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Jeff Douthwaite of Seattle, WA, asks:

You referred to the 'Bridal of the anchor' and i wonder, what is that? Why not take the bride inside?

Jim Leishman Responds:

Dear Jeff:

Are you an editor having a little fun or is this really a question? Officially, a bridle is defined as anything that controls or restrains, and I guess a bride could fit that description but I can't deny an error has been made.

Just in case some people are interested in the bridle we use I will explain it's use:

Normally, the strength of the Maxwell windlass is sufficient to hold the chain in place while anchored. The windlass is fitted with a pawl which will take the load of the chain gypsy and transfer it to the base of the windlass foundation (taking the load off the windlass drum and internal gearing). This pawl is very strong and normally it is all that is required.

Sometimes a bridle is useful in light conditions as the chain can transmit a lot of noise from the ocean bed, particularly if you are anchored on a pebbly or rocky bottom. As the boat drifts around in response to the wind and current, the noise of the dragging chain telegraphs up the hard links and can be heard in the stateroom, especially if the owners' cabin is in the bow of the boat. The bridle can be used to take the load of the chain and reduce the noise.

The other, and more important use of the bridle, is to take extreme loads off the windlass and offer some shock absorption while anchored in high winds and/or a rough anchorage. The bridle we use is two lengths of 3/4" three strand nylon line, both spliced to a single chain hook. We take each line and run it over the port and starboard bow rollers and cleat it off on the two large cleats, just to port and starboard and aft of the windlass. The chain hook is slipped over a link of anchor chain and then the windlass is run in reverse until the load of the anchor chain is taken up by the bridle and the chain goes slack above the chain hook. Each leg of the bridle is about 15 feet long; however, longer would be better the more extreme the conditions become.

As the wind builds and the waves in the anchorage become higher, the chain will be come tighter and tighter and the belly of the chain will be reduced. When anchoring with chain, the belly is where the shock absorption comes from. As the bow rises in response to a wave the belly of the chain flattens out and gives. Once the wave passes, the weight of the chain pulls the belly back and it's ready for the next rise, and so on. Ultimately, in very heavy winds, if the anchor holds, the belly will all but disappear and the boat can come up tight against the unyielding anchor chain, shocking the bow roller, pulling the anchor out, or even breaking the chain. The bridle will stretch and provide shock relief.

Thanks for your interest,

Jim Leishman

 

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