Skip to content
May 15, 2009

The Weakest Link

Gilly Foy holds the Delta anchor like a guitar, happy that she and John were able to recover it.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"After thoroughly enjoying Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, we were anchored at San Evaristo on Easter Sunday," write John and Gilly Foy of the Alameda and Banderas Bay-based Catalina 42 Destiny. "The wind was blowing at 14 knots when we realized we were dragging. This was a surprise — it had blown much harder the night before and it wasn’t blowing hard enough to cause our 55-lb Delta to trip. It was well set in sand with plenty of scope on an all-chain rode. We fired up the engine and tried to raise the anchor. Unfortunately, it was no longer at the end of the chain! After getting over the shock of seeing nothing but chain, we deployed our Fortress back-up anchor and spent the balance of the afternoon considering how lucky we were that it hadn’t happend at night or while we were ashore.

"Turns out the stainless steel swivel between the anchor and chain had come apart. We’d purchased it 3.5 years ago from West Marine for about $110. Having read several reports in Latitude that some swivel shackles of this type seem to be prone to failure, we took it back to West Marine for their opinion. We were assured that ours was one of the "good ones." For the record, our swivel has a logo that looks like ‘CKN’ and beneath it ‘Italy’. On the other side it says ‘INOX AISI 316, SWL Kg 2000’. All this comes from the remaining half of the shackle that was attached to the recovered anchor.

We don’t know what caused the swivel to fail, but based on the markings, we know that it is a Kong brand swivel from Italy.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Some cruisers have speculated that the pin was not properly set, while others believe the pin simply broke. All we can say is that we’d periodically inspected the shackle and everything looked to be in good shape. Unlike some swivels, ours was designed to better withstand loads from some directions than others. Whatever the reason for the failure, we now have an old fashioned galvanized shackle that is wired shut, and have no plans to go back to a stainless swivel-type shackle.

"We know of two other boats in Mexico this season who have had similar swivels part. Fortunately, there was no serious loss of property, but neither was able to recover their anchors. We suggest that anyone with this type of shackle strongly reconsider using it. For us, continuing to use it would result in too many sleepless nights wondering what’s going on on the bottom, even in relatively light winds and current."

Based on the photos they sent, John and Gilly had a Kong brand anchor swivel. There are about 12 different manufacturers of such anchor swivels, and the designs, manufacturing processes, quality and price vary tremendously. For what it’s worth, the Kong is one of the less expensive anchor swivels.

We’d always been a little faint-hearted when it came to such anchor swivels, so when we ultimately did buy one, it was from a manufacturer whose products cost about three times as much as similar products from Kong. Our cat spends a lot of time at anchor, and a swivel failure could easily cause us to lose the boat. As such, we weren’t going to be penny wise and pound foolish.

We’re not recommending any particular brand of anchor swivel, or even that they be used. But for what it’s worth, we use an Ultra-Swivel that is imported by Quickline USA of Huntington Beach. It’s a very different design than the one made by Kong — it has far fewer parts and was designed to accept loads equally, no matter the direction. If you’re thinking about using such a swivel, we strongly recommend that you do some research into the pros and cons of the major brands — and be ready to pay top dollar for the best in breed. Anything else would seem to be false economy.

California Boaters Save DBW Again

DBW, our state Department of Boating and Waterways, has once again escaped the chopping block. You’ll recall that, as part of the latest budget proposal, legislators considered eliminating the DBW and tranferring all its functions to the Department of Parks and Recreation. This was, and is, little more than political pickpocketing — DBW uses no money from the General Fund and, in fact, operates totally independently on monies boaters already pay for licensing and as taxes at the fuel dock. However, DBW’s $77 million budget last year — used for safety programs, marina improvement grants and the like — is a ripe plum for legislators scrambling to get money anywhere they can. If, heaven forbid, DBW did go away, so would pretty much all the great work they do. There’s no telling how much of DBW’s yearly budget would then go to Parks and Rec, but we’re guessing not much. And they’re already in such dire financial straits that they’re closing 48 state parks this coming year.

We would be remiss in not giving a nod of thanks to RBOC — the Recreational Boaters of California organization — whose awareness campaigns led to a letter and email drive that (along with RBOC’s lobbying efforts) helped lead to the removal of the DBW issue from the docket of the committee designated to consider it. This is not the first time DBW has been threatened — or saved — and it won’t be the last. (The elimination proposal could still re-emerge in the State Assembly, so keep your typing fingers poised.) Also a nod of thanks to Boat U.S., which emailed all their California members to alert them.

“Several hundred letters plus several hundred emails have been sent regarding this hearing alone,” said RBOC Director Jerry Desmond, Jr. While no specific demographics were recorded, the write-in campaign came from “sailors and motorboaters, coastal and inland boaters, and people and groups from both Northern and Southern California.” Kudos to all of you who took part. You do make a difference.

No Dearth of Crew Listings

We hear the same complaint on a weekly basis: "It’s hard to find good, consistent crew." This always comes as somewhat of a surprise to us, considering there are no fewer than 172 people included on the Crew Available for Racing list on our website. Somewhere in that mix has got to be just the person you’re looking for!

But if not, the Latitude 38 Crew List offers yet another option: place your own Racing Skipper Looking for Crew listing. Fill out a short form, click ‘Submit’ and wait for potential crew to contact you. It’s easy, effective and, best of all, it’s completely free!

Cruisers Hopeful About Landers’ Survival

For this year’s Pacific Puddle Jump fleet, the elation from having arrived safely in French Polynesia was dampened when one of their own went missing. As reported earlier, singlehander Billy Landers’ Islander 36 Emily Pearl was found May 4 sunk in near-shore waters along the coast of Nuku Hiva, one of the principal islands of the Marquesas.

French authorities, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and local residents, conducted an exhaustive search for Landers on land and sea, both above and below the surface, but no conclusive clues as to his whereabouts were discovered. The fate of his unsinkable plastic dinghy is still a mystery, and some, including Landers’ good friend Erik Dix, still hold out hope that the missing sailor may be adrift within the eight-foot, canopied craft, and will find his way to a landfall downwind. According to Dix, "Seven months ago a local fisherman survived drifting from here to Tonga and wrote a book about it." An ex-Army officer, the 64-year-old Landers was aware of the risks of singlehanding and was reportedly well prepared for emergencies. Regardless of the outcome, Dix takes some comfort in knowing that, "Bill was doing something he enjoyed in an incredible part of the world."

It’s Official

The future’s comin’! Dogzilla got the invite to the party, in early February of next year.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

Yesterday the Commercial Division of the New York Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision by the state’s Court of Appeals that — barring an unlikely mutual consent agreement — Alinghi must meet BMW Oracle Racing for a Deed of Gift America’s Cup match on February 7 or 8 of next year. In addition, Justice Shirley Warner Kornreich directed the following: 1) BMW Oracle Racing must provide Alinghi the Certificate of Documentation for their monster trimaran — if indeed that’s the boat they’ll be challenging with — as soon as possible, and that it must conform to both the team’s notice of challenge and the Deed of Gift; 2) Alinghi must provide six months notice as to the venue for the match; and 3) that both parties quickly select a mediator and begin mediation to reach an agreement on the "sailing" issues of the match. While we’d be surprised if there wasn’t more intrigue in the mediation phase, the decision makes it clear that, come the middle of February, this chapter of AC history will finally have a conclusion.

As if AIS — Automatic Identification System — isn’t already the coolest navigation/safety tool since the compass, we recently found a link that makes it the coolest ‘video game’ since Tetris.