Paper and Plastic

I frequently see long and acrid online forum argument threads about the superiority of digital charting vs. paper charts. However, like with most things there is no single correct answer for every situation. Can you be all-digital and be safe? Yes! Can you go all-paper and be safe? Yes!

But why do you have to go all one way or the other? Just like sailboats equipped with powerful diesel engines, most of us choose to have both. There is nothing finer than a long sail when the wind is right, the sails are trimmed and the boat is gliding silently across the bay. But when it comes time to work my way in or out of a fuel dock or a marina, I prefer to do it under power. Could I instead sail up to the dock? Sure, in an emergency — but why does it have to be one or the other?

I feel the same way about nautical charting. I like to have the chartplotter running when offshore, silently keeping a continuous note of our position, speed, progress and relation to hazards. But at the same time, I like to have a folded paper chart nearby showing me the big picture at a glance so I can think more broadly about the route, where we are headed, possibly how to deal with an upcoming wind shift, etc.

Scale matters
This one small example indicates one of the major downfalls of most digital charting systems: Due to the available screen size, you can either look at a small area in good detail or a large area with insufficient detail. You simply need more real estate than most chartplotters provide in order to get the big picture with decent detail. Are bigger screens and monitors available? Yes, they are, but I have yet to see a pleasure boat equipped with one 3-by-4 feet, which is near the size of a typical chart.

There is nothing quite like spreading out the big paper chart to plan your offshore route to Bermuda and beyond. Without scrolling or zooming you can see everything from the East Coast out to the islands, including the route of the Gulf Stream, which is critical to your planning. I keep some older charts around the house so I can draw up planned passages or even just summer cruises. A little bit of planning can make a cruise so much more enjoyable.

On the other hand, using digital charts on my home PC is a fantastic asset for making those same plans. I can look up any harbor I want to in the USA for free using NOAA's online chart viewer , or I can use one of several charting programs that can utilize the free chart downloads from NOAA ( OpenCPN is one of the free navigation programs, and there are versions for most operating systems (

I find the PC charting program invaluable for picking out waypoints, which I like to do prior to being underway, and together with my big paper chart they make for a great planning tool.

Get the big picture of a small harbor
Another area where I like to have a paper chart handy is when approaching a tricky harbor. Yes, the chartplotter can be great in providing detailed views of every place you might visit, but again that view will be centered around where your boat is located. While winding your way up a narrow channel with side channel offshoots, rocks to dodge and possibly funky buoyage, it is great to once again be able to hold a paper chart that provides a bigger picture of everything coming up. Not only can you see the red nun coming up, but you can spot that water tower shown on the chart that creates a perfect range for homing in on the town wharf hidden behind all the boats.

The same applies in the Intracoastal Waterway. Use the digital charting to keep track of where you are and use the paper charts or a chartbook to plan ahead for the next anchorage or fuel stop. It is far easier to flip back and forth through a paper chartbook than it is to scroll up and down the electronic screen.

The more tools the better
When I am repairing something on board it often saves time and money in the long run to go out and purchase the right tool for the job. The same applies with paper charts and digital charts. Have both available and use the best tool for the job at hand.

This article was originally published by Ocean Navigator. Check them out for lots more great stuff like this!

Getting Attached: Choosing Your Anchor

Have you ever found the perfect waterfront boaters’ bar? I’m still searching, but I know what it looks and smells like. It’s right on the waterfront — you can dinghy right up to it, hop ashore and stumble back to the dink at the end of the evening. The clincher: when you’re in the mood for mischief, you can bring up a story about your favorite anchor and before you know it there will be a near riot!

Strong men and women have fled from many a boating forum in tears after near-death experiences in anchor threads. Why is this? Like one’s religion, or lack thereof, it is part nurture, part experimentation, part preaching, part experience and part blind faith. Most boaters move back and forth through these stages in their voyaging careers, but many settle in one category or another and will defend their positions vehemently, just like their religions.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? The “nurture” folks are the ones who learned to use anchor X and will never even look at another. They probably have their favorite anchor tattooed on their biceps. The experimenters are the ones who are never quite sure they’ve found their true love. The preachers are the ones who have experimented and now KNOW IT ALL! The experienced ones are likely to carry an array of steel and aluminum that makes their decks look like the beaches of Normandy covered with tank traps. The blind-faithers often have a single enormous anchor perched on the bow shackled to oversized chain and backed up with a windlass that could lift the entire boat.

