There are many different types of anchors available today, and it seems that novel shapes and structures are being devised each year. Some appear questionably radical while others convincingly represent technologically sophisticated designs.
Some types of anchors hold best in a particular type of bottom like mud, sand, shell, rock, or seaweed. A few have proven to hold in a wide variety of bottoms. In fact, some of the newer designs challenge the traditional thinking that a vessel should carry several different types of anchors aboard, although we still like having multiple options available to us.
Asking experienced people in your area is a good way to learn the types of anchors that people trust for your cruising territory. This can also be a great way to get a lively conversation (i.e., heated debate) going.
Types of Anchors
We have sorted most of the common anchors into five major categories: The Hook, Plough, Fluke, Claw and Scoop. Yes there are loads of others, but for the most part, this is what you will find.
After countless miles of cruising and anchoring in many countries sometimes under ‘trying conditions’ we have settled on several anchors that we keep on board. Our primary anchors are without a doubt new generation scoop type anchors. We have a Rocna, an Ultra, and a Spade, which we have been testing in various bottoms for several years. All three set and hold very well.
We have been extremely pleased with the performance of the scoop anchors and have rarely had occasion to reset them. We have been anchored comfortably in more than 50 knots sustained wind with a significant chop without incident. The scoop type anchors simply dig deeper as the wind increases, they veer well, and do not pull out with drastic changes in wind and tide. As these anchors set well and dig deep we always need to use our windlass for retrieval.
Another favourite is our aluminium Fortress, a popular member of the fluke type anchors. Justifiably favoured by weight conscious racing sailors, we find it to be ideal for deploying via dinghy because of its light weight should we need a second anchor off the bow or stern. It is well suited for softer bottoms where it sets fast and holds well. Last, but not least, we also keep a Delta anchor on board. We often use this as a stern anchor where the bottom is hard.
Avoid Cheap Imitations!
We mentioned before that not all anchors of one type are created equally. We lost our trusty Fortress, the original primary anchor on a previous boat, and resorted to using our backup fluke type anchor that was considerably larger than our Fortress but had no identifiable markings. Suddenly, we were having difficulty setting the anchor when we never had problems before. We spent a whole season wondering what had happened to our anchoring skills, until we bought a new Fortress. What a difference!
We have since heard many horror stories from people who bought cheap imitations that looked to be identical to the real thing. Flukes have bent and broken, shanks have sheared off, and some have failed to set and hold at all. Just remember: a good anchor is your best insurance policy.
Alex and Daria Blackwell are the authors of “Happy Hooking - The Art of Anchoring.” It covers every aspect of anchors and anchoring in a fun and easy to read format with lots of photos and illustrations. It is available from good chandleries, Amazon and on our publishing website.
For more information on this subject or on anchoring in general, please see our book:
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