All yachts should carry at least 2 anchors in order to connect the vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the yacht from drifting in wind or current. This article aims to give a broad overview to assist yachtsmen in assessing the types of anchor they might choose.
The main anchor is normally attached to the bow and should be of sufficient weight to hold the yacht – a rule of thumb is one pound of weight for every foot of the yacht’s overall length. A general rule is that bigger and heavier anchors work far better than smaller and lighter ones. A pragmatic sailor will want to know that his anchor windlass can handle the load that an anchor and chain will generate. To work this out the yacht owner will need to check the ‘stall weight’ of the windlass.
The style of anchor is a subject for much debate and will include considerations such as ease of handling and stowage, holding power in the expected bed and ease of recovery. Anchor design has been fairly static for many years but is now undergoing a rapid evolution.
Here is a gallop through the principle types:
The Danforth (top) and Britany (bottom) folding Anchors
The Danforth and Britany are the two most popular flat anchors often used for a kedge as they are easy to stow. Other styles of flat anchor do exist such as FOB, Fortress and Guardian anchors. Flat anchors are similar in that they have a large surface area for their weight, and hold well in soft-to-medium density bottoms. Setting on these bottoms is good, due to the sharp fluke tips, and their angle for penetration. However, on hard bottoms such as packed sand and shingle the anchors can skid without setting. They also often fail to reset when the tide or wind changes the direction of pull. A flat anchor in lightweight aluminium is therefore the ideal kedge, but few would choose them as a bower anchor.
The traditional Fisherman Anchor
The fisherman anchor – this is one of the original anchor designs. It has traditional looks and holds well on rocks and in weeds but the tiny flukes are not very effective on other surfaces unless the anchor is very heavy. This factor coupled with its shape makes stowage and handling impractical for all but the largest craft with enough crew to manhandle the anchor e.g. a tall ship.
The Bruce anchor is a claw anchor and is popular with small boaters. The original design was made of high quality cast steel, however production ceased many years ago. Now it is common to find copies of the anchor made from much lower quality materials. The genuine item sets and holds well in soft-to-medium bottoms, and is said to hold on rock, but its long leading edge struggles to cut through weed. Any anchor, no matter how effective, will drag if you apply enough force to it. However, the claw, once dragged beyond its yield will tend to hop out of the ground and then skip until it manages to dig in again. Unfortunately, this process will tend to continue if the boat, now dragging anchor, gathers speed. This reduces the chances of the anchor setting once more. In sum, the original anchor design is good when it’s holding.
The CQR plough anchor (top) has a hinged shank, the Delta plough anchor (bottom) does not it also has slightly different plough angles and shape to the rear wings.
Plough anchors are historically popular with cruisers and generally have good but not exceptional holding in most beds. The CQR has an articulated shaft and the Delta a rigid shaft, the latter is actually a development improvement. The plough is heavy for the amount of resistance it develops, and they require a more careful technique to set thoroughly. Plough anchors are designed to work in all but rocky bottoms but results are mixed concerning their holding capability in weed and hard fine sand. Critics of these anchors describe the issue that they are fundamentally designed to plough or create a furrow rather than to hold.
The Bügel anchor has a flat blade and a roll bar.
Bügel (AKA “Wasi”) Bügelanker is German for ‘handle’ or ‘roll-bar’ anchor. It was the first of the most recent designs. It is a simple design and is now very popular, particularly in the Mediterranean. A flat blade is shaped to form a sharp point, while a roll-bar ensures that the anchor always lands the right way up. Once a load is applied to the rode, the anchor adopts an ideal angle its sharp point will penetrate most bottoms with ease. However, the Bügel was not produced with commercial patent considerations. Consequently, many of the copies today are knock-offs of dubious quality and with considerable variation.
The Rocna anchor is a recent design from New Zealand. It’s roll-bar is similar to that of the Bügel. It too features a sharp toe like the Bügel for penetrating weed and grass but it has a concave design which ensures it has optimum holding capability and additional weight added to the tip. Its sets quickly and has a large fluke area.
The Spade anchor is one of the most recent designs and has been reviewed very favourably in yachting press equipment tests. Like the Bügel and Rocna it was originally designed to hold in weed and because of its shape and tip weight it has been found to dig in even before it is loaded. It has a very high tip weight and its convex shape ensures it digs in. When the direction of pull is changed it remains dug in without pulling out. The anchor is not cheap but testimonials for the Spade include those that have successfully ridden out hurricanes.
There are many different considerations that you may have when buying an anchor I trust that this short piece will assist.
Copyright Cap’n Redders (Ian Redwood 24th January 2017)
1. “Anchor Globe”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 January 2017. Web 24 January 2017.
2. “A Process of Evolution: New Generation Anchors – An essay on boat anchors” by New Zealand boat builder, offshore cruiser, & consultant Peter Smith. http://www.petersmith.net.nz/boat-anchors/new-generation-anchors.php.
3. Yachting Monthly: “Different types of anchor – pros and cons”. Author Vyv Cox 16 February 2015. http://www.yachtingmonthly.com/gear/different-types-anchor-pros-cons-29473#hwyBRk0Ghxi0BYFo.99.
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