A nylon anchor rode, snubber or mooring line will last a long time, maybe a decade or longer, if it is cared for and we can avoid chafing it. Put it under tension and allow it to rub on something sharp – a rock, a deck protuberance or a concrete piling - and it can chafe through in a matter of minutes. Some of the other varieties of line like Spectra, Amsteel and polypropylene exhibit more resistance to chafing than nylon, but they have very little stretch – and stretch is a desirable attribute in an anchor rode, snubber or mooring line. It may take an hour or two instead of ten minutes, but even the most chafe-resistant line will chafe through under the right conditions. Here are some of the things we do to prevent our lines from chafing.
(If you started reading this blog post thinking it was about the pros and cons of jockey shorts versus boxer shorts, sorry - this isn't about that kind of chafing).
- Short hose sections. We keep short sections of our old, large diameter hoses to use as chafe guards. We also occasionally come across sections of discarded fire hose, which works very well. These short lengths are used to protect a line from chafe as it goes around a corner. For example, our snubber is secured to the anchor chain, then goes through our port bow roller and is attached to the port bow cleat. If the wind is kicking up and Nine of Cups is pitching and yawing, there are two points at which the snubber is susceptible to chafe. I have two short sections of hose I can slide along the snubber and secure in place, which protects it at those points. If necessary, I drill holes in the ends of the hose and use small line to attach the chafe guard either to the snubber or to the chafe point to keep it from sliding out of place. We also have a few short hose sections that are slit end to end. I can slide these sections into place on the line quickly without having to untie it.
- Long hose sections. We keep several six foot (2m) sections of hose to protect our lines from chafing on wharves and pilings. A case in point was when we were moored at a commercial wharf in Hobart, Tasmania, and our spring lines were chafing against the barnacle encrusted pilings, especially at low tide. We protected them using long sections of hose. As with the short sections, we prevented the chafe guards from sliding out of place with small line attached to either end of the hose and tied to the spring lines.
- Shackles. We keep spare galvanized shackles in several sizes aboard. These are used when we need to tie a line to a corroded eye ring or shackle. Often, for example, we want to pick up a mooring with nothing but a corroded eye ring to tie up to. Assuming it isn't so corroded as to be untrustworthy, we will attach our new shackle to the eye ring, then tie our mooring line to the shackle.
- Short sections of chain. We have about six short sections of chain, ranging in length from 3 feet (1m) to 15 feet (4.6m). We frequently use these chain sections to protect a dock line or a line ashore from chafe. Anytime we are tied up to a finger pier or wharf that has corroded cleats, concrete edges or anything else that can chafe our lines, we attach a length of chain to the cleat using a shackle. Then we attach the dock line to the chain using another shackle. Likewise, when we are running a line ashore, it is often necessary to secure it to a rock. We wrap a chain section around the rock, shackle the ends, and attach the line to the shackle.
- Thimbles. When we are in an area where we will frequently be shackling our lines to chain sections, we will often splice thimbles in the ends of our lines. When we were in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego where we ran lines ashore almost nightly, we added thimbles to the ends of our shore lines. This made it less likely that the end of the line would chafe on the shackle. A quick temporary alternative is to slide a short section of hose onto the end of the line, then form it into a tight loop using a bowline.
- Storms. Storms and gales, whether at anchor or while moored, put a great deal more stress on the lines than do settled conditions. If we have any warning of impending heavy weather, we do what we can we can to prepare, then keep an extra watchful eye out for potential problems. Take a look at our previous blog post on preparing for storms at anchor.
- Anchor rode. Some bottom types are very hard on nylon anchor rode. We highly recommend having chain for at least part of the anchor rode. When we first started cruising, we were in areas that had sand or mud bottoms, and having chain for the first 50 feet (15m) of our rode was perfectly adequate. In rocky or coral areas, the amount of chain increased to 300 feet (90m).
- Vigilance. Keeping an eye on things is probably the most important aspect of preventing chafe. Check the lines every morning; when the wind pipes up; when the wind dies down; when the wind direction changes; at high tide; at low tide... anytime conditions change. Fixed piers and wharves usually require more vigilance than floating docks, especially in areas where the tidal swings are large. Often, the lines will be fine until a particular combination of conditions occur, i.e. low tide and a southeast wind causes the aft spring line to chafe on a piling. Address and correct an issue at the first indication of a problem.