by Alain Poiraud


Dear Chuck,

It seems that Dieterick Meenken is informing the world wide nautical community that the SPADE anchor is unsafe.. by plasting the same message across many forums..

This post is obviously designed to damage our company and to put pressure on us to pay a compensation.

Plese find herewith our point of view about this question..

Fortunately for us, his approach is probably not in the style likely to readily attract the sympathy of forum's members and we received a large number of very positive comments. I will also enclose a few of them.

With the hope that you will also publish our point of view.

Sincerely Yours,


The case of the grounding of Deep Blue is not as simple as it first seems. A New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority Accident Investigation Report investigated by Jim Lott, NARB, concluded that “the anchor failed when the bolt securing the two parts of the anchor fell out” and “that this could reasonably be attributed to the failure of the nut that secured it”. What the investigator seemingly failed to consider is how this could have possibly occurred when the type of nut used is specifically designed not to come loose, and there were no forces acting on it.

Spade anchors are designed to dismantle into two pieces for easy stowage, a very popular feature. The shank is inserted into a socket on the blade and retained by a stainless steel bolt with a “Nyloc” style nut. During normal operation, there is no load on this bolt as the substantial socket assembly takes all the force. At boat shows, we often demonstrate this by removing the bolt completely and pulling the anchor as per normal operation. Even when “break out” is simulated the shank remains inserted in the socket clearly showing that the bolt simply holds the two sections together.

“Nyloc” style nuts are used extensively to prevent accidental loosening of nuts, normally associated with high vibration situations. In the case of the Spade, there is no turning force on the bolt/nut combination and little or no vibration, “Nyloc” style nuts are used as a precautionary measure to totally eliminate any chance of the nut coming loose. “Nyloc” style nuts require tools and significant force to tighten or loosen them. If the nut was initially tight, and there were no forces acting on it to loosen it, it could not have come undone. In my opinion, it is extremely unlikely that the investigator’s conclusion is correct.

There are two other possibilities that the investigator apparently fails to consider altogether.

1. The nut was never tightened properly in the first place. This is a distinct possibility as the anchor was relatively new, was purchased assembled and was not subsequently disassembled. When the Spade anchor was displayed, it is possible that the bolt was only loosely fitted, as purchasers often wish to dismantle the anchor for transport. (“Nyloc” style nuts are designed to be used only once). It is possible that the owner/skipper failed to ensure that the bolt was tight.

2. The nut, bolt and blade were removed after the grounding. Apparently no attempt was made to recover the anchor until three days after the grounding. During this time somebody could have removed the blade. It should also be noted that the vessel was not insured.

There are a number of other peculiar facts in the case:

The owner was at the top of the mast fixing the tricolor light at 2:30 am when the vessel grounded. The vessel had been at sea for 7 days having encountered rough conditions. They had anchored at 22:30 and then spent two and a half hours providing radio communications for an emergency and helicopter evacuation nearby. It is logical to assume that the crew would be tired. The investigator apparently failed to consider that this could have been a contributing factor.

Why was no anchor watch maintained even though all three crew were on deck?

Even if the anchor blade had become separated from the shank, the shank and the weight of the chain alone would have been able to hold the vessel under the weather conditions of the time. (NO wind or wind less than 10 knots)

The vessel was apparently anchored too close to the shore and unprotected from the onshore wind.

The Model 80 Spade is designed for vessels displacing up to 4.5T. Deep Blue was estimated to displace 6T.

The investigator concluded that the rope/chain combination was sufficient as the ratio was 3.25/1. He failed to take freeboard into account, which would reduce the ratio to approximately 2.88:1. Whilst, according to the report, 3:1 is commonly considered adequate in calm conditions for an all chain rode, this was below that and well below recommendations of a ratio of 5/1 or better 7/1 for a mixed chain + rope rode, especially if no anchor watch is to be

In my opinion, any combination of factors could have lead to Deep Blue dragging including the lack of adequate scope, but the failure to maintain an anchor watch was the primary cause of the grounding.

Despite doubts over the case, Spade have agreed to modify future bolts, as recommended by the investigator, to include a pin after the nut and a note advising that “Nyloc” style nuts should only be used once. (There is no need to replace the nut after each deployment, but every time the anchor is dismantled). Existing owners are advised that if they have any concerns about their nuts, that they arrange for the end of the bolt to be drilled and have a pin and new “Nyloc” style nut fitted. It is the owners’ responsibility to ensure that the nut & bolt (or alternative) are in good condition, secure and suitable for the purpose. It must be emphasised that thousands of Spade Anchors have been sold since 9 years, and that no similar cases have been reported.

Alain POIRAUD (designer of the Spade and Ocane anchors)

The following is part of the fax
we received from D Meeken


Spade Anchor Company
Fax 00 216 71 865250
Attn. Alain Poiraud

D Meenken/Spade Anchor - Loss Claim

I request that the Spade anchor company accepts my full claim for the loss of Deep Blue and pays compensation. If compensation is not forthcoming, I will vigorously pursue warning the international yachting community of the fact;

A spade anchor failed catastrophically, directly causing the loss of my yacht Deep Blue (MSA report)..

Be aware that I have the capacity to communicate these facts effectively, and globally;

  • I have recently had a request from Cruising World Magazine to do a story. I have not yet responded, and there are other magazines.
  • I am a citizen of both NZ and the Netherlands, with friends and family providing contacts to the yachting community in both nations.
  • The Mana Cruising Club is one of the most widely affiliated cruising clubs in NZ, with a very extensive global network.
  • The global yachting community is intrinsically well connected, and you will know that conversation around anchors and anchoring is popular.
  • I am a webmaster.

