A chain is only as strong as its weakest link


I am not sure what philosopher first uttered the words in the title of this post

It may have been an old Navy Boson’s Mate Chief trying to square away a young non-rated seaman about ship’s lore. Ultimately, the phrase has been used in more stories and tales about life than most of the alternative phrases combined. Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, 1786, included this line:

“In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest.”

Nimitz Flyover

When you look at the size of a modern aircraft carrier of the US Fleet, you realize that the chain holding her anchor must have mammoth size chain links. The ship itself weighs more than 100,000 tons and are over 1,090 feet in length making them difficult to dock when away from ports that have the capacity to dock them. Without a reliable anchoring system, these 4.5 billion dollar boats could end up on the front pages of every newspaper in the world in a very bad way.

The Nimitz class ships have two thirty ton anchors that are designed to keep the ship in a fairly stable anchorage. That is 60,000 pounds of metal (each) suspended near the bow of the ship with an anchor chain locker full of potential “weakest links”. I was the officer in charge of the anchor system maintenance and repair on my last ship and I will freely admit I hoped that the company that cast the metal for the links, the men and women who maintained them for the thirty years she sailed, and whatever Angel is in charge of anchors were all having the best of days when they assembled and installed my chains.

The anchor chains on the Nimitz class are pretty remarkable in and of themselves:

The length of each anchor chain: 1,082 feet

The weight of each anchor chain link: 365 pounds

The weight of an entire anchor chain: 308,000 pounds

Obviously, the individual links have to be able to be assembled rather than cast as a single piece. The 1,082 feet is broken up into “shots” of fifteen feet and a number of other links that serve a special purpose. Even the cleverest designers could not design a chain that large without some kind of assembly and that is when you discover that the weakest link could potentially be a lot weaker. The anchor chains are carefully inspected and stored in an anchor chain locker. Only skilled technicians are allowed to repair and replace the links that can be fixed. You should never allow amateurs to touch the components that are so well designed and you would absolutely never allow them to try and change the design based on a wish and hope.


I look at America as the biggest and most powerful ship on earth.

Being an old Navy man, that certainly would be a natural way I would view her. Like all big ship’s we occasionally need to dock and in many cases that means we may have to drop anchor to keep from drifting too far from where we need to be. Yes, we can survive rough storms and the seas can often be stormy and unpredictable. But the world is a better place when it can see us and know that we will protect the weak, ensure freedom and act as a beacon of liberty.

We have an anchor called the Constitution. It is the best anchor any ship could ever hope for. In fact, we only need one to do the job. For almost 225 years, that anchor has stood the test of time because the founders made sure to build enough strength into it for any storm. Like the anchor on a ship though, it relies on the chain holding it fast. While there have been many who have tried to adjust the chain and even break it for their own purposes, none have been successful.

Until now

What made the chain so strong is the standards that were put into it. Words like responsibility and freedom are equally balanced. While we are dependent on each other to hold together in the bonds of freedom, there is also a strong need for independence in the strengths we have that add together to ensure the chain stands unusual strain and unexpected shifts to port and starboard. The ship at anchor will swing back and forth and even drag a bit from time to time, but as long as the system works as designed, it holds.

Now, there are some who have gained the control of the system who would weaken the chain.

Several members of the current supreme court have decided that the founders were not such visionary builders after all. They would have us adopt methods that are more “interpretive” and actually go counter to the original design. They are proud of themselves for their own arrogance that runs counter to the wishes of the American people.

Worse still, the current resident of the White House agrees with them. His interpretation of “justice” and laws is clouded by years of indoctrination and orientation of “alternative visions”. The power of whoever is in the White House to push not only an agenda that is not American but to fill the court in the next term with more people who agree with an anti-exceptionalism point of view is stunning and breathtaking.


September 17 is the 225th anniversary of the Constitution

I hope there will be a large celebration. Decisions that are supposed to be revealed by the current Supreme Court later this month will determine how much of a celebration and who will be celebrating. We do not need revisionists to determine how to weaken either the anchor or its chain. Their skills are focused on division and if you break the chain anywhere along its length, you will lose that anchor forever. I don’t really care if they are acting in supreme ignorance or are doing it with a vision to fundamentally change America forever.

Without that anchor and the chain which binds us to it, change will surely mean a ship adrift at sea. Ships adrift at sea are a hazard to all other ships and one this large would be a pathetic nightmare, tossed from one place to another and finally run aground.

Not if those of us who care can help it. It is time to clean out the anchor chain locker once and for all. Send the amateurs packing before they have a chance to do any permanent damage. Maybe we can reassign them to Mail Buoy Watch permanently.

Mister Mac

Sorry, I just read this and feel it vindicates my position … Plus I just couldn’t resist:

“President Obama is looking to relax after a difficult week by hitting the links.”


7 thoughts on “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

  1. Reblogged this on nebraskaenergyobserver and commented:
    As always, Mac, tells it as it is, from his perception. One of the things sailors and linemen have in common is that when your anchoring your ship, or hanging several tousand pounds 80 feet in the air, you understand about the weakist link. If you’ve ever seen a eighty foot pole and all it’s hardware come crashing down because nobody checked the sling, well, you won’t forget the lesson, if you ran fast enough.

    I highly commend this article and suggest that you consider it carefully while thinking this year.

    1. I am honored by your reply my friend. I am terrified to be that high in the air. I am also terrfied that we are being led by people who have no appreciation for the physics involved in that activity or any of the ones they are presently engaged in.

      1. Well, I suspect being in a sub would terrify me. Probably has a lot to do with what you’re trained in. Your other fear terrifies me as well. Physics is right or wrong and has nothing whatsoever to do with your feelings, or even fairness.

  2. Another fine post. The note following the post says it all. Obama has never had to lead in any job he’s had. He is a fish out of water, and feels a tough week is one marked by fundraiser after fundraiser. I am surprised that he’s or Michelle aren’t on a full blown vacation,

    Leaders climb in and get their hands dirty. They are visionaries who can articulate to others why a path is superior and why it’s the path to be followed. Obama fails to do either, and always assigns blame to someone else. Reminds me of a teenager.

    Bravo Zulu Mac

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