I have the opportunity to acquire an all chain rode with a hinged-plough CQR-type anchor. I was going to jump at the chance, but my initial hesitation was handling all that chain, I don’t have a windlass, installing one would require switches, wiring and batteries, money. hmmm, maybe it’s worth it? After some quick research I can summarize the following pros and cons:
- rope provides cushioning (stretching) when the rode is pulled straight, chain is hard on fittings and can unset an anchor when pulled taut.
- catenary effect: the weight of chain provides a calming/dampening effect in calm waters, or so many claim. Research suggests that the weight of rode is negligible.(see Peter Smith link below)
- abrasion resistance: chain is the clear winner for abrasion resistance, this seems to be the deciding factor for most, allowing sailors to sleep at night.
- weight: chain is heavy and requires a windlass, weighs down bow, better to go with lighter chain and bigger anchor.
- expense: chain in expensive and rusts in salt water – but lasts longer than rope
Rope is actually better as a medium given it’s ability to stretch and absorb shock when the rode is straightened out but high winds or wave action, however the reality of abrasion is what makes most sailors reach for chain.
Rode length, not material, is what is important, the pulling force on the anchor needs to be as horizontal as possible, it is vertical pulling that unsets anchors. Chain is used as it pretty much guarantees abrasion resistance. When mooring in waters with unknown/varied seabeds, chain is best for a primary anchor rode.
For my normal stomping grounds, Lake Ontario, rope is fine. I suppose if I venture down the ICW to the Bahamas it might be advantageous to have a chain rode. hmmm, I’m back where I started.
Here are some good links on anchors, rode and scope:
The science behind anchors and rode:
Cruisers Forum rode discussion, chain vs rope:|