When we cruise we spend the majority of our time at anchor, for a number of reasons. It’s free, which saves the expense of staying at a marina where dockage can normally cost upwards of $2 per foot per night, which doesn’t include electricity. Also, while at anchor the boat naturally turns into the wind, which facilitates better ventilation. Being away from a dock also lends itself to better privacy and less noise, which are both things we like to have. Finally, it lets Spike roam freely on deck without having to worry about him exploring the neighboring vessels or tangling with other cats; also something we like.
Consequently, the anchor and the chain and line used to deploy it (collectively called Ground Tackle) are important items on our boat. There are about as many different designs of anchors as there are bottom types. One that holds well in sand won’t hold well in grass, and some are more suited to a muddy bottom. Very few anchors hold well in more than one bottom type, and everyone has their personal favorites. Having more than one anchor is good, but you can only store so many anchors aboard due to space restrictions, so you have to be selective as to which types you keep aboard.
Unlike many pleasure boats, cruisers often utilize long lengths of chain instead of line to deploy and retrieve their anchor, often between 100 and 300 feet of heavy duty chain. The added weight (2-3 lbs. per foot) provides additional security against dragging the anchor or becoming separated from the anchor by sharp objects.
Regardless, having the proper type and size anchor is critical, and is a subject of considerable discussion among cruisers, and size does matter to make anchoring safe. Every anchor maker will publish a table of their various anchor sizes and what size boat each anchor will reliably hold. I don’t know exactly how anchor makers determine those recommendations, but we always recommend going up one size from the recommended anchor weight as an added measure of security.
Years ago Carrie came home from her job at a West Marine store with a 65 lb. anchor and 200 feet of chain, and I was taken aback by what I thought was overkill for anchoring our 41 ft. boat Sanctuary. I envisioned us tilting down by the bow from the additional weight and being unable to work with the weight of our new ground tackle. I soon became a believer, however, as we dug in securely and both slept comfortably in all types of weather conditions. Our biggest anchoring concern became not the adequacy of our ground tackle but that of the tackle on the boats around us.
When we took possession of Brilliant we followed the same reasoning, and we purchased and installed a 65 lb. anchor called a Mantus for our 42 ft. boat Brilliant, and so far have been very satisfied with its performance. The design lends itself to anchoring well in numerous bottom types, and the roll bar helps us ensure that the flukes will quickly dig in to the bottom since we normally can’t see it make contact.
We recently anchored while awaiting parts and weather and our new anchor successfully held on through gusts of 35-40 mph. That feels like money well spent.