe, I thought I would double check the sizing prior to making that upgrade.  I did this using some of the sizing charts that have been posted on Cruisers Forum a number of times.  These tables are generic and just help get to typical sizes.  Information from the manufacture for the exact product I plan to buy will be consulted before I make final choices.

Smitty Design Loads for Grounding Tackle Smitty Modified Working Load Limits

So designing my primary grounding tackle for up to 60 knots of wind, the load on the ground tackle will be around 3,000 to 3,200 pounds.  So based on above, I should be looking for chain in the 5/16″ to 7/16″ size, a shackle in the 3/8″ to 1/2″ size and nylon rope in the 3/4″ size.

When I start to price this out at Defender, the 5/16″ Acco G-4 Hi-Test Chain has a working load limit of 3,900 pounds.  A 90′ pail runs $375.  The 3/8″ Crosby G-209 Anchor Shackle has a working load limit of around 4,400 pounds and costs $12.99. These seem like pretty straight forward choices.

Now the nylon rope, that get’s tricky.  Rope is generally rated in two ways: tensile strength and safe working load.  The tensile strength is the load at which new rope is expected to break.  The safe working load is typically 10-20% of the tensile strength.  In addition, tying the rope reduces the tensile strength by up to 50%.  So the current 1/2″ 3 strand nylon rode has a tensile strength of 7,500 pounds.  That would give it a safe working load of 750 to 1,500 pounds.  That would make this the weak link in the system.  The anticipated load on the rope in a 60 knot wind would be roughly 43% of the tensile strength.

To increase the safety margin here I need to either increase size or change to a different style.  The three common choices are 3 strand, 8 strand plaited and nylon double braid.  A quick comparison of tensile strength for 1/2″ line for all three with cost for 100 feet: 3 strand 7,500 pounds $102; 8 strand plaited 8,300 pounds $89; nylon double braid 7,900 pounds $104.  There are pros and cons to all three when it comes to longevity, durability, ease of splicing, etc.  When I weigh all of these, it leads me towards the 3 strand.  So that means I would have to increase the size to increase the strength. By moving up to 3/4″ 3 strand the tensile strength increases to 17,150 pounds (safe working load of 1,715 to 3,430 pounds) at a cost of $174 for 100 feet.  For 5/8″ 3 strand the tensile strength is 11,650 pounds (safe working load of 1,165 to 2,330 pounds) at cost of $143 for 100 feet.

Given the above, I think the best compromise for the rode would be 90 feet of 5/16″ G-4 Hi-Test Chain with a 150 feet of 3/4″ 3 strand rope.

Backup Anchor

The way the bow locker on Smitty is configured, I can hang a 13 pound backup Danforth anchor in the locker, out of the way.  A Danforth of that size is rated for a 31 foot boat so it would make a good backup to have.  The anchor rode I am now using on my primary would become the rode for this anchor.  I can add a small divider in the anchor locker to help keep the rodes separate.

Storm Anchor

For those occasions that high wind storms are predicted, we will want a storm anchor.  Currently on Smitty, that duty is being performed by a 35 pound Danforth (rated for a 40 foot boat).  But recently we purchased a collapsible 50 pound fisherman’s anchor (rated for a 35 foot boat).  The fisherman’s anchor will become our storm backup and our kedging anchor.  It folds up flat and will fit in any number of storage locations.  We have a rode for the storm anchor that is 30 feet of 5/16″ G4 chain with 200 feet of 1/2″ 3 strand. I will sell or trade the 35 pound Danforth.

So some might suggest that we go bigger with our storm anchor.  But considering that we could have a 3 anchor set up with the oversized Manson Supreme and two other appropriately sized anchors (the Danforth and the fisherman’s) I think we have a solid plan for storms and backup anchors.

Stern Anchor

Recently we had a couple of drinks with the parents of some boating friends.  Several years ago they did the ICW down to the Keys in their Catalina 36 MK II.  One of their pieces of advice was to have a stern anchor.  It should be set up so you can deploy it in seconds.  One of their main reasons for suggesting this was dealing with bridges and traffic on the ICW.  They said you often have to power straight into the closed bridges with the hope that the operator opens it in time. The operators often wait until the last minute to open the bridges to keep traffic flowing as much as possible.  They said there was a couple of times when the operator miss-timed this and they had to deploy a stern anchor to slow them down.  Also, they said that some of the ICW anchorages are very tight and that having a stern anchor out so you don’t swing too much was helpful.

I am going back and forth on this item.  I am not a big fan of multiple anchors period because of the potential for tangling during tidal current swings.

Also, I am thinking a better idea for slowing down would be a drogue.  Plus that could be used for other purposes.  Even a bucket tied to a stern cleat with a dock line could work.

Bottom line on the stern anchor, I have not fully decided if we are going to add this anchor.  If I were to add a stern anchor, it would probably be a Danforth, might even pay for the light weight Fortress (used of course).  I could hang it from the stern rail somewhere in a convenient location.

All together this would put me at 3-4 anchors onboard.  I think that would give me some good flexibility with different types for different conditions.  As usual, feed back is always appreciated.

