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Goldwin loves anchoring.  He’s very good at it; knows a lot about it; and has an impressive anchor collection.  We carry eight anchors on our 31’ boat, plus the dinghy anchor.  He left at least two times that many at home – so the boat wouldn’t sink!

Kinds of anchors and best uses:

Onboard Motu Iti, our primary anchor is a French-design, 44 pound, galvanized steel Spade (slightly oversized for our boat).  Tests show them to have superior holding power.  In our experience, the Spade is easy to set and buries itself deep.  It also fits a bow roller very well.

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Similar anchors are the Rocna and Manson Supreme – preferences tend to be hotly debated and very personal.  Our primary anchor used to be a forged steel CQR –  the Spade, Rocna and Manson are considered the next generation.  The CQR is also called a plow (or plough).  This is a plow anchor, shaped like the CQR but fabricated, not forged, steel:

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Our back-up anchors are an aluminum Spade (same design, but lighter), a stainless steel Northill, three Fortress anchors (different sizes), a 60 pound Luke storm anchor, and a 5 pound Danforth (a good anchor to swim out for kedging or for putting on shore).  We also have a 2 1/2 pound Danforth for the dinghy.

Different anchors have different uses.  The Luke is particularly good in grass, coral and rock because it has pointy tips that will go down into crevices and snag them – it hooks rather than buries.  It also comes apart – three pieces for easier stowage.  We carry it as a storm anchor because it’s so heavy and it grabs so well.

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The Fortresses are good in soft sand and mud, plus they are aluminum, so very light.  They are a good auxiliary anchor; this one, below, is mounted on a bow pulpit as a secondary anchor, and not on a bow roller,

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Due to the angle of its flukes, the Northill works when you need a short scope; it also has high holding power for its weight.   It was originally designed as an anchor for seaplanes.

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Plus it’s collapsible for easy stowage.

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The Danforth works best in soft sand and mud.  We carry a 5-pounder on the boat and a smaller one in our dinghy.

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Here’s a three-fluke anchor that is very popular in the Bahamas.  People who own them swear by them.  Called a Bulwagga, it is good in grass and sand.  It was developed in Lake Champlain – lots of grass.

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We have only used one anchor on this trip.  Next time we will probably only bring three:  the two Spades and the biggest Fortress.  Okay, and maybe the little Danforth.  Plus the dinghy anchor.

Tips for successful anchoring:

Select a spot for the anchor to lie and position the bow of the boat over that spot.  Keep a good distance from other boats, bearing in mind that your boat will be downwind or down current from where you drop the anchor, and that, if you swing around, you don’t want to be on top of another boat’s anchor or have their boat on top of yours.  Try to find as shallow a location as the tide will allow.

It’s best to head the boat into the direction that you expect the most wind/current/waves, i.e., the direction from which you expect the biggest threat.  Typically, that will be directly into whatever wind is blowing when you anchor.  Lower the anchor, let it settle, and back up slowly, paying out rode until you have released enough scope.  For all chain, that’s about a  5:1 ratio or more, depending on expected conditions, i.e., 5 feet of chain for every foot of depth plus the distance from the water to the bow roller.  For anchor line which is not chain, the scope should be 7 – 10 times the depth plus the distance from the water.  Scope is critical.  Too little and the anchor will drag.  Too much and the boat will sail around and run into your neighbors.  Check bearings on shore to make sure you are not dragging.  Sometimes you will drag the anchor a bit before it gets a good bite and sets. You’ll know when it’s set– the bearings on shore will be fixed.  If you don’t get a good set, try again or find a different location.  It matters.

For ground tackle, we like an oversized anchor, all chain rode, and a windlass.  We like a manual windlass for this size boat – less expensive, more reliable, and less heavy.  We are using G70 quarter inch chain made by Arcco.  It’s galvanized, high-strength steel –  very strong for its weight.  We carry 300 feet onboard.

Choosing a place to anchor:  In the Bahamas, you want to be sure you are not anchoring on coral or rocks – you may not be able to get your anchor back up and may have to cut it loose.

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Try not to anchor in thick grass – you will have trouble getting your anchor to set and your boat may drag.  The grass packs the sand together tightly and it’s hard for the anchor to penetrate and get a good bite.  An area with a strong current which has scoured the bottom will present a similar difficulty.  Here is our anchor on its side in grass; the point didn’t break through the surface of the hard sand.  But it dug in and set well after we backed down on it hard.

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Don’t anchor on a starfish – ouch.  This was close.

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Luckily, you can usually see the bottom when you anchor in these crystal clear waters.  Find a patch of sand – soft sand works best – and watch out for those starfish.

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The yellow line floating up from the top of our anchor is a trip line.  If the anchor gets fouled on an underwater tree trunk or a piece of coral, we can unhook it and pull it up with this line.  We also use it to secure the anchor to the bow of the boat.

Always check your anchor:  After you back down on your anchor to make certain it has set, do a visual to make sure.  You want it buried.

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To be certain that it has set properly, you can check it from your dinghy by using a look bucket .  A look bucket is basically a bucket with the bottom removed and replaced by clear plexiglass.  When you place the bottom of it in the water, you can see below the surface – like using a snorkel mask.

You can also swim or snorkel out to look at your anchor.  Once, we dinghied over the anchor, put our underwater camera into the water and took a picture of it.

Or, this will work:  On a flat, calm day, we looked down from the boat and saw not only the anchor, but the whole anchor chain – like a serpent lying on the bottom below and beside us.  In this picture, the boat has floated ahead of the anchor so that the anchor is doing nothing, just lying there.   We are barely dragging the chain around.

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Being on the hook is relaxing and fun.  Knowing how and where to anchor, makes it more so.

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7 thoughts on “Anchors

    • Heavy – I get it. But truly, I felt the need to counterbalance something useful about cruising with what I’m planning to post next. It will definitely not be heavy in any sense of the word.

  1. Hi Guys, I love your posts. Stories of where you have been, and these little tips. Thanks. I also followed your daughter and son in law when they did their trip. You mentioned in this post that you carry 300′ of chain. Its small chain I know, but how much does it weigh, and isn’t that a lot to store up in the bow ? Or, do you not have it all attached, all the time, and store some in the bilge ? If so, what mechanism do you use to reattach it ? I am curious as I’m planning on about the same length of 5/16 chain on my fat 29’er. It will be heavy, and I’m wondering if it will be too much weight. What is the best way to handle this dilemma ? Kind regards,Greg

    Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2013 17:03:09 +0000 To: gmcadam@hotmail.com

    • In the waters of the Bahamas and the East Coast of the US, 300′ is not really necessary – 200′ would work. In the Windwards or South Pacific, you could need the extra. So it depends on what you are setting your boat up for – where you are going. Ours is all stowed in the bow and G70 is fairly light. You can probably find the weight online, and compare the grades, based on where you will be sailing and the strength of wind you are likely to encounter – all based on your particular boat. Weight forward is just one factor. You could go with 1/4″ G70 and get a longer length of chain which would weigh less. But make sure the chain fits your windlass.

  2. wow! I knew nothing about this so it was very fascinating. Your posts are fabulous. I want to go somewhere and have time to take pictures and write more interesting posts too! envious!

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