I fall into the “experimenter” class. I like to try different anchors to see what they offer, but I can never get to the point where I have blind faith in one or another. 
Multiple primary anchors: many voyagers carry more than one type of anchor as on this boat, which has a Rocna anchor and a Bruce anchor on its bow.
John Kettlewell
Needless to say, we experimenters believe we have the true wisdom. We believe there is no single best anchor. There are anchors that are great all-around, but there are also anchors that are better in specific situations. Most recent anchor developments have tried to combine the best characteristics of older anchor types, while eliminating weaknesses in order to create anchors that will hold better in most situations. What does that mean?

Hooking-burying anchors
There were two broad categories of anchors identified by Earl Hinz in his classic work: The Complete Book of Anchoring and Mooring: hooking anchors and burying anchors. Hooking anchors were ones like the traditional fisherman anchor that had two sharpish points that could penetrate through hard sand, wedge within a rocky bottom or slice down through thick weeds to the bottom. Burying anchors, like the Danforth pattern or the original CQR hinged plow anchor, were designed for mud or sand bottoms where the anchor could dive down deep until it was often completely beneath the surface.

The hookers rely on snagging something immovable to provide holding power, while the burying anchors try to dive deeper and deeper until they are held in place by the mass of the bottom substrate. Both concepts are valuable in anchoring. I recall trying to retrieve two Fortress anchors from the bottom after Hurricane Bob. As measured by the thick, caked mud on the chain, both anchors had been buried more than six feet into the bottom and took many hours to retrieve. On the other hand, anchoring along the Caribbean coast of Mexico is often more like fishing — you try to snag some tiny protuberance or indentation on the bottom with the sharpest anchor you’ve got. The bottom was often impenetrable sand that had the holding power of an airport runway.

The so-called “new-generation” anchors that are justifiably popular have combined these two basic characteristics to gain the advantages of each. Many new-gen anchors have broad, scoop-shaped holding surfaces to provide tremendous holding power when deeply buried, but the scoop tapers to a very hard and sharp point that provides that initial penetration into the bottom to start the process, and can also grapple for purchase on bottoms that are impenetrable.

You’ll also see hoops on many newer anchors. The hoops are designed to rotate the anchor when it hits a hardish bottom in order to get that sharp point to penetrate and start the entry point into the bottom for the rest of the anchor to follow. Other anchor designs achieve this effect with weight distribution and anchor shape. The hoops do work at their assigned task and can provide a great grip when manhandling the anchor around on deck. However, a hoop is not a magic elixir providing special powers; the holding power of the anchor is provided by other components.

A stainless steel Ultra anchor, which has a hollow shank to help orient the anchor to dig in.
Courtesy Quickline
Traditional burying anchors
You will hear many disparaging comments about older anchors in our favorite waterfront bar but keep in mind that, despite what you hear, people like Eric Hiscock and Hal Roth managed to blunder around the world several times relying mostly on what I call the Big Two of anchors: the genuine CQR hinged plow-type anchor, and the genuine Danforth anchor. I know from personal experience with both that, when properly used, they will bury deep into mud bottoms and provide exceptional holding power. My boats have ridden out several hurricanes riding on a combination of Danforth-type anchors and CQRs.

I prefer to use the term “CQR” rather than “plow anchor” because the genuine CQR was the originator of the type. There are many hinged plow knock-offs, but many are poorly constructed, have the wrong dimensions or otherwise don’t work as well as the originals.

Some voyagers malign this great design because in certain bottoms it is hard to get the anchor to penetrate properly, and then it never develops full holding power. However, like all anchor types, some techniques can be used to get the most from the design. For example, it is often best to let the anchor settle for a prolonged period before backing down hard, particularly if the bottom is either very soft or very hard. This lets the anchor slowly penetrate softer bottoms in order to reach better holding material, and/or it lets the point of the anchor gradually work its way into the substrate.

