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