Anchor Choice: a Generational question


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Dick
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The following is one of a series of Safety-at-Sea thoughts that first appear in the OCC’s e-bulletin.
Anchor Choice, a generational question
There is safety-at-sea and there is safety-at-anchor. Being safe at anchor often gets overlooked until zero-dark-thirty and a squall is coming through.
Writing about anchors usually stirs up a hornet’s nest of response, but I believe that the evidence is in that the new generation of anchors (SPADE, Rocna, Manson, etc.) is superior to the old generation (CQR, Bruce, Delta, Fortress, etc.). They are so far superior that I believe a case can be made that having a new generation anchor approaches being a safety issue: much like having and using jacklines and tethers offshore.
Some of us do a lot of anchoring, many do not, but every vessel should have an anchor that is dependable and easily deployed. I am not saying that the old generation anchors can’t anchor safely: after all, they have for generations. But I am saying that the new generation do everything significantly better: which translates into safety-at-anchor and peace of mind when the wind starts to howl.
I have been in a number of ports these last few years where boats that wander widely congregate and, almost without exception, the word is out: every boat sports a new generation anchor on the bow.
I hate to suggest that a valued anchor who has been a trusted piece of gear be turned into a lawn ornament, but safety suggests that one’s bower anchor be chosen from the new generation.
Safe anchoring, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Questions as to the actual anchor, among the new generation of anchors, has already seen some discussion in the Forum.


Mike Northcott
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Dick - 1/22/2020
The following is one of a series of Safety-at-Sea thoughts that first appear in the OCC’s e-bulletin.
Anchor Choice, a generational question
There is safety-at-sea and there is safety-at-anchor. Being safe at anchor often gets overlooked until zero-dark-thirty and a squall is coming through.
Writing about anchors usually stirs up a hornet’s nest of response, but I believe that the evidence is in that the new generation of anchors (SPADE, Rocna, Manson, etc.) is superior to the old generation (CQR, Bruce, Delta, Fortress, etc.). They are so far superior that I believe a case can be made that having a new generation anchor approaches being a safety issue: much like having and using jacklines and tethers offshore.
Some of us do a lot of anchoring, many do not, but every vessel should have an anchor that is dependable and easily deployed. I am not saying that the old generation anchors can’t anchor safely: after all, they have for generations. But I am saying that the new generation do everything significantly better: which translates into safety-at-anchor and peace of mind when the wind starts to howl.
I have been in a number of ports these last few years where boats that wander widely congregate and, almost without exception, the word is out: every boat sports a new generation anchor on the bow.
I hate to suggest that a valued anchor who has been a trusted piece of gear be turned into a lawn ornament, but safety suggests that one’s bower anchor be chosen from the new generation.
Safe anchoring, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Questions as to the actual anchor, among the new generation of anchors, has already seen some discussion in the Forum.


Hi Dick,

Over the last two years we have anchored from Halifax Nova Scotia, down America's east coast, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands down to Grenada. We are now on the right-hand side of the Atlantic exploring Europe. Our Delta with all-chain rode has served us well in a wide variety of conditions.

At the same time we have been amazed at how poorly many of our sailing cousins set their anchors. Short scopes, no backing down, never diving the anchor, inadequate swing room.You know them, I'm sure. Without good anchoring technique, no anchor design should be considered safe. 

Perhaps the most important part of anchoring is planning ahead. Check the wind, tides, and current, update the weather forecast, and read a cruising guide. And find local knowledge when you can. 

Thus, I'm not fully convinced by the new generation, yet. I'd love to know the sources you're drawing your conclusion from. I've been reading mags like Practical Sailor and viewing SV Panope's on-going tests of traditional and new anchors on YouTube (among myriad others). It appears that there's still no single, perfect solution for sailors facing a wide variety of conditions and seabottoms. 

The Manson/Rocna types seem to set well, but resetting after a windshift can be problematic. The only recent design I've seen that makes me want to reach for my wallet is the SPADE. It ticks almost all of my boxes and appears a better overall design than it's competition. 

