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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

Sinking a Myth – The Anchor Kellet

If an anchor does not set well or hold well and tends to drag, some people will advise adding an anchor sentinel, angle, chum, buddy, rider, or kellet. Like many subjects in boating, the benefits of using a kellet are in fact controversial and subject of much debate.

There are basically three potential uses for a Sentinel or Kellet:

Use #1 - To improve the angle the anchor addresses the bottom

The smaller the angle the anchor addresses the bottom the greater its holding power. To improve (reduce) the angle you would position the kellet weighing about 25-50 pounds close to the anchor shank. You thus exert the greatest possible downward force on the end of the shank and make the pull closer to parallel to the bottom.

However, this effect of this is negated in heavy wind as your rode goes taut. This is a fact irrespective of whether a rope or chain rode is used.

The best way to improve the angle the anchor addresses the bottom is to increase your scope (more rode). An anchor's holding power increases with increased scope.

Use #2 - To provide additional dampening (shock absorption)

One of the primary reasons an anchor may not hold is that it is literally jerked out of the bottom. To reduce the shock loads that cause this one needs to add dampening. On the one hand this may be elasticity of the rode. A nylon rode is good here, and for an all chain rode one would add a nylon snubber.

The catenary effect can also provide better dampening. This is well illustrated with an all chain rode, which sags in the middle. It requires energy to straighten the chain and this reduced the shock loads to the anchor.

A 25-50 pound kellet as close to mid way down your rode (chain or rope) will thus also provide improved dampening and improved shock absorption.

However, this only works in light wind, where it is least needed. The benefit of any catenary is negated in heavy wind as your rode goes taut. As before, this is a fact whether you have a rope or chain rode.

The best way to improve the dampening of your rode is to increase your scope (more rode) – assuming, of course that you are using a Nylon or polyester rope for your rode. Doubling the length of your rode will double the amount it will stretch and thus double the dampening. Likewise you would double the length of your snubber to double its dampening with an all chain rode - having already lengthened the chain to improve the angle.

The truth about Kellets

In either of these scenarios (1 or 2) you would be better advised to deploy a larger, preferably a better designed, anchor than to add 25-50 odd pounds of lead to your tackle.

Yes, it is usually advisable to add a length of chain to your rode, as this will help prevent chafe on the bottom, and will provide an initial improvement to the angle the rode addresses the bottom while setting.

Use #3 - To keep the rode from wrapping your keel in light winds or shifting currents

If you are in a situation where there may be shifting light winds or changing currents, then it is indeed advisable to deploy a small 1-2 pound kellet. You would position this just shy of the depth of the water from your bow, so that it will drop the rode to the bottom as your boat swings over it.

My immediate reaction on hearing about an anchor that will not set would be asking if the person is using a Danforth copy or a CQR; neither of which hold well. If this is the case, one should first and formost consider purchasing a good modern anchor. Any one of the modern scoop type anchors (Rocna, Manson Supreme, Spade, Ultra, etc) sized correctly for a vessel will hold well in most any type of bottom.

If you have another type of anchor and it is not holding then my suggestion stays the same. If an anchor is older and in any way damaged, bent or worn, or is a knockoff and poorly engineered, it simply will not hold properly irrespective of what you attach to it or to your rode and is thus to be considered unsafe.

Remember also, that a larger anchor of the same type will hold better – bigger is definitely better.

Here are some facts about Kellets

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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