What the heck is a "Snubber" and why would a cruising and travel website be writing an entire story about such a funny word?

“Snubber:   At its most basic, a “snubber” is a short length of non-stretchy cordage attached to the anchor chain and to a strong point on a yacht, with the aim of taking the load off the windlass or to stop the chain rattling on the bow roller”.  From:  Anchor Snubber Tips – Sail Magazine*

Ummm…ok so a snubber is a piece of rope attached to chain rode then back to a strongpoint on the bow of the boat.  SO WHAT?  Well, this tiny piece of gear is uber important to a cruising boat and when used properly, might just save the boat during heavy weather.  We’ve rigged more than seven different snubbers over the last four years and have used two different configurations.  Several years ago, Jamie Gifford from S/V Totem taught me how to knot my own snubber around our chain without using a metal hook, thus not destroying the chain with metal on metal.  Since then, we’ve used that configuration in a myriad of conditions, with wind over 40kts and sudden squall conditions successfully.  The worst and most sudden was a true chubasco event in Baja California, in which the snubber knot held but the snubber stretched to the point the rope frayed through itself.  In this instance, we were anchored in a bay known for weather changes so I had rigged my backup snubber to the chain, and in 35kt gusts I was able to get that backup snubber working very quickly, meaning the boat had the shock absorption she needed, the windlass had no stress and our anchor wasn’t getting shock loads that might have pulled it out. Ok…smarty pants….why would I need to use a snubber?  I’ve seen SOOO many other boat who drop anchor and promptly leave the boat, never even thinking about putting that rope thingy on the chain or the boat.  Why should I waste my time with that?  Great Question, let’s answer it as simply as I can:

A snubber should be a piece of rope with “some” stretch to it.  Like…on a 40-50ft boat you would not use a 1-inch thick piece of three-strand because it would never stretch, while on a 200ft power yacht that might work.  So the rope has to have stretch, I like to use three-strand for my snubbers as there’s some give to it.  A snubber will stretch when force is applied to it, pulling up the chain rode and creating catenary effect– meaning the chain adds weight, pulling down.  A snubber also takes all the load off the windlass (a good thing) and ensures that the anchor dug in below doesn’t get shock loads that would happen if the chain just pulled hard by itself.  If you rig a snubber then stand back and watch in decent wind, you’ll see the rope literally dry out as the water is forced out of it from the rope stretching.

Here’s what a snubber/rode setup should look like when it’s a single snubber configuration, check out this illustration:

So, why am I telling you a tale of three snubbers?  I’m telling you this tale because Tulum always has at least three different snubbers rigged and ready to go…and I just changed one of my snubbers to a new line so it’s a great time to discuss it here on the website.  Check it out, here’s the old snubber we used for a year:

Old snubber, about to get changed out and thrown away. I reuse the firehose and rubber stretchy-
Tulum’s current three (3) snubbers. The new one I made is first, then our backup snubber with a chain hook on it and finally our emergency snubber last.

While I was out on the bow messing with our anchoring setup, I also noticed that our chain hook was looking ragged and changed it out.  Check it out here:

And while I was changing out the chainhooks, I also changed out our keeper line.  What’s a keeper line? This is the line we use to secure the anchor to the boat when it’s up…don’t want to lose it; and we use the same line to tie our chain hook onto.  On Tulum, we use the chainhook as a chain brake to take pressure off the windlass when we’re anchoring and before we get a snubber on the chain.  It’s an efficient way to stop the chain and allows us to strongly pull the rode and anchor when backing down to fully set the anchor in place.

Here’s our old keeper line rigged in place (3 years old):

Here’s our new keeper line in place (3 weeks old):

Lesson To Be Learned:  If you are anchoring a decent size boat, learn to rig and use a snubber, it will save the gear and possibly the boat.  PS: There are many different types of snubbers, chain hooks and ways to rig the snubber.  There are single and double snubbers and make your own or buy one pre-made.  Doesn’t matter how fancy it is…make sure it works for you.  My snubbers are all made here on Tulum, it’s not hard or expensive and they work well.  If I can do it, you can too! 


Here’s a few more articles we’ve written about anchoring: 

Anchor Chain Maintenance: Cold Galvanizing Tulum’s Anchor Chain

Catch And Release In Mazatlan’s Old Harbor-another version of this story was published in Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine

The Anchoring Game

Top 5 reasons not to anchor near Tulum IV

Looking to your Rode: Chain Marking My Way

* Anchor Snubber Tips- Sail Magazine story accessed on 04 Jan and 07 Jan 2023

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