A later development of the plow type was the Delta design, utilizing a fixed (no hinge) and much thinner shank, and a much broader fluke area. The shank has a lot of arch in order to flip the anchor upright on the bottom to encourage the sharper point to start digging in. You’ll notice that many newer designs have copied this arched shank. An advantage of this anchor pattern is its much lower cost, compared to the genuine CQR, so you will see a lot of these and their knock-offs coming as standard equipment on all sizes of yachts, often in sparkling stainless steel. By all accounts, the Delta type is an improvement over the original CQR in all aspects except for brute strength — and apparently the design is easy to copy, as many seem happy with variations on the theme created by numerous companies. For example, Australian company Anchor Right makes the SARCA Excel that looks similar and has garnered some good press.

Danforth anchors were famously used to help pull landing craft off the beaches in WWII, and they inspired the modern Fortress aluminum anchor design. Both types still provide the highest numbers in terms of holding power per pound of weight when well buried. The original Danforth is one of the most scientifically designed and tested anchors of all time. Anchor aficionados should locate and purchase old copies of Danforth documentation and brochures, like “Anchors and Anchoring.” These publications are full of interesting and useful testing and anchor-use information. As is often the case, beware of cheap imitations that manage to both corrupt many aspects of the design and use lousy materials. I have owned some crummy versions that were nearly useless in all but the lightest breezes.

The Bruce anchor became the hot topic in many a waterfront bar in the ’70s. The company originally produced (and still does) enormous anchors used to anchor offshore oil rigs, so it seemed to make sense that the thing could secure puny pleasure boats. The Bruce was strong, had decent fluke area and tended to be forgiving in use, according to its proponents. However, even its strongest supporters said that one had to go up a size or two to get sufficient holding power, and world voyagers sometimes carried anchors twice the normal size. Apparently there is some scale effect with Bruce anchors that requires a fair bit of weight before you gain all the advantages. 
A Mantus anchor has a hoop designed to ensure proper anchor orientation, and a heavy tip to aid in digging in.
The genuine original Bruce is no longer made, but there are many knock-offs available, often called “claw” anchors. Watch out for some of these — I have seen several bent and broken claw-type anchors. Some are made of cast steel and tend to shatter when strained. The main advantage of this design seems to be easy setting, reliable holding in moderate winds and has an ability to hook into rocky and weedy bottoms.

Fortress aluminum anchors represent further development of the tried-and-true Danforth anchor pattern. The Fortress improves on the original design by providing sharper blades (watch your shins when carrying one of these!) that provide that hooking and slicing action, which is frequently needed to initiate the critical burying stage. That’s the new-generation advantage I mentioned above: burying plus hooking to get the best of both worlds.

The Fortress design is unique in that it includes the ability to switch between a standard fluke angle of 32 degrees for use in clay, mud or sand, and a 45-degree angle for use in very soft mud. Recent rigorous tests in Chesapeake Bay proved the advantages of the steeper angle in soft bottoms (see “A True Number Two Anchor,” issue #223). In terms of maximum holding power in a straight-line pull in mud or sand (the majority of anchoring situations) the Fortress design is always near or at the top of the heap due to its large fluke area and precision angles.

Here’s the scoop
When you hear the term “new-generation anchor,” someone is probably referring to one of many designs that incorporate several principles: a very sharp point; a broad, scoop-shaped fluke area roughly in the shape of a backwards plow; a thinnish shank, and no pivoting or hinged parts. Many add a big hoop on the back (Rocna, Manson Supreme, Mantus, etc.) that is designed to roll the anchor into the digging position when it lands on the bottom, while others utilize the very arched shank and extreme toe weight along with a sharp point to start the penetrating action (the Spade, West Marine Scoop, Ultra Anchor, Manson Boss, Rocna Vulcan, etc.). The Ultra has a sort of mini roll bar, called a non-foul chain bar, which I suspect aids in rolling the anchor upright and also provides a handle when you are struggling to move the anchor off or onto the roller.

