August 13, 2009

A plea for anchor rollers

(Watch this space every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new Mainly About Boats column by John Vigor.)

WHEN I WALK AROUND our local marina I can hardly believe how many boats lack anchor rollers. What were the manufacturers thinking? Thirty footers and bigger, without any proper means of retrieving the anchor and its rode. Did they imagine their boats would never ever anchor, from choice or necessity?

In my humble opinion, no boat over 20 feet in length should be allowed to leave the factory without a proper anchor roller at the bow.

Anyone who has ever tried to weigh anchor by hand in a boat without a bow roller knows how awkward and difficult it is. Consequently, you’ll notice that all sorts of after-market rollers get bolted on by boat owners seeking to ease the pain of retrieving the anchor. Some of them look far too flimsy for the job. Some stick out from behind the forestay at an odd angle. Others have to be bolted on top of a bed of teak to bring them to the correct level. And they’re not cheap, either. A reasonably sized one that will house the anchor costs in the region of $200 with shipping. And then you have all the fun of fitting it yourself.

I am lucky enough to own a boat that was designed from the beginning to have an anchor roller. It’s part of a simple bronze fitting that incorporates the bow chainplate, a bow roller, and the stemhead fitting to which the forestay attaches. I bless its little heart every time I weigh anchor, which I am able to do sitting down on deck behind it and bracing my feet in the anchor well.

In the days of my youth I used to be able to raise that way a 35-pound CQR on an all-chain 5/16-inch rode in 90 feet of water. Nowadays, my anchor weighs only 25 pounds and there is only 30 feet of 1/4-inch chain; the rest is nylon line. So I have it a lot easier and I’m very grateful.

I can only imagine that unscrupulous boat manufacturers deliberately omit a bow roller in an effort to keep the selling price down a few bucks. It’s a wicked practice, like selling a new car without a horn, or without a spare tire. If I was in charge of the boat-manufacturing industry I would make it a federal crime to sell a boat without an anchor roller. But since they’re never likely to elect me to that position, the situation is unlikely to change unless we all start complaining to our representatives in Congress.

Never mind health care for the moment. Never mind Iraq and Iran and North Korea and cash for clunkers. Forget all that for now. Surprise your elected U.S. representative. Ask him or her to sponsor legislation about bow rollers. You never know. It might be such a refreshing change from the same-old, same-old, that Washington DC could catch fire with enthusiasm for compulsory bow rollers. And if that means some boat manufacturers will end up behind bars, so be it. They deserve it.

Today’s Thought
The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public.
—Samuel Johnson, Miscellanies

“Did you know old Joe survived mustard gas and pepper spray?”
“No. How’s he doing?”
“Oh he’s a seasoned veteran.”


Pete Warner said...

John, We also own a Cape Dory 27 and have fitter her with a bow roller this year. I'm guessing slightly older models have an integral roller? Also you describe an anchor locker on her bow. Could you point me to any pictures of your configuration? We now have a hawse hole into the space just below the bow to store the anchor rode.

John Vigor said...

Pete, the archives on the Cape Dory bulletin board are a great resource.

You'll find pictures of my kind of bow roller in this thread:

Copy and paste that URL into your browser.

It was the later models that had a top-opening anchor locker set into the foredeck and the integral bow roller. That configuration started round about 1983, I believe.


John V.