Cross posted on Cruiser’s Forum and Catalina 310 Owner’s Forum.

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We Bought a Boat at the Boat Show

No we didn’t get rid of Smitty.  We love her too much for that.  But we did purchase a new inflatable.

We’ve been having ongoing inflatable issues ever since we have had one.  Our first inflatable, named Smitty Ditty by my Bride, was a 10-foot fiberglass RIB.  We got Smitty Ditty with the purchase of Smitty and that came with a 5 hp Nissan 4-stroke outboard.

Smitty Ditty

Smitty Ditty

We very much had a love/hate relationship with Smitty Ditty.  It was our first inflatable.  And she did take us almost everywhere we wanted to go.  But she weighed about 140 pounds and was too big to fit on the bow inflated and not be in the way for the anchor locker.  She also leaked water no matter what I did.  I reglued her 3 different times with no luck.  She was also having a problem holding air and had two large (over a square foot) patches on the rear of each pontoon.

Enter the Limo!

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We purchased the Limo because we wanted the motor.  Our friend Stu has the Tohatsu version of this engine (Nissans and Tohatsus of this era are the same motors with different stickers and paint).  Our 5 hp 4-stroke weighs 54 pounds.  This 9.8 hp 2-stroke weighs 57 pounds.  Essentially we doubled our horse power for 3 pounds and the inconvenience of mixing gas. Done deal.  The motor just happened to come with a 11-foot inflatable rated for 1,545 pounds.  It was huge and you could easily put 6 adults and a dog in the boat.  You could have a large cooler in the middle of the boat and still sit people around the outside.  The party bus of dinghies.

The Limo came at a good time.  We put the new motor on Smitty Ditty for some test runs.  By the time we made it back to the dock it was apparent that the Ditty was no longer holding air.  I had just repatch one of the large patches on the back and the patch wasn’t taking.  In addition, the hull was now leaking water into the area between the two hulls so it now weighed close to 200 pounds.  We sold her to someone at the dock and used the Limo for the rest of last season.  The Limo isn’t bad, just big.  We lost close to 1.5 knots when towing it and there is no chance of having it on deck. It also has a soft bottom so beaching it to take Summer for a walk is dicey.

So this year we planned to make a big purchase, a new inflatable.  We didn’t want to mess around with used, patch inflatables for when we head out cruising because it will be our connection to land and all purpose vehicle.  We knew we wanted a hard bottom so that Summer could stand in it with no problems and we could beach it.  The length had to be 9.5 feet or less because that would fit on deck.  We also wanted it to weigh as little as possible so that putting it on deck wasn’t a big deal.  We also came to the conclusion that we wanted hypalon as opposed to PVC since PVC didn’t seem to last in the Caribbean sun.

After weighing all these options, an aluminum RIB was high on the list.  They are lighter than the fiberglass and more durable for beaching.  There are several that you can get in hypalon.  The only down side is the cost.  AB was the prime builder we liked with 9.5 foot aluminum ribs in single floor weighing 70 pounds and double floor with a  bow locker weighing 118 pounds.  But these come in with hefty price tags of $3,800 and $5,300, respectively.  Also, the AB aluminum hulls are painted white and the paint peels in the hot sun.  So now most people are getting the hulls bear aluminum and that can get hot on a sunny day.  I don’t wearing shoes and Summer doesn’t either (not that I ever tried).  We had a few fiberglass RIBs we were considering too that were less money but more weight.

Last September we saw the Highfields aluminum RIBs at the Newport Boat Show and thought they looked good.  So when we went to the New England Boat Show this weekend we sought out the Highfields along with any other RIB at the show.  After seeing the Highfields side by side with the others we were looking at we decided we really liked the boat.

We purchased the Highfield Classic 290.  It’s a 9.5-foot double floor model with a bow locker in ORCA, a type of hypalon.  The weight is 108 pounds.  We decided against the single floor ultra light models for two reasons: the single floor isn’t flat and could be difficult for us and the pup to get in and out of plus stand; I have read reviews from people with really light inflatables that say they feel less safe in high winds and chop due to low weight in the bow.  Highfields powder coats their aluminum hulls instead of painting them so they don’t have the same issue with flaking.  We got a good deal at $3,200 with a cover, under seat storage bag, pump, patch kit and dry bag.  It will be ready for us to pick it up in March.

Here are some photos of the 10-foot version they had at the show.

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Flat floor with non-skip on powder coated aluminum

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Transom support plus a bilge that reportedly will hold 10 gallons before your feet get wet.

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Bow locker that you can lock with a pad lock unlike the AB.

No formal name yet but we (or should I say my Bride who gets to name the boat) are leaning towards Smitty Ditty II.

I can’t wait to add a few key features (fuel filter, drink holder, fishing rod holder, lights for night time dingy missions) and get it out on the water.  At 108 pounds our little 9.9 hp motor should get her up on plane no problem and move her along at a nice pace.


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Presidents’ Day Sales Aren’t Just For Cars

We had a very successful weekend of purging and working towards our goal.

