Religion, Politics, or Anchoring

I just read the following on an online boating forum: “Can we discuss religion or politics instead of anchors? We all know that the best anchor is the one I use.”

This summarizes the often heated threads on those forums where boaters argue passionately about one anchor type versus another almost as if they were discussing the best dog breed, Scotch Whiskey or maybe their favorite religious leader or politician.

I wonder if anyone has written a history of anchors and anchoring since so much has been and continues to be written about maritime history, which to a great extent is world history. I read these online forums for my own education but sometimes for amusement and the anchor opinions are often entertaining. Every boater has an anchor story and if one relied on his 65 pound CQR in a storm but another broke loose and got wrecked with his 45 pound Danforth, well you get the picture.

What a drag.

Personally, I prefer the Danforth or fluke type on powerboats and the CQR or plow type, and the Bruce or claw type on a sailboat, but that’s mainly for stowing and deployment concerns. I’ve never really had any problems with any kind of anchor and for the most part, they’re all pretty darn good but I am open to new technologies which I’ve never used yet but I will. Over time, rocks were replaced by forged iron and those old style Fishermen or Yachtsman or Navy anchors, although still used on large vessels (apparently mainly for stowage reasons) have been pretty much replaced by the aforementioned fluke, plow and claw types. However, a new generation of highly engineered anchors with brand names such as Manta and Rocna, some with “roll bars” appear to be, unhhh, making waves in the boating world or should I say, breaking new ground?

Lots of boaters seem to be turning to them, yet predictably, others are satisfied with their once new, but now aging and apparently very reliable plow, fluke and claw types. While the bottom, or holding ground can often be the main factor in deciding which anchor to use, and rightly so, perhaps it is the technique of anchoring that really makes the difference. For example, a Danforth which is extremely reliable in the sandy and muddy Chesapeake, New England and Mid-Atlantic, may not be so good in grassy or kelpy tropical waters, where a CQR might be preferable. How much and what kind of chain will make a difference, and of course the scope and whether you really set it well or not is crucial. Which one performs better if the wind violently shifts (hence roll bars)?

I grew up mainly with powerboats on the Chesapeake and a small Danforth with a bit of chain always did the trick. Always even though they’d bring up thick ooze. So of course I am predisposed toward Danforths but for bigger boats and especially those with bigger itineraries, a range of styles and weight is often needed, even if only for emergency or severe situations. I’ve written before about what I find even more confounding and that is how so many people discuss and argue about anchor styles when they often neglect the entire ground tackle system from stowage, to ventilation, drainage, the fairlead, roller, windlass, chock , snubber, cleat or post etc. etc.. Even the best anchor can create a messy if not hazardous situation if it’s not easily and safely stowed, deployed and raised.

The technology of anchors may indeed be a science, but using them as with most aspects of seamanship is mainly an art. And notice I am not taking any stand about any one anchor over another or telling you what to use. That’s your business. Just don’t drag on to my boat please.  Now, politics and religion anyone?

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