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There are three general categories of anchors: the lunch hook, the working anchor and the storm anchor. A lunch hook is an  light anchor that is set for short stops when the crew remains alert. The working anchor is used for standard anchoring.  A storm anchor is used in heavy weather and can be of any type, as long as it is very heavy. 

Anchors can be further defined as burying and non-burying. Non-burying anchors hook onto rock or thick grass and weeds, and must re-hook if the boat swings (Grapnel and Fisherman). Burying anchors dig into soft bottoms and well designed ones hold if the boat changes position (Mushroom, CQR, Danforth). These are usually lighter than non-burying anchors because they dig into the seabed.  Many modern designs have characteristics of each (Bruce and Delta).

It is important to understand what anchors do for you on the bottom.  A good anchor should be able to (1) gain a hold in the bottom below you, (2) it must be able to provide holding power sufficient to keep the boat from dragging it, and (3) it should be able to either maintain or regain its hold when the wind or current changes the direction of pull.  

The last point is critical because the wind and the current frequently change, and it is nearly impossible for an anchor to be effective in a full 360 degrees circle.   Your anchor should be able to break-free and re-set itself securely.  Not all anchors will do this. A fisherman's anchor, for example, will frequently foul its rode on its fluke or stock with a change in direction, a CQR may not get a bite if being dragged slowly, and a Danforth style is likely to be caked with mud or clay when it breaks-free and may take some time to reset. Note that some anchors have moving parts, which if jammed will not re-set.

It is hard to find an anchor that does not have at least a few limitations.  Seek a primary anchor that fits your routine needs and can be used in a range of bottoms.  Secondary and  storm anchors can be selected to compliment the primary anchor with varying bottoms and conditions in mind.  It is a good idea to have two working anchors one designed for hard bottoms and one designed for soft bottoms.

Plow-Type (CRQ): The plow is a seasoned design from the early 1930's, with characteristics of a hooking anchor and plow-shaped flukes for holding in soft sand and mud.   The hinged shank allows a wide degree of effectiveness, but it may not reset well if it does break free.  It performs well at a scope of  5-to-1 of all chain or 7-to-1 of a nylon rode with a chain leader.  The more scope the better. This anchor relies on weight to penetrate the bottom; the heavier it is, the more firmly it will set.  The CQR, manufactured in Scotland by Lewmar, is widely recognized; however, there are other version of the anchor type, with varying quality.  Lewmar recommends a 35# CQR for a 40 - 50 foot boat.  The CQR Anchor

Claw or Bruce: Originally developed in the early 1970's, this is a one-piece cast steel anchor that is both strong and versatile. Large versions are used to secure giant drilling platforms in the North Sea.  With it's three-pronged hooking design, this anchor will grab coral and ledge very well. Additionally, it's wide shape helps it to bury itself in the sand or mud. It's design makes it easy to set and it will hold at its maximum loading on quite short scope, 4-to 1 or even 3-to-1. Because it sets easily and quickly, it also resets easily when the wind or current changes.   The limitation is low holding power, relative to its size and weight.  For boats from 40 to 46 feet, Bruce recommends a 44# anchor.  Bruce Anchors

Delta: This relatively new design from the late 1980's, is a hybrid of the best of the CQR design and the Bruce. A one-piece steel casting (eliminating the hinge of the CQR), it is a hooking anchor in many ways similar to the Bruce, with superior holding statistics. Yet, it has a weighted point for penetrating mud, hard sand bottoms, and kelp that give it more versatility than it's three-pronged cousin. Like the CQR, it has flukes for holding in sand and mud, but the Delta's flukes are more obliquely angled and therefore present a broader, flatter surface than does the CQR providing greater potential holding for the same size and weight.   However, this anchor has problems setting and resetting in soft bottoms.  The Delta is rapidly developing a following among experienced cruisers.   The manufacturer's sizing tables suggest that a 35# Delta is appropriate for boats from 40 to 50 feet in length, which is lighter weight than most other modern designs except for aluminum anchors (see Spade and Fortress below).  The Delta Anchor

Buegel Anchor: This anchor has been very popular in Europe for some time and is gaining favor among US cruisers.  The design is like a flat fluked Delta with a roll-bar to prevent dragging on it's side.  It is suggested that the single flat fluke prevents a "plowing" action which allows the CQR and Delta anchors to plow through the bottom limiting their holding potential in sand and soft mud; following that logic the next better step might be the concave fluke (see below).  The sizing chart suggests a 44# anchor to 10 tons and a 54# to 15 tons. Buegel Anchors


Spade Anchor:  This is a recent anchor from the late 1990's which has only one tip like the CQR, Delta and Buegel, but the concavity is inverted to be spoonlike.  As the concave profile moves through the bottom, it is designed to compact the sea floor material within its form, rather than sliding through it like a plow. Nearly 50 % of the anchor's total weight is applied onto the tip when the rode pulls on the shank. The goal of the design is to  penetrate the sea floor, even into hard sand and through weeds.    Spade recommends a slightly heavier anchor per boat length than Delta, but offers an aluminum version at less than half the weight of their steel offering -- the model 100 is 44# in steel and 20# in aluminum.  Spade suggests a 44# steel anchor for boats from 36 to 52 feet with weights from 5 - 12 tons. Spade Anchor

Ultra Anchor: This is a new century anchor which appears to incorporate the better features of the Delta and the Spade, offering the concavity of the Spade for holding power, a weighted tip like a Delta, with potentially superior penetration ability from its sharp hooked tip and contoured bottom.  Ultra's tables recommend a 35# anchor for a 7 - 11 ton boat.   My 39 foot 10 ton boat falls at the top of the Ultra range for a 35# anchor.  Ultra seems to suggest an anchor weight to boat size ratio similar to the Bruce and Spade anchors;  for my boat I would probably pick a 44# in any of these and the Ultra.  Ultra Anchor

