All About (our) Anchors
05 June 2008 | Fakarava, Tuamotu Archipelago
A friend of ours from the Bay Area (Eliot on Gatecrasher) sent us an email wondering about they type of anchor we use, etc. I thought John's response might be of interest to other boaters so I'm adding it to the blog. I'm not saying it'll be interesting to all of you. or even most of you. But face it, we've had a bit of writer's block here (or is it laziness?) and this will buy me some time.
Our primary anchor is a Delta 88 lb (40 kg), on 300 feet of 3/8 inch hi-test (g-4) chain. I am extremely happy with this set-up, though I am harboring a secret anchor-envy for a 40 kg Rocna anchor. We do not have a viable back-up primary, a roll the Rocna would fill admirably. Actually, from what I've seen and heard about the Rocna, it would be my 1st degree primary, with the Delta as the back-up. High praise for the Rocna, indeed. Our stern set-up is a Fortress fx-37 (aluminum, probably about 15 or 20 lbs), on 10 feet of 3/8 chain and 250 feet of 5/8 3-strand rode. It holds well WHEN IT HOOKS, but its reliability is suspect, as it is often difficult to set properly.
Our "storm" gear is another Fortress, the fx 55, on 10 ft chain, and 300 ft of 7/8 rode. While this should prove to be very strong, I hope to never need it. We have been away for 9 months now, and have been at anchor for easily 95% of that time. We have been in sand, mud, rocks, coral- and mixtures of all 4!. We have seen up to 37 knots while hooked, and several nights we have seen 20 knots and 5-7 foots swells in the anchorages. Where we are currently, the atoll of Fakarava in the Tuomotus, we have been seeing a constant 20 knots inside the lagoon for the last 36 hours. Dragging in an area choked with coral heads, and ringed with reefs, is not an option. The Delta has always hooked first time, and (touch wood) has never dragged.
Technique seems to play as important a roll here as the gear itself. While I don't pretend to have the best technique, nor be the originator of the technique we use, its works well for us. After identifying the spot where we want to drop, I have Nancy head into the wind, stop the boat, and call out a depth sounding. We have walkie-talkies, and I couldn't imagine doing bow-to-helm communications without them. As the boat stops, and begins to blow down, I drop enough chain (slowly) to just get the anchor on the sea floor. As we continue to blow down, I lay more chain, until I'm confident that I have not dropped coils of chain directly on top of the anchor.a sure-fire way to foul the anchor. At this point, I pay out chain until I reach a 5-1 (approx) scope. I occasionally stop paying chain, so that the anchor can dig in, and bring the bow up into the wind. When my desired scope is reached, I attach a snubber (actually 2, one a back-up. The middle of a blow, strong enough to destroy your snubber, is no time to rig and set another). I pay out the snubber, usually increasing my scope to about 6-1 in the process (remember, a snubber not only reduces shock loads on your gear, but also effectively increases the scope ratio by lowering the attachment point of your chain, from the bow roller to a significantly lower point where the snubber connects to your chain). When the bow has again swung into the wind, I have Nancy put us in reverse idle, then 1000 rpm in reverse, then finally 1500 rpm. I identify 2 fixed transits, and make sure we are not dragging AT ALL before having her go to neutral and kill the diesel.
As for other types of anchors out, Bruce is probably the most popular, followed by Rocna, CQR, and Delta. In honesty, though, I rarely see a CQR as a primary. Usually, it is on the bow roller as a secondary, with that boat's primary in the water.
I hope I have at least partially answered your question(s). The one piece of advice I would adamantly lay on someone is, get the best, and biggest, ground tackle you and your boat can afford. Forego ice-makers and that 3rd laptop if you must, but go big on the hook. Going to bed each night, not confident if you will wake up in the same place, is a miserable, and reckless, way to live.