Most report great results with these newer anchors, and they do seem to be easier to use. The sharp points, roll bars, weight distribution and shank designs promote the anchors rolling upright and penetrating the bottom quickly, and then the large scoops provide plenty of holding power. I’ve used a Mantus anchor and it has all of these characteristics, plus an additional unique one: It can be dismantled. That sounds trivial, but in practice it means that a spare anchor, or possibly an enormous storm anchor, can be disassembled and stored down below. It also makes shipping and mounting on the boat easier as the parts are lighter to carry.
Some have reported that the scoop-shaped anchors tend to clog up with balls of thick weed or mud at times, and I have observed this when anchored in places like Cuttyhunk Pond. The scoops can bring up a lot of mud and grass. Others wonder if the thick roll bars limit anchor penetration in certain bottoms. That may be the case, though if these anchors are buried as far as the roll bar, you will already have tremendous holding power. The scoop types tend to have much more surface area than older anchors and buried surface area is what provides ultimate holding power. One possible challenge with roll bars is that they won’t work with some bow roller arrangements.

Odd man out
We experimenters are always interested in trying something new, and anchor inventors don’t disappoint. There are many specialized designs that don’t fit neatly into a particular category. The Super SARCA from Australia is a sort-of plow, yet not a scoop, but with a much shallower blade angle, a big roll bar on the back, a thin shank and all sorts of nifty special features. Rocna, one of the early and popular roll-bar anchors, is now joined by the Vulcan, which appears to be a further development of the spade-type anchor. The main impetus seems to be a search for an anchor without the hoop on the back. The Hans Stealth anchor has a unique double-sided design so it can’t fall on the bottom “upside down,” and its shape is reminiscent of a stealth fighter-bomber. The Super Max anchor seems to have one of the largest scoops around, which would indicate good holding in deep mud. It also features an adjustable shank for different conditions. The Knox anchor is another scoop with a hoop with a difference anchor. The designer has done a lot of interesting anchor testing and his website is worth a read.

And then there are the real traditionalists who want an anchor that looks like an anchor. The three-piece Luke Storm Anchor has the traditional Herreshoff fisherman anchor shape that makes for a great tattoo, and it can be dismantled for storage. Its hooking action can be excellent in rocks and thick weed.

Choices, choices
With all of these different anchors on the market, how does one decide what is best? The first place to start is to see what might fit on your bow roller. Many boats can’t accommodate a hoop design, for example, as it blocks the full retrieval of the anchor. In general, I would recommend looking at the new generation anchors as your first choice for your main hook. The best features of the past have been combined with some great new ideas to provide anchors that are easier to use, can provide greater holding power, and tend to be forgiving. However, if your budget is tight and you’ve inherited an arsenal of CQRs, Danforths and Bruces, they can take you around the world just like they have for many voyagers before you. 
A Spade Anchor snugged up tight on a bow roller. 
Most cruisers have a main bow anchor they use 90 percent of the time by itself. Therefore it must be a type that can deal with dramatic wind shifts without dislodging. Most of the mainstream new generation anchors fit this bill well. However, it is also important to have some secondary anchors for various purposes. For example, when aground you’ll need an anchor that you can take out in the dinghy, which then will provide enormous holding power as you winch the boat off. A Fortress or Danforth anchor is ideal for that purpose and can make a good second anchor when utilizing a two-anchor set. It is also important to have a backup anchor in case you lose the main one, and to use as needed when caught in the ultimate storm. Some like to carry a huge storm anchor dismantled down below.

Anchor size
In most cases, the old rule of thumb still holds true when choosing the main anchor size for a cruising boat. Go for one pound of weight per foot of overall boat length, and then choose the next size up. For example, I choose 45-pound anchors for my 38-foot motorsailor. The manufacturers all publish detailed selection charts, but you will find that most end up providing advice very close to this simple rule for world cruisers. You’ll also notice that most published voyaging accounts dispense similar advice. I would be very wary of any anchor company that provided recommendations at odds with this rule. Aluminum anchors are obviously the exception since, once buried, they provide greater holding power than their weight would indicate. However, sheer weight does matter when penetrating thick weed or dense clay or mud, so for two anchors of similar size and shape the heavier one will usually provide better service. That doesn’t mean that aluminum doesn’t have its place, but some feel it is not ideal for the main anchor.

How about stainless steel? It looks good, mud slides off it easier and it makes your wallet lighter. Otherwise there is probably no advantage, and some stainless anchors are significantly weaker structurally than their galvanized steel mates. Anchors like the Ultra are designed from the get-go to be made in stainless and should have plenty of strength.

