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For more on Anchoring:
  • Anchoring Gear
    more on anchors, anchor tests, rode, and associated equipment
  • Anchoring Technique
    more on anchoring technique, setting multiple anchors, and, of course, anchoring etiquette

Anchor Selection

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.

Luke (Fisherman)


The hooks do just as their name implies, they hook into the bottom. They have slender flukes, so their holding power is not great in softer bottoms. The hooks remain popular for use in rocky bottoms.


The plough type anchors are a very popular group. A favourite among many sailors is still the CQR, which belongs to the hinged ploughs. The Delta is an example of a non-hinged plough. The ploughs have a single point to penetrate and are good for harder bottoms. They do, however have a tendency to plough, as their name might suggest.





The fluke anchors are a large category. They are hinged and most have a stock at the crown. They are good anchors for soft sand and mud. Included in this group are light weight anchors like the Fortress, which would be of interest to the weight conscious racing sailors.

A lot of manufacturers produce claw type anchors that are copies of the original Bruce, which is no longer being made. The claw type anchors typically set very quickly, though their holding power may not be the best.

Generic Claw

Manson Ray


The scoop anchors are shaped like a shovel with a concave fluke. Remove a shovel’s handle and add an anchor shank and you have a scoop type anchor. Just like a shovel is designed to dig, so it is with a scoop anchor – it digs, and if you apply more pressure, it digs deeper. They represent one of the true breakthrough design advancements in the last decades in the marine industry. The design innovation was introduced in 1996 by a Frenchman, Alain Poiraud, with his Spade anchor.

We have broken this group into two subsets: those with a roll bar and those without. The roll bar assists the anchor in orientating itself correctly. Those without a roll bar such as the Spade and the Ultra may have a weighted tip to achieve this.



Scoops without a Roll Bar



Roll Bar Scoops

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.

A Cheap Imitation

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:

Happy Hooking - the Art of Anchoring


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