Safe anchoring!
Mike
s/v Aleta


Dick
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Mike Northcott - 2/1/2020
Dick - 1/22/2020
The following is one of a series of Safety-at-Sea thoughts that first appear in the OCC’s e-bulletin.
Anchor Choice, a generational question
There is safety-at-sea and there is safety-at-anchor. Being safe at anchor often gets overlooked until zero-dark-thirty and a squall is coming through.
Writing about anchors usually stirs up a hornet’s nest of response, but I believe that the evidence is in that the new generation of anchors (SPADE, Rocna, Manson, etc.) is superior to the old generation (CQR, Bruce, Delta, Fortress, etc.). They are so far superior that I believe a case can be made that having a new generation anchor approaches being a safety issue: much like having and using jacklines and tethers offshore.
Some of us do a lot of anchoring, many do not, but every vessel should have an anchor that is dependable and easily deployed. I am not saying that the old generation anchors can’t anchor safely: after all, they have for generations. But I am saying that the new generation do everything significantly better: which translates into safety-at-anchor and peace of mind when the wind starts to howl.
I have been in a number of ports these last few years where boats that wander widely congregate and, almost without exception, the word is out: every boat sports a new generation anchor on the bow.
I hate to suggest that a valued anchor who has been a trusted piece of gear be turned into a lawn ornament, but safety suggests that one’s bower anchor be chosen from the new generation.
Safe anchoring, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Questions as to the actual anchor, among the new generation of anchors, has already seen some discussion in the Forum.


Hi Dick,

Over the last two years we have anchored from Halifax Nova Scotia, down America's east coast, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands down to Grenada. We are now on the right-hand side of the Atlantic exploring Europe. Our Delta with all-chain rode has served us well in a wide variety of conditions.

At the same time we have been amazed at how poorly many of our sailing cousins set their anchors. Short scopes, no backing down, never diving the anchor, inadequate swing room.You know them, I'm sure. Without good anchoring technique, no anchor design should be considered safe. 

Perhaps the most important part of anchoring is planning ahead. Check the wind, tides, and current, update the weather forecast, and read a cruising guide. And find local knowledge when you can. 

Thus, I'm not fully convinced by the new generation, yet. I'd love to know the sources you're drawing your conclusion from. I've been reading mags like Practical Sailor and viewing SV Panope's on-going tests of traditional and new anchors on YouTube (among myriad others). It appears that there's still no single, perfect solution for sailors facing a wide variety of conditions and seabottoms. 

The Manson/Rocna types seem to set well, but resetting after a windshift can be problematic. The only recent design I've seen that makes me want to reach for my wallet is the SPADE. It ticks almost all of my boxes and appears a better overall design than it's competition. 

