Three-strand or plait anchor rode? And which windlass?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

21 Responses

  1. Peter Geise says:

    Such good boating things to know; we all depend on our anchors! And information presented like this is why I smile with anticipation of each Panbo in my email box. I grin again today because you left us with a cliffhanger. And it just happens to be the anniversary of when we found out who shot JR on Dallas tv series. Would love to know the end-of-the-story for why this obviously superior anchor design was discontinued.

  2. Try a Spade anchor. There is no comparison to all the anchors you mentioned. Please see SV Panope Anchor Test Videos.

  3. Good Morning Ben! I’m glad to hear you managed to recover your faithful anchor – I know it was aggravating you when we saw you last. I can’t comment on the use of plait vs. 3-strand as a rode (though we’ve had a 10′ piece of plait attaching our chain to the boat for a long time) but the advantages of easy stowage and handling seem manifest.

    Years ago I bought a piece of 3/4″ 8-plait and cut it up for dock lines. Splicing it was slightly trickier than 3-strand, but not difficult and used the same fid. While these dock lines were indeed easy to handle and stow, they did not do well as dock lines wherever we encountered wooden pilings or planking, as the softer surface caught on every splinter and rough edge. 3-strand, with its harder/tighter surface, has stood up to the challenge of rough wooden docks much better, so that’s what we use now.

    But I do think I would be attracted to the use of either 8-plait or 12-strand if I were going to use it as a rode – the ease of stowage alone is attractive, and the lack of twist sensitivity is a good thing IMHO – 3-strand is very sensitive to twist, and twist is something you just can’t avoid in an anchor rode, either deployed or being stowed. As an ancient mountaineer, I well remember the joys(?) of coiling and securing 3-strand climbing ropes, and how the advent of double-braid ropes was such a boon πŸ™‚
    S/V Atsa

  4. Evan says:

    Great Article Ben!

    People are advised to avoid talk of politics, religion & anchor types in polite social circles.

    I might suggest taking a bit of time to watch some of Steve Goodwin’s SV Panope video anchor tests on YouTube. Very enlightening and instructive it is to see how anchors behave and fail underwater. They are definitely not all created equal.

    Happy upgrades this winter!

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Evan; Steve Goodwin’s anchor testing work is super impressive. In fact, I encourage readers to join me in supporting his SV Panope Patreon site:

      That’s also where I found his latest ranking for 18 anchors in the 45lb class. Whereas the 50lb CQR is only at the lower middle of the list and my 33lb Deepset Plow claims to have 3x the holding power of a 60lb CQR, I’m feeling pretty good.

  5. Butch Davis says:

    Our boats have been too small and our boating range too shallow to consider a windlass. Having never had one I can’t comment on the devices.

    However, retrieving our anchors over the years by hand has taught me to use braid rode. Soft bottoms and strong winds sometimes require a lot of rode despite anchoring in relatively shallow water. Hand recovering a lot of rode against a strong wind is hard on the hands.

    When a winch malfunctions boaters having a braid rode will be delighted by their decision.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      One of the things I like about a chain/nylon rode on a boat around Gizmo’s size — 37 fee, about 22,000 pounds — is that I can probably still hand haul the anchor if the windlass failed. Actually I did that for a few weeks in the Chesapeake and ICW, before I put the new motor in the SL Sprint 1500. I mostly hand-hauled this summer too, because using the vertical SL capstan is pretty awkward. Pretty sure plait would have been easier on my hands and less messy on deck.

  6. Joseph Pica says:

    Ben, we loved our 8 brait/plait and used it for all our dock lines(note we had chafe guard to use if needed. Our anchor rode was all chain however we had two 8 brait snubbers (one for each anchor 45′ 7/8′ and one 28′ 5/8′). these both were attached to our water level bow eye. Our primary anchor was a 33kg Rocna, secondary a Fortress FX-. 37 All was grossly oversized for our 37′ boat that displaced 48.000lbs. However we slept well on the system at anchor. I’m a brait/Plait fan boy.

  7. Rich Gano says:

    My 2005 MS 30 Pilot II came to me in 2015 with a Lewmar 700 windlass and 120 feet of braided line (probably Brait) attached to about 110 feet of G4 1/4″ chain (12,000 pound boat). The transition from nylon to chain NEVER went well, and I always had to go forward to manually assist. Because I needed more weight up there anyway, I added another hundred feet of 1/4″ chain and forgot about the nylon until one day I found that the ever-damp nylon was contributing to the rusting out of the last link of chain as well as any other links in direct contact – messy. I cut out that link, but in attempting to make a chain splice found the old nylon too stiff to use, even after soaking in fabric softener. Since I never intend to anchor using almost three hundred feet of rode, I just removed the nylon from the boat and store it with the rest of the long lines I have for webbing the boat in for hurricanes. This boat, using the all-chain rode and SuperMax 35-pound anchor with nylon snubbers in conjunction with a Fortress FX-37 stern anchor and cross canal side lines survived category five Hurricane Michael’s eye wall.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this article. Like you I have a Duffy and we had the original CQR anchor, the original Nilsson H700 windlass, 24′ of chain and 200′ of 3-strand. We changed out everything last year with a Rocna Vulcan anchor, Lewmar H2 windlass, 80′ of 5/16 chain and 400′ of 5/8 Yale Cordage Brait (8 strand). now this might sound excessive, but consider anchoring Maine waters, tides and rock. I will always use the 80′ of chain when anchoring and some of the brait (unless its really blowing. The brait will act as my snubber with is elasticity and will more than likely not be in contact with the bottom (abrasion) . In any case this is my logic and your article tends to back up my thinking. Thank you.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks to all for the comments, which encourage me to write more on Panbo. As did last week’s METS show, though I also caught a cold just after posting this entry, and that made the trip back from the Netherlands even more exhausting. But today I’m chipper, and wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. Our turkey this year will go in the oven with three temperature probes sticking out πŸ˜‰

  10. Andrew says:

    Thanks for an interesting article. Did you consider a chain/rode counter? I am looking for an NMEA 2000 chain counter, but they don’t seem to exist. (The PGNs were created recently for this.) Has anyone got any chain/rode counter experience or recommendations?

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Andrew. I did get the Maxwell RC10 windlass — see new PS above — and it does support AutoAnchor chain and rode counters. But I can’t see the added expense and complexity, especially as I usually manage the anchor from the flybridge where I can see the scope angle quite well. It might be a different story if there was a black box N2K counter, but I don’t know of one either.

      I don’t think there’s even a NMEA 0183 counter, though it seemed like Garmin planned on one way back in 2013 — — but nothing came of it.

  11. SV Confianza says:

    We have used 8-plait for the past 7 years and it was definitely an upgrade. Not a *single* tangle under deck.

    Paired with a lewmar v5 windlass and a new Rocna Vulcan anchor.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I installed a Maxwell RC-8 with 90 feet of G43 chain and 200 feet of Yale 8-strand plait two years ago. It has been flawless. I think you will be happy with your choice.

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