Choosing the Right Anchor

Posted by  Saturday, January 12 2013 12:00 am
expert

ChoosingRightAnchor anchorkitFrom the basic "cement-in-a-bucket" to the tried-and-true fluke or grapnel, anchors come in a wide variety of shapes and styles. No matter what size boat you skim across your favorite lake in, having an anchor on board assures safe boating, while also permitting the angler to have a controlled and drift-free fishing excursion.

Choosing the appropriate anchor can be a frustrating task if you don't know the merits of each particular design. Follow this handy guide and prepare to become a boat anchor guru.

What Should I Buy?

Although this question may seem basic, there are many variables that come into play when purchasing your first anchor. Environmental conditions (such as weather and lake structure), the size of your craft and the weight of the anchor itself are all significant parts of the puzzle. Perhaps it's best to look first at how an anchor actually works.

Anchors "attach" to the bottom structure of a body of water in order to hold a boat securely. This is done in one of two ways. Firstly, the anchor can penetrate the bottom surface, creating a suction through the penetration and the weight of the material above the anchor itself, in turn creating resistance. Secondly, when dealing with hard, rocky bottoms, the anchor actually snags in order to create hold.

Out of the many roles that anchors serve, the most prevalent are securing the boat while fishing, keeping boats out of the surf or rocks or allowing the occupants to enjoy a relaxing meal on board without drifting away. (For larger craft, they are also necessary for spending the night while out on the water.)

What to Look For

As you will realize after reading this guide, not all anchors are created equal. There are, however, common attributes that you should look for when making your choice.

  • Holds well in all types of bottom: weed, rock, sand, mud.
  • Can be set and re-set quickly and easily under all conditions.
  • Strong craftsmanship.
  • Good holding power.
  • Can be released easily and effortlessly from the bottom.
  • Can be stored easily on deck — compact

Styles

The following represents a list of the most common anchor designs currently on the market.

River Anchor: The river anchor is designed specifically for river currents and heavy drift conditions. The grappling action of the three individual blades provides secure holding power, while the flow-through holes provides easy pull up. ChoosingRightAnchor river
Grapnel Anchor: Most grapnel anchors are made with four arms that easy fold up, providing a compact and easily stored apparatus. This style of anchor is ideal for small boats and dinghies as there are no open flukes to puncture the sensitive fabric of the craft. ChoosingRightAnchor grapnel
Mushroom Anchor: The mushroom anchor offers a wide area cap that offers effective holding power in mud and weeds. The drain holes in the base allow for easy retrieval, allowing water and mud to quickly be displaced. ChoosingRightAnchor mushroom
Navy Anchor: The navy anchor is the traditional style of anchor. The stock is made to fold flat against the shank for easy storage, making these ideal for smaller craft. Navy anchors work well in rocky bottoms, and will also penetrate easily through weeds. ChoosingRightAnchor navy
Fluke Anchor: The fluke anchor, or Danforth, has two "flukes" or appendages that are used to hold on the bottom. The stock-in-head design is what makes this anchor work, not the weight, and it provides extremely high penetration. Flukes work best in sand or loose gravel, literally burying themselves out of sight when lowered. One drawback is rocks or boulders — they can become wedged in so tight that the only option is cutting them free. ChoosingRightAnchor fluke

Electric Anchors: This type of anchor is a hands-free style with a electric anchor winch attached to the bow of the boat. With the simple flick of a switch, the anchor can be raised or lowered, allowing the boater more time for other concerns. The one drawback this system has is that the anchor itself is usually in the style of the mushroom — great for muddy or sandy conditions, but a poor choice for rocky areas. However, for people with disabilities or back problems, this anchor system certainly has its merits.

What Size Do I Need?

Deciding on a certain size of anchor can be a bit of a guessing game. Since conditions are always changing, there is no "right" size for the job at hand. One misconception people make when shopping for an anchor is the heavier the better. This is just not true. Physical size, rather than weight, is actually a better indicator of the anchors holding ability. (Some anchors that only weigh 5lbs. can hold in excess of 1,000 pounds!)

When it comes to choosing an anchor, bigger is almost always better. Bigger anchors have more strength to resist breaking, occupy more of a surface area to resist pullout and will have more weight to penetrate deeper. Go with the biggest anchor you can get by with for the size of your watercraft; the last thing you need when rough weather arrives is an inadequate anchor that doesn't do the job.

Cost & Construction

It goes without saying that buying a cheap or inferior product will usually only turn to heartache. When dealing with something that could possibly save your life, please don't scrimp in order to save a few bucks. Try to buy the best anchor that you can afford, making sure to be on the lookout for spotty galvanizing, poor welds, and other noticeable inconsistencies in the metal. Always remember — you often get what you pay for.

Cleats

Many people buy anchors, failing to realize that they need something to attach the rope to on their boat. This is where cleats enter the picture. Deck cleats are of a simple design, meant for anchor ropes to be wrapped around for a secure hold. Look for strong, large cleats that will withstand the punishment and pull that inclement weather can throw at them.  

Link to the Anchor

Nylon anchor rope is the most common way of attaching an anchor to a boat. These ropes are strong, flexible and have a very high breaking strength.

Diameter        Breaking Strength
3/8" 4,400 lbs
7/16" 5,900 lbs
1/2" 7,500 lbs
5/8" 12,200 lbs
3/4" 16,700 lbs
1"      29,400 lbs

Choosing the appropriate size of nylon rope can be made easier depending on the size of boat you are using.

Boat Length (under) 16-foot 20-foot 25-foot

30-foot

Rope Diameter 3/8" 3/8" 1/2" 1/2"

Although they may look quite similar in appearance, they really do have specialized attributes that are designed for different purposes.

 

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Last modified on Thursday, April 11 2013 1:29 pm
Justin Hoffman
expert

Justin Hoffman is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, with a fishing specialty, based in Ottawa Ontario, Canada. A graduate of the North American School of Outdoor Writing and currently a field editor with Ontario OUT OF DOORS magazine, outdoor pursuits with a journalistic approach keep him returning to the field week after week. A well-established freelance writer since 1999, Justin has publishing credits in many North American magazines and web sites. His photographic stock work also appears regularly. In addition to his writing and photography work, Justin is also a Pro Staffer for TUFF-Line and National Pro Staff. For more information visit www.JustinHoffmanOutdoors.com.

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