Safe anchoring!
Mike
s/v Aleta


Hi Mike,
Your Delta is a good choice among the old gen anchors and has kept many boats safe attached to the seabed over the decades.
And it is good to be skeptical: there is much poor information in the maritime world and “fads” are not unheard of.
Your comments on checking the weather, planning ahead etc. are also wise suggestions and good practice. And I fully agree that there are many, especially in some of the cruising grounds you mention, where ground tackle handling and anchoring practices almost guarantee failure: to the danger of boats around.
You flag a number of important considerations, most important is the data by which my suggestions emerged. To often, thoughts, such as my short piece, are put forward with little regard to sources and a good description of sources is essential, to my mind, to good decision making.
My sources start with my misery: Alchemy’s wandering has led us to many of what I call marginal (or challenging) anchorages. There were Bahamas anchorages that nearly defeated us as well as anchorages in Central America, but it was grassy areas of the Med that tipped the scales in our lack of confidence. This went hand-in-hand with starting to hear (2006) anecdotal reports of the efficacy of the new gen anchors. So we bought one (more below) and immediately anchored more successfully with greater confidence in all regards.
So, personal experience tops my “sources”, but I fully understand that others might be skeptical.
Next was that, in my widely wandering path (the Med, Northern Europe x 5 years, across the Viking route to the Canadian Maritimes), I know of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of boats that have switched to new gen anchors: all have been very pleased, some ecstatic, with the change and none have gone back.
My friends, many of whom also wander widely and are of great experience, have moved to new gen anchors.
I read pretty widely in the maritime world and the most thorough discussion/evaluation of anchors is on the Attainable Adventures Cruising web site. (The most important venue for offshore sailors, to my experience, where there are articles and where experienced offshore sailors exchange information and respond to questions and run by one of OCC’s members.) The AAC site has it all in one place (nominal ~~$20/yr fee), while much of the same data has been published in Practical Sailor over many of its issues. (See my letter to the ed. and their recently published response in PS copied below). Both publications include the Panope video as well as reports from testing as well as anecdotal reports.
We went with a SPADE anchor: partly this was a matter of luck as the roll bar on a Rocna would not fit my bow anchor platform configuration. Among the new gen anchors, they are all so much better that I believe that choice is determined by finding the anchor with no (or the least) bad habits. In ground tackle effectiveness, after 12+ years, I find the SPADE to have no bad habits (it does come up with a lot of mud, so a good deck wash is nice—but that is part of its effectiveness). There is discussion in the Forum on the habits of various anchors.
Altogether, I find the evidence compelling. So much so that, in the interests of safety, I believe widely wandering boats should consider an anchor upgrade a safety issue: much like I would recommend an AIS (receiver at least) for the offshore sailor: the increase in safety is just too important.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Dear Editor, Practical Sailor,
There is no question in my mind that the new generation of anchors: Rocna, Spade, Mantus and others, are far superior to the old generation anchors: CQR, Bruce, Delta etc. Casual observation of the bows of experienced cruisers appears to confirm that the message is out.
That said, your comment that roll bar style anchors being synonymous with cruising is neglecting one of the family of new gen anchors, SPADE: (Collapsible Anchor Prototype Tested, July 2019). You compound a bit of a distorted view by contending that the roll bar style anchors reliably reset with wind and tide changes. I have had 3 friends, experienced skippers all, experience their Rocna anchors fail to reset after a wind shift. I also know that the roll bar has occasionally collected bottom debris possibly interfering with setting. The SPADE, which I have been using for over a decade, has no roll bar nor reports of resetting failures that I am aware of.
Rather than reiterate the ample documentation of the Rocna/roll bar issue, the best compilation can be easily had at Attainable Adventures Web site. There one can find URLs of movies documenting reset issues for Rocna, more anecdotal evidence from the field, and speculation as to the causes of these rare, but potentially serious, failures to reset.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy, Fortune, Newfoundland, Canada
Published response from PS to my letter below:
Good point. We should have known better, since we were among the first to point out that roll bar anchors can struggle when making 180-degree reset in some bottoms. We’ve changed the wording to reflect the broader results of our recent testing, including comprehensive reset tests (see “An¬chor Resetting Tests,” February 2013). As we pointed out in that report, “. . . the biggest surprise was in the 180-degree somersault in the sand/ clay seabed. All anchors set well and quickly during the initial pull, but on somersaulting, both the Rocna and [Manson] Supreme retained a clod of seabed in the fluke, dragged upside down, balanced on the embedded shank and the roll bar until the act of dragging dislodged the clod. Once cleaned, the anchor rolled over and engaged as normal.”
It should be pointed out that 180-de¬gree test is very challenging for any anchor, and that given the variability of bottoms, no anchor is guaranteed to reliably reset, although some, like the Spade, are more reliable than others.
When the Spade anchor was launched more than 20 years ago, our testing helped introduce this new de¬sign to sailors (See PS January 1, 1999, online). In that report we stated: “It would appear that Alain Pouiraud, a very serious French engineer, has made a remarkable advance with an anchor.”
Pouiraud, the author of the book “The Complete Book of Anchoring,” died in 2011 before he could fully launch his latest evolution of the Spade, the Raya (no longer available as far as we know). Pouiraud and his supporters have long contended that many of the newer anchors were Spade clones, sug¬gesting that the roll bar was added to avoid patent infringement. Our friends over at Attainable Adventures Cruis¬ing Web have posted a series of movies documenting reset issues for Rocna. Wisdom gleaned from 20 years of anchor tests can be found in our four-volume eBook “Anchors.” The book is available in our online bookstore at

Philip Heaton
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Our boat (OVNI 395) came with a Delta 20kg/44lbs and we thought it was fine but it let us down on three occasions, of which one required some very hectic manoeuvring to avoid damage to other boats - all was OK and of course it was at night.  So, we bought a Manson Supreme (the clue is in the name) 27kg/60lbs.  We sleep easy at night now.  We have not tested it in hurricane force winds but it has reset during a 180 degree wind shift in 35-40kts.  We keep the Delta for a second anchor/tandem anchoring/spare - and we have a Fortress FX-55 just to be sure.

So much about anchors is personal experience, different bottoms, different boats that at present I suspect it is hard to be certain about the various merits of the modern brands.  I suppose there is some cunning designer working on the next generation of anchors ... at least let's hope so.
Dick
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Philip Heaton - 2/25/2020
Our boat (OVNI 395) came with a Delta 20kg/44lbs and we thought it was fine but it let us down on three occasions, of which one required some very hectic manoeuvring to avoid damage to other boats - all was OK and of course it was at night.  So, we bought a Manson Supreme (the clue is in the name) 27kg/60lbs.  We sleep easy at night now.  We have not tested it in hurricane force winds but it has reset during a 180 degree wind shift in 35-40kts.  We keep the Delta for a second anchor/tandem anchoring/spare - and we have a Fortress FX-55 just to be sure.

So much about anchors is personal experience, different bottoms, different boats that at present I suspect it is hard to be certain about the various merits of the modern brands.  I suppose there is some cunning designer working on the next generation of anchors ... at least let's hope so.

