What is the issue?
The anchor chain can be very hard on the hands back and shoulders. When the chain is running out the chain has to be slowed and belay, as often as not, entirely by handwork around a chain post. Taking the chain in is particularly hard work without the benefit of a windlass. It requires constant belaying and releasing with your hands working a loaded chain.
Why address this?
This is heavy and punishing work on your hands, back and shoulders. It is not the best means of chain control. Plus when working under loads it is easy to lose control of the chain, adding to the work. If you or one of your crew is not physically strong they may find this chain work excessively challenging. If your windlass fails it is a very hard grind.
How to address this?
Take some of the hard work out of the task by adding a pawl to the bow roller enabling more chain control – see figure 1.
Once implemented a chain pawl turns the bow roller into an on demand ratchet. A free flowing chain can be immediately stopped and locked in place by simply flipping the pawl over.
If you do not have an anchor windlass, or your windlass has failed, it dramatically simplifies the task of pulling the chain up. Pull in the chain slack and the pawl holds the gain automatically when the chain loads up again. In short you only have to pull; you do not have to hold and can thereby rest until the slack comes on the chain again. Removing the continuous belaying of each gain also doubles the hand and shoulder work and slows the operation down. So the pawl can significantly speed up anchor retrieval.
A further benefit of a pawl on the bow roller is that it also acts as a keeper pin. This is a very useful addition to keep the ground tackle chain in situ when riding out challenging conditions on anchor.
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.