There is rarely anything new under the sun, and certainly the anchor is no new alteration which is only now appearing on navy ships. Without doubt it is, by common agreement a most useful and even necessary article whenever it is necessary to hold the ship in one position in a primitive harbor or bay where there are no mooring buoys or suitable docks. But the use of the anchor under other conditions has been generally forgotten by the navy although the subject is fully covered by Knight. The probable reasons for this are several, but the most evident are that combatant ships have an ample reserve of power for almost all emergencies together with tugs and a pilot available to the captain at almost any port which he may be required to enter. Ships some day may have to enter ports where no local assistance is available, or perhaps an emergency will arise in which the modern destroyer engineering installation needs help—even though from a relic such as an anchor.
With the coming of the twin screw and high powered ships to the navy the anchor no longer was as frequently necessary in coming alongside docks or maneuvering in restricted waters as formerly was the case. With the conclusion of the war and the attendant reduction in the number of capital ships and large combat types in commission, the number of large auxiliaries is proportionately greater than in the past. The auxiliaries—AK’s, PA’s, AO’s, and tenders— do not have the power found on combatant types and frequently have a single screw. The value of an anchor to ships of this type is indicated by its frequent use by similar ships in the merchant marine. No doubt the popularity of the anchor in the merchant navy is enhanced by the owners’ desire to cut expenses and consequent reluctance to furnish tugs and pilots thus decreasing the dividends. The result, though, is fine semanship and self-reliance on the part of the masters.
This officer’s kinship with the anchor is limited to two years in an LST which is in many ways similar to merchant types in point of view of large sail area and little power, but it does have the advantage of being twin screw. Specifically, an LST has 1800 horsepower, is somewhat over 300 feet long, and with an average load will probably displace 3600 tons. Unfortunately she has only one bow anchor. Growing appreciation for the capabilities of the anchor has been gained through use as well as in conversation with maritime service officers. Basically the anchor’s use is limited to stopping or slowing the motion of the bow. The application may be varied to conform with a number of differing situations. In order to avoid generalities specific instances are discussed.
At Canton Island LST 859 used the anchor to turn the ship in as small a space as possible in a very confining harbor. Canton has a narrow but short channel which has been dredged in the coral. The feature that distinguishes Canton from other atolls is a six to eight knot current through the channel at all times except high water stand and low water slack which normally last about half an hour. A second consideration is that only the portion of the lagoon within several hundred yards of the entrance has been dredged, and it is necessary to turn and make the dock immediately upon entry into the lagoon. (Please see drawing.) The state of the tide as predicted in the tables is subject to varying error because of local conditions, and it is therefore not possible to plan the arrival at the entrance buoy at slack water without a crystal ball which the captain had lost in the incident being described. Upon arrival it was apparent that the tide was flooding, but through the binoculars the current did not appear unduly strong. The wind was only about fifteen knots from the East, and therefore not a subject of extra consideration. The initial plan was to go alongside the dock portside to without using the anchor, but as a safety measure the anchor was lowered to the water’s edge prior to entering the channel. Once inside the channel, speed was reduced to one third and then the engines were stopped. The current was considerably stronger than originally estimated, and the ship was carried past the dock and towards the coral heads in spite of a full astern bell. Consequently the order was given to drop the anchor, and the bow swung around into the flood tide. The ship upanchored, got underway, and tied up starboard side to without further incident.
Although the Canton Island turning basin and channel appeared to be an uncomfortably snug fit to an LST skipper, the Standard Oil Tanker, H. F. Lombardi, a 420 foot, single screw ship, enters and leaves Canton regularly unassisted except by a similar use of her anchors. Frequently time does not permit her master to wait for slack water. This manifestly calls for fine seamanship.
In the event of an on-dock wind the use of an anchor will help cushion the shock of hitting the dock. Although coming alongside with an on-dock wind is normally easy, it can become complicated by a strong wind, a high freeboard, or a weak dock. In this case the anchor is used only to slow the bow, not to stop it. Consequently six to ten fathoms of chain have been found adequate depending on the depth. During the war several excellent docks were built at Kukum, Guadalcanal. They remain, but shipworms have caused the collapse of one, and have weakened the pilings of the others to the extent that only Kukum Dock itself can be used for cargo. It is understood that the docks are now owned by the British, and damaging them which would be particularly easy because of their weakened condition would be even more embarrassing because of their ownership. With a view to making as gentle a landing as possible with an on-dock wind, LST 859 made a shallow approach, and dropped the anchor when the bow was about 30 feet out from the dock. As the anchor dragged the engines were used to keep the ship parallel to the dock. The expected crunch did not occur.
A further use of the anchor alongside the dock is to reduce surging in a heavy ground- swell or to take the strain off mooring lines in the event of strong winds. In Hilo, T.H., during the Hawaiian winter, heavy ground- swells on occasion would make it an extremely expensive proposition to keep renewing mooring lines as they part. To avoid this, ships normally drop their off-dock anchor well out from the dock. By placing a slight strain on the anchor chain and by running a stern hogging line over to a mooring buoy provided near all berths the ships are securely held alongside although somewhat out from the dock with minimum strain on the mooring lines themselves. An added advantage of the use of the anchor in this manner is its assistance in helping to clear the dock when it is time to get underway. At Adak, Aleutian I., it is standard practice for the smaller ships to drop their off-dock anchor well forward of the ship. In the event of heavy weather the ship can take a strain on the anchor and steam slowly into the wind or sea.
A complete résumé of the uses of the anchor would be endless as well as a duplication of more detailed articles on the subject. The main point is that anchors are as useful as they are made to be. The classic example occurred on this ship two years ago when an inspection of the anchor record book raised doubt as to whether the old mud-hook would really work. A dress rehearsal alongside the dock revealed that the anchor was rusted to the hawse-hole, and nothing happened at the command, “Let go.”