Practical solutions

Whenever two sailors get together over a beer in the cockpit, it won’t be long before the talk turns to practical solutions to those annoying little problems that crop up on even the best-ordered boat.

It seemed a good idea to gather them together in one place:


How to fly a traditional symmetrical spinnaker singlehanded and safely:


How to light a Hampshire charcoal stove


Hauling up the anchor by hand when the electric windlass packs up:


Sleep management for singlehanded sailors


Blocking up the hawsehole

The hawsehole – where the anchor chain disappears down into the chain locker – doesn’t look very big but a surprising amount of water can get down there when the boat starts pounding to windward.

This rubber plug is made from thick rubber matting cut to make a snug fit around a link of the chain and wedging snugly into the sides of the hole.


How to stop the anchor chain piling up in the locker

It’s been a problem for generations: You pull up the anchor and the chain disappears obediently down the hawsehole – but what’s happening down in the chain locker is not nearly so disciplined: The chain, arriving at the bottom of the locker sits on top of the chain that’s already there – and the next links coming down sits on top of the last lot. Pretty soon we’re building a pyramid. By the time hook arrives on deck, this can be nearly up to the deckhead.

Of course, what happens next is that, as soon as the boat heels, the entire edifice falls over and the working end gets trapped under the rest of the chain – which, being chain, weighs a ton.

This means that the next time you come to drop the anchor, the chain won’t come.

This can be extremely inconvenient – especially in a windy and crowded anchorage… and particularly when you’ve already got the anchor on the bottom but not yet dug in when suddenly everything comes to a halt.

At this point, the only thing to do is open up the chair locker (which usually means emptying out the entire fo’c’sle) and sort it out by hand.

I tried various solutions – the most interesting was cutting down a traffic cone and gluing it into the locker directly under the hole – the idea being that the chain would hit the top of the cone and then fall to one side or the other… or, in my case, settle all on one side and try and make a bigger cone.

In the end, I came up with my own solution and I’m rather proud to say it works: Get a plank of wood as wide as you can get in there – you might have to shape it a bit: The idea is to create a false floor to the locker – one that slopes steeply from fore to aft. This happens naturally if you jam the forward end up against the stem with the other end on the floor of the locker. Painting the plank with Danboline bilge paint will protect it from the wet chain and keep it slippery.

The idea is that as soon as the chain hits the plank, it starts to slide down to the bottom. The “pyramid” is now at 45 degrees and has nowhere to fall.