When you take off aboard your boat to explore the coastlines and the world, you end up anchoring out a lot—if not most of the time. Relying on your anchoring system to keep you and your boat safe means that you need several anchors, a powerful windlass and an all-chain anchor rode. The rode is often the item given the least amount of thought, yet it is your lifeline out there; if it fails, you could lose your boat. There are several things to think about when upgrading to an all-chain rode.
Two types of chain rodes are popular and work well with most windlasses. Hi-test chain (grade 40) is made of high carbon steel and has twice the strength of BBB (grade 30), so you can use a smaller size—5/16th instead of 3/8ths, for example—to save weight. For years, BBB chain was the standard, so older windlasses will have gypsies that fit that sizing. Hi-test has slightly longer links, so check with your windlass manufacturer to make sure they will fit the gypsy. Proof coil chain does not work well in most windlasses.
Chain has the habit of becoming twisted as it rolls over bow roller and the gypsy and as the boat swings around the anchor. The solution is to attach a robust swivel between the anchor shackle and the end of the chain. This will let the chain unwind itself as it is hauled aboard.
To protect the windlass from the forces of sudden subbing up on the chain, it is wise to add a chain lock between the windlass and the bow roller that will clamp the chain mechanically and take the strain off the gypsy. Additionally, a chain snubber (a chain hook attached to a length of nylon line) fixed to the chain at the bow once the hook has been set will act as a shock absorber and will dampen the impact of sudden snubs on the chain.
For the long haul, and for ease of handling, an all-chain rode with a good windlass is the way to go.