The Blue View - Love to be Snubbed

Snubber_in place  

When we were first learning how to sail, we took a “bareboat chartering” class in San Diego. It was a fun class, and we got to live aboard our classroom, a 36' Hunter, for the three days of the class to give us a taste of what was to come. On completion, we were supposedly qualified to charter a boat on our own. We were taught such things as checking the engine oil, the basics of anchoring and maneuvering a sailboat.

The sailboat we were on had an anchor with a short section of chain, and then a hundred feet or so of rope rode. Our instructor, who had sailed a bit in the Pacific, told us that this was fine for the San Diego area. Once we were in rocky or coral strewn areas, however, we would probably use all chain rode, and that the anchoring technique with chain was different than rope rode. We would use something called a “snubber”.

Well, it turns out that he was right. Cups has all chain rode, and we never anchor without using a snubber, a stretchy nylon line attached between a strong point on the boat (in our case a very large cleat) and the anchor chain. In strong winds, the anchor chain will stretch out almost straight, and as the wind and waves cause the boat to buck and jerk, there is no give in the chain, causing tremendous stress on the boat - not a good thing. Even worse, the sudden jerks on the anchor can cause it to break free from the bottom – even less of a good thing. The elasticity of the rope snubber reduces the sudden tugs on the anchor and the stress on the windlass and chain stopper.

Over the years we've gone through dozens of snubbers. We tried smaller diameter line, but found that these would snap when the weather got rough. We tried heavier line, but this didn't have enough stretch. For Cups, the perfect size is 5/8” three-strand line. Now we have two. One is about 25 feet long, and we use it in most conditions. The other is 60 feet long and is our heavy duty snubber for “batten the hatches, lash everything down, take the seasick medicine” kind of weather.

The biggest learning curve for us was how to attach the snubber to the anchor chain. We tried regular hooks, but occasionally they would fall off the chain. We tried a hook with a special retainer that was supposed to hold it in place. It worked well until one particularly bad night. In the morning, when we tried to raise anchor, the retainer had become jammed and it took half an hour with a hammer and pry bar to get it loose. We tried a rolling hitch, but sometimes after a bad blow it would jam, and then take several minutes with a screwdriver to get it free.


Snubber_knot collage-steps 1 to 4


Then my old friend, Clifford Ashley, came to the rescue. I discovered an alternate version of the rolling hitch in The Ashley Book of Knots.


snubber_knot finished


It's his knot #1735, and it's never failed us.


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National Anthem Day
Written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812, the national anthem officially became our national song on March 3, 1931. Play it, hum it, sing it today. Here's some help with the lyrics, just in case. My favorite rendition? Whitney Houston.