Saturday morning we sold an old painting for $200. This is now our largest payday for something that was just lying around our house. Then we went hunting for a storage unit. Found a decent deal on the second unit we looked at. It’s not as close to the boat as we wanted but it will work for the limited things we will keep until we cut the lines. It’s the smallest unit you can rent at 5′ X 5′. This will house our spare boat stuff and off season clothes.

We then spent the rest of Saturday in the basement sorting through stuff. A fine way to wait out a snow storm dumping another half foot of snow on us. Man I hate the winter and can’t wait to be south. We started with moving boat cushions and other related stuff to the car to stage for a move to the storage unit on Sunday. We found that a lot of the stuff in the basement was in the donate category. So we boxed it up and moved it to the garage to stage for a run to Goodwill on Sunday. We also ended up with another cubic yard of just trash.

Sunday we took a car load to storage then a car load to Goodwill. More sorting and listing stuff for sale on eBay and Craig’s List. A good day followed by a fun night drinking wine with some good friends.

This morning we sorted some more, focusing on books and other stuff in the study. Sold a desk and desk chair, to different people. Cleaned the house in preparation for the biggest move of the weekend. My friend George came by and we finally listed our house for sale. With any luck we will be moving onto the boat in April or May permanently.

We won’t make anything on the sale of the house. Most likely we will have to pay to get out of the house. But our goal is to be debt free when we leave and that includes any mortgages. Plus the reduced expenses from selling the house and living on the boat full time will let us build the kitty quicker.

Here’s to hoping for a quick sale!


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Going Thrift Shopping

But instead of looking for your Grampa’s coat we went after cruising gear.

Last year we had a couple of great finds but we may have out done ourselves this year. First we got a spare manual bilge pump. A decent Gusher pump in great condition with the handle (the handle alone can go for $35). We got the whole pump for $40.

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Second big score was a collapsible fisherman’s anchor. About 45 pounder, fully collapsible and in great condition. Excellent backup anchor to keep in the bilge for $100.

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We got a couple of other nice little scores like some cruising bowls with non-skid on the bottom, a couple yards of sunbrella and a mount for our flare gun tube. A good day of bargain hunting.


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Winter Boat Projects Update

While my Bride has been busy selling things, I have been plugging away on boat projects.  Just as a quick review of what the big project is this year, I am doing the following:

  • Replace the dampener plate
  • Replace the motor mounts
  • Replace the stuffing box with a dripless adapter
  • Replace the bronze shaft with a stainless steel one
  • Replace the cutlass bearing
  • Replace any original hoses left on the engine
  • Cleaning & rebuilding the strainer

The dampener plate replacement went fine, here is another photo to let you know how lucky we were that we were still able to use our engine this season.

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Yup. Barely holding on.

Putting on the PSS dripless adapter became a bit of an issue.  There is a hump IMG_1027on my model of C310 that doesn’t exist on others.  This hump is just fiberglass and resin in the area that was hand laid.  But it made the area between the hump and the shaft log too tight for the PSS bellows.  So I had to grind some of this material away with my Dremel then reseal the area with some epoxy.  I then painted this area with a little Interlux Bilgekote since it will be hard to get below the PSS in the future.

Finally I put the PSS on and slide the new shaft into place.

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And the new shaft in the new cutlass bearing.  Zero play, perfect fit.

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Finally, with the help of my friend Frank, the motor went back in place on the new motor mounts.

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Here is a close up of the new front mounts with the spacer plates made out of stainless steel thanks to my cousin’s machine shop.

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To finish the project I need to align the motor and the shaft, reconnect a few stray wires and hoses and reinstall the line cutter and prop.  Hopefully the weather will let me tackle that this weekend and call this project complete.  The strainer is still in pieces in my garage but I want to hit the marine consignment store before I go any further on this strainer.  I might change from a Perko to a different brand.

Next on the list will be making some modifications to my raw water pump  Just changing out some fittings for a better fit.  I think my drive belt is hitting one fitting slightly.  Then it will be electric time.  I want to move my small 300 watt inverter from the hanging locker (PO used it for the TV) to the navigation station.  I will install a 12volt outlet near the hanging locker to get ready for a new, 12 volt TV.  I also want to put a 12 volt outlet or two in the cockpit for charging the iPad and maybe run some LED strip lights for the cockpit.

We also decided to ditch the foam pads for the back birth.  We don’t have people spend the night often.  When we do it’s usually drunken friends who usually just sleep in the cockpit. So we took out the two foam pads and replaced them with a air mattress.  The Coleman queen air mattress fits the area well and can be stored much easier.  What to do with the old foam pads is still up for debate.

While I have been doing this, my Bride has been working to purge the house and getting it ready for the market.  Now, if we can only get my buddy George to list it already.


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Everything must go…

We are making a lot of progress with emptying out the house. Utilizing Ebay, Etsy, and Craigslist.  Please let me know if you have any questions on getting started with selling your stuff. So far, my experience has been very positive.

Items currently available for sale on eBay by the_blonde_stranger:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/the_blonde_stranger/m.html?item=261389152608&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cdc01f160&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562