Hi Phillip,
Sorry you endured 3 occasions of your Delta letting you down. There are certainly no guarantees that come with the new generation anchors, but I suspect that stories such as you describe will occur less often, probably far less often. One thing of note in your post  I would wish to underline: that is that you bumped up the weight of your bower from 44 to 60 pounds. I believe that setting/holding effectiveness increases exponentially with weight, so you now have a much better anchor with a good deal more potential to hold your boat in place. I suspect the added weight on the bow will make no noticeable difference to your sailing and that the price difference pales in comparison to how much better you sleep.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Philip Heaton
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Hi Dick
Yes, the weight difference in anchors at the bow is not an issue.  In fact we increased our chain length from 60 to 80 metres so that was a chunk of weight too.  Moreover with all the kit, spares, provisions etc that we added to the boat for our Pacific and onward cruising we had to raise the waterline anti-fouling.  Since being in the Med we have gone in for a major declutter but with the weight of two outboards and liferaft mounted on the pushpit this somehow seems to avoid us being bow down ... or even stern down.  We are also quite happy with what may be a higher than usual waterline/boot-top
As for the effectiveness of the Manson vs the Delta, although the former does not necessarily set first time in all circumstances we have found that it does set more readily than the Delta - not scientific analysis of course but there you go ...
Cheers Phil

Dick
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Philip Heaton - 2/27/2020
Hi Dick
Yes, the weight difference in anchors at the bow is not an issue.  In fact we increased our chain length from 60 to 80 metres so that was a chunk of weight too.  Moreover with all the kit, spares, provisions etc that we added to the boat for our Pacific and onward cruising we had to raise the waterline anti-fouling.  Since being in the Med we have gone in for a major declutter but with the weight of two outboards and liferaft mounted on the pushpit this somehow seems to avoid us being bow down ... or even stern down.  We are also quite happy with what may be a higher than usual waterline/boot-top
As for the effectiveness of the Manson vs the Delta, although the former does not necessarily set first time in all circumstances we have found that it does set more readily than the Delta - not scientific analysis of course but there you go ...
Cheers Phil

Hi Phil,
Give me well reported field data over scientific analysis most any day. Glad you are pleased. Dick
Alex Blackwell
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Excellent points, all. And I wholeheartedly agree with Dick's comments regarding the modern scoop type anchors - though we have disagreed in the past on the roll bar issue and specifically regarding on the Rocna. :)

In case anyone would like an unbiased historical review of the development of the (Pleasure) Boat Anchor, we have this posted here:
http://cruising.coastalboating.net/Seamanship/Anchoring/History.html

Another thing that may be of interest, we recently tested the British Knox anchor. It is a rollbar scoop, but with a gap between the two fluke halves. It set and held remarkably well in several different bottom types. it is also priced quite attractively:
http://cruising.coastalboating.net/Seamanship/Anchoring/KnoxAnchor/index.html

We do, of course, have our favourite. It is a scoop without a roll bar. If anyone needs to know what it is, I will divulge.
Dick
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Alex Blackwell - 2/27/2020
Excellent points, all. And I wholeheartedly agree with Dick's comments regarding the modern scoop type anchors - though we have disagreed in the past on the roll bar issue and specifically regarding on the Rocna. :)

In case anyone would like an unbiased historical review of the development of the (Pleasure) Boat Anchor, we have this posted here:
http://cruising.coastalboating.net/Seamanship/Anchoring/History.html

Another thing that may be of interest, we recently tested the British Knox anchor. It is a rollbar scoop, but with a gap between the two fluke halves. It set and held remarkably well in several different bottom types. it is also priced quite attractively:
http://cruising.coastalboating.net/Seamanship/Anchoring/KnoxAnchor/index.html

We do, of course, have our favourite. It is a scoop without a roll bar. If anyone needs to know what it is, I will divulge.

Hi Alex,
Sounds like a Vulcan about which I have heard few field reports.
I always appreciate hearing about the choices others make in their gear, so, please, divulge.
My best, Dick
Alex Blackwell
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Hi Dick
We do have a Vulcan anchor and it is indeed an excellent anchor. I have suggested it to several people. It is designed for boats with a bowsprit and it did not fit our bow terribly well.
http://cruising.coastalboating.net/Seamanship/Anchoring/Vulcan/index.html
Perhaps of interest, is that Mantus now makes an anchor (M2) that looks a lot like the Vulcan. We have not yet taken one of these out cruising.

The fastest setting and best holding scoop type anchor we have used to date is the Ultra. It is so good, that we comfortably left our boat unattended at anchor off Iona in Scotland's Inner Hebrides, where there is a very strong alternating current - the bottom being hard sand.
http://features.coastalboating.net/FeatureArticles/AnchoringMadeEasy/AnchoringMadeEasy.html
GO

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