I await your response.
Diederik Meenken
Master, Deep Blue
Fax +64 7 8558282
PO Box 21144, Flagstaff
New Zealand

webcraft (from PBO Forum on www.YBW.com)

I have a Spade anchor, and find this whole incident bizarre.

The bolt does not take any of the anchoring forces when the load is on the anchor - the shank is retained in the fluke by the socket so the whole shank is the lever, with no force on the bolt. Even if there was no nut on the bolt, it is hard to see how it would come out under tension - in fact, the anchor would still stay together under tension (ie when in use) if there was no bolt there. The bolt is no more a structural part of the anchor than the seizing wire used on the shackle on your anchor chain.

The only possibility therefore - and very unlikely in my opinion - is that the bolt came out while the anchor was being deployed or was on the way to the seabed. If this was the case then it should have been immediately obvious to the skipper of Deep Blue that the anchor was not set properly - unless he just threw the anchor overboard and took no other positive action to ensure that the vessel was anchored. If so, then the accident is no-one's fault but his own.

As for the assertion on Deep Blue's website that no one would trust their rigging to a nyloc - well, for many years I flew microlights. These are highly certified and subject to stringent regulation, and many vital parts are secured using nylocs. The main thing to remember with these nuts is that they should not be used twice. It would be interesting to know if Mr. Meenken had disassembled and reassembled this anchor at any point and, if he had, whether or not he replaced the nyloc with a new one.

I have the deepest sympathy for the crew of Deep Blue, but I think there must be more to this than meets the eye.

I do visually inspect my Spade regularly, but do not feel that any other modification is necessary. I certainly do not believe it is unsafe, and slept soundly in many windy anchorages on our recent trip round Ireland. On two occasions on that trip it reset immediately after a 180 degree wind shift in 25+ knots - very reassuring.

My Spade anchor is not unsafe, and neither I suspect is anyone else's - unless they are saving a few pennies by reusing that nyloc after disassembling their anchor for stowage.

- Nick

tsenator ( PBO forum – www.ybw.com)


I'm a Yank and have NO aliance to a French based company BUT I have had a Spade 100 (Steel version) for over 2 years now and I am very happy with it. I have had a CQR and a Danforth and they both seemed to work well, but the Spade just seems a notch better It seems to set immediately and well the first time and resets everytime there is a tide shift etc. (knock on wood...don't want to jinx myself). It kind of fit on my old roller but I modified it for the SPADE and it fits very well now and it is now self launching AND self retrieving. I put a remote anchor windlass switch in the cockpit and I can drop and retrieve the anchor while short handling the boat. Priceless !

Here are some pics of my set up http://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4289197805

I have read about that story below and initially I was alarmed, but then there are a few things that just don't add up. Plus one must remember that they lost their boat (Keel came up through the hull on a just 2 thumps on sand in the
surf !? I guess its safe to say this boat isn't a Westsail. Plus How bad could the surf had been if just moments before they had a crew member up the mast And at 2 am !!!!?...). Also note that the reports claim lighter winds ~ 0-10 knots of wind. It sounds like they made sure they put together a story that works well to sue somebody to recover the costs of losing the boat as they didn't have insurance. PLEASE remember this point, I think it means something. Yes my heart goes out to these guys, but still it doesn't add up.

Yeah yeah I know that the New Zealand Safety Authority wrote up that “the anchor failed when the bolt securing the two parts of the anchor fell out” and “that this could reasonably be attributed to the failure of the nut that secured it” In my opinion, it is very likely that the investigator’s conclusion is Not right ! (oh...... like that never happened before..he he). The shank is inserted into a socket on the blade and retained by a stainless steel bolt with a “Nyloc” style nut. During normal operation there is no load on this bolt as the substantial socket assembly takes all the force. There is NO WAY for the shank to come out of that socket when being pulled in the direction to hold. Spade anchors are designed to dismantle into two pieces for stowage. (Very much like a old style Luke Fishermans Anchor) But you can't pull that shank out in the direction of holding...with or without that bolt. Don't believe me, just go to a boat show or a chandlery and see how the shank is inserted in the anchor face, there is no way for the anchor shank to come out of that anchor face while anchored or while the chain rode is still attached....its impossible.

Something sounds very fishy here and I'll say it right here. Possibly the nut, bolt and blade were removed after the grounding. Reading further into the story apparently no attempt was made to recover the anchor until three days after the grounding. During this time somebody could have removed the blade. In fact wouldn't someone have actually pulled in the anchor rode **immediately** to try and kedge the boat. I know I would have! They would have immediately made comment about the anchor losing its face. Why did it take 3 whole days to get the anchor? The FIRST thing I would have looked at would be the anchor line. Why not pull it in if all there is left is a shank and why was it "buoyed"?.....Something sounds fishy here -- very fishy

PS. (Not to mention some other indiscretions including them only having a rode of rope/chain (when taking freeboard into account) of approximately 2.88:1)

This seems to be the only account of this ever happening - take it for what its worth - but I still say its impossible to lose the face of the Spade anchor if you still have the rode attached to you boat. The most that I could ever expect to happen if you lose that bolt is that possibly the face of the anchor could go askew in relation to the shank. But losing it - Never.

Now for someone who does some serious cruising -- Morgans Cloud a boat that does full time Blue water & "high latitude" sailing really likes their SPADE anchor saying " We think this anchor is the next best thing to sliced bread! It sets immediately and holds in almost any bottom, including thick kelp."


ps. I have no connection to Spade or the company or any company that sells marine equipment -- I am just a simple boater -- but I felt the need to balance out what seems to be a questionable story

Remember WHY all the posting from the original "Lossee" He's trying to win some money for the loss of his boat. But there are WAY TOO MANY INCONSISTENCES !!

If it WAS an endemic failure, I think we would have heard about more than just one .

Just a Yanks HO (humble opinion)