Rocna Anchor: This is another new century anchor offering the best features of the Delta and the Spade.  Like the Ultra, this design offers concavity for holding power and superior penetration ability from its contoured bottom.   A roll bar similar to the Buegel prevents the anchor from dragging on its side or upside-down.   Rocna Anchors

Sarca Anchor: This anchor offers the roll bar of the Buegel, a hooked tip like the Ultra, but a plow shaped convex fluke, with the ability for the rode to slide along most of the shank for easier recovery from rocky bottoms.  SARCA stands for Sand and Rock Combination Anchor.  I have not seen these available in the US.   The manufacturer recommends a 48# anchor for boats from 5 - 11 tons, and a 55# anchor for boats from 11 - 17 tons.  Sarca Anchors

Oceane Anchor (modified Spade):    It is modified from the Spade (above) for better performance on smaller boats, with the shank positioned farther toward the point, presenting a higher proportion of the effort on the point.  It also has a "spike" on the shank designed to assists the shank's positioning on the bow roller.     Océane Anchor

Navy Anchor:  Inexpensive, and heavily-built  double-fluke anchor.  It relies heavily on weight for its performance.  This is of the type known as the stockless anchors originating in the 1820's.

Danforth or Standard Lightweight:  It is a light-weight more sophisticated version of the Navy double-fluked concept with a stock in the head, designed in the late 1930's.  Danforth manufactures a substantial portion of these steel anchors in North America, with the name originating from one of the inventors.   This double-fluke anchor gains its strength from its ability to bury itself quickly in soft sand and mud. The buried flukes then present a broad flat surface which prevents the anchor from dragging. Theoretically, in deep soft mud the anchor will continue to bury itself until it is many feet below the bottom level.  A criticism is lack of ability to re-set, especially if fouled with mud and weeds.  Danforth recommends a 43# anchor for boats from 40 -45 feet in winds to 20 mph, for their standard product although they offer several high-performance models with higher holding power in lighter weights.  Danforth Anchors

Fortress (ultra lightweight Danforth style): A relatively new light-weight anchor made of aluminum magnesium alloy, the Fortress has made it's name as a well crafted and reliable burying anchor.  It is notable for its incredibly high weight to holding ratios.   The newer models have adjustable flukes enabling you to either set it for sand and shell bottoms or for soft mud bottoms. In the latter conditions, ooze and swamp mud the Fortress may have no equal.   This anchor disassembles and folds for storage.   The manufacturer also offers the lighter-duty Guardian line of similar design.  The manufacturer's tables suggest that a 15# Model FX 23 anchor is sufficient for a  39 - 45 foot boat, but separately suggests a 21# Model FX 37 to replace the holding power of a 33 to 50 pound steel anchor; is this a contradiction?   Fortress Anchors

Bulwagga Anchor:  This is a new design from the late 1990's.  This anchor seems to have immense holding power in both sand and mud.  In weeds, it is designed to straddle the weeds, only entangling the few it hits on the edge of its flukes. In addition it is designed to work like a grappling hook, holding onto rocks and ledges. Another unique feature is a sliding shank, which allows the shank to fully retract when pulled 180 degrees from the angle of set, making retrieval of a fouled anchor much easier. Bulwagga Anchors

Barnacle Anchor: This is a single fluke design from the late 1930's which seems to have excellent holding power, especially in mud, but it has marginal setting and hooking characteristics.  It is not popular and hard to find in North America.  An advantage is that it stores relatively flat compared to most modern anchors.

Fisherman's (Yachtman's or Herreshoff) Anchor: This venerable design has been used by sailors for hundreds of years and was perfected in England in the 18th Century, similar Greek designs in bronze date back to 800 BC.  Until the advent of the plow and the Danforth-type in the 1930's, the fisherman's anchor was the common choice for yachtsmen and commercial sailors alike. Today, few cruising sailors carry the fisherman type because it is unwieldy, prone to fouling when the wind or current changes and it is difficult to stow (see Luke 3 piece below). Yet, as a hooking anchor with the ability to penetrate weed and kelp, the anchor is useful in some regions of the country, Northern New England and the Pacific Northwest, in particular. Also, there are some offshore sailors who believe that a fisherman's anchor of great weight is the best storm anchor, in rocky and kelp strewn waters. 

Luke Storm Anchor (3 piece Fisherman):  As described above in a convenient storable form. Luke Storm Anchor

Northill: A specialty anchor, the Northill is constructed of welded stainless steel. It is a hooking-type anchor that derives its basic design from the Fisherman's anchor, with the stock (cross-bar) moved to the throat (base of the shank). Like the Fisherman, it is prone to fouling when the wind or current change. But, unlike the fisherman's anchor, the Northill is lighter and can be folded for storage. 

Grapnel Anchor:  This anchor is well suited to rocky bottoms. The hooks will hook under rocks.  It is inherently likely to reset well in it's preferred environment, if it does not snag its rode.

Mushroom Anchor:  This is the anchor frequently used in permanent moorings. Over time, this anchor digs deeply into the bottom. Once embedded, it has tremendous holding power in all directions. Small versions of this anchor are used by fisherman as it holds well in mud or sand in calm, protected waters. This anchor does not work well in grassy or rocky bottoms.

Poole Anchor:  Mainly used for large vessels, it is a refined version of the Navy anchor, like a stout Danforth.  In some circles it is referred to as a Kedge Anchor, but that term is most commonly applied to the Fisherman/Herreshoff Anchor.   Manson Marine



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