Some of us need to anchor in places with rocky bottoms, thick kelp or chunks of old coral. Near Tulum in Mexico, I had to anchor where the bottom was so hard nothing could penetrate, and we relied on hooking action and sheer weight to hold us off the beach. A big fisherman anchor like the Luke would have been great to have in that situation. I know some people carry large grappling hooks for places in the Pacific Northwest where you row it ashore and then wrap your anchor line around some trees while another anchor holds you off the rocks. I have anchored in tight spots in the Bahamas where I walked the anchor over a sandbar in order to place it precisely to keep my boat in a narrow strip of deep water.

The bottom line is to choose one or more that are well tested and well built. Stick to a name brand to avoid poor design and construction. Just because an anchor looks like the one on your neighbor’s world-voyager doesn’t mean it will perform the same. And, as always, it is not what you got, but how you use it.

Anti-anchoring Bill is Anti-safety

Once again Florida boaters and cruisers from all over are fighting an ill-conceived anti-anchoring bill (SB 1548) that purports to be about “safety,” but in reality would limit the number of safe harbors to a handful in much of the state. The main thrust of the bill prohibits overnight anchoring within 200 feet of most developed parts of Florida. As has been discussed here and in many places online (see the Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net), this measure would essentially outlaw all overnight anchoring in many popular places such as Manatee Pocket, anywhere in Ft. Lauderdale, most of Miami, Marathon, and most of North Lake Worth.

All of these locations, and many more, are where cruisers routinely anchor safely while waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas, or just to ride out a stretch of bad weather. I have done so in all of these places. During the peak winter season it is highly likely that there would be no marina berths available in these same locations, mooring fields would be full, and there would be no alternative but to keep moving night and day despite the weather. Even with the current availability of anchorages it is very difficult to find a marina berth or a mooring in high season.

Sure, there are safety exceptions in the proposed law, for “mechanical breakdown or when imminent or existing extreme weather conditions impose an unreasonable risk of harm.” Who is to judge whether or not the weather is “extreme,” and whether or not it poses an “unreasonable risk of harm?” Am I supposed to move on in a gale because it isn’t “extreme?”

Even in good weather what would an ordinary cruiser do? It is impractical and dangerous to run the ICW 24/7, and sometimes even if the weather isn’t “extreme” it is very difficult and uncomfortable to proceed outside down the coast while fighting the Gulf Stream. In short, this bill makes safe and comfortable cruising all but impossible in south Florida, and makes it very difficult in the entire state.

Cruising boaters are above all else safety conscious. We spend thousands of dollars on safety equipment far in excess of any Coast Guard or other regulations. We do so to protect our lives and property, often valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

At the same time, we enjoy visiting new places where we can anchor safely, go ashore, enjoy restaurants and shopping, re-provision our vessels, and purchase marine equipment. On various trips to Florida I have spent many thousands of dollars specifically on safety equipment: liferafts, epirbs, radios, safety harnesses, anchoring gear, satellite phones, etc. etc. Most cruisers will not go where they would be forced to operate their boats in an unsafe manner, which is what this law would do.

To anyone who has cruised Florida it is obvious that this bill would “impose an unreasonable risk of harm” to boaters on a regular basis. This is more than an anti-anchoring bill–it is anti-safety and anti-boating.

This guest editorial was first published on the Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net.

A True Number Two Anchor

Want to start an instant argument in a waterfront bar? Just bring up anchors and anchoring and you’ll regret changing the topic from politics. Nothing brings out more heated opinions than the best choice of anchor and how to use it. And don’t try changing the subject by asking how to rig a second anchor, or you might be thrown out of that bar by the bouncer.

Being a safe distance from that bar and that cruising crowd at the moment, I get to now write a few carefully chosen words on the subject of how to choose, rig, and use that second anchor.

1 + 1 does not equal 2 
First, the Number 2 anchor isn’t a Number 1. You can still find many books that tout the idea of rigging your cruising boat with dual bow rollers on which you stow a secondary anchor right next to the primary. You’ll also see a lot of these dueling primaries out on the water. The idea with this arrangement is that in case you start to drag, you’ve got a second anchor ready to go in an instant — just as big and strong as the primary — or, if expecting a big storm, you can set that second anchor in a V off the bow, as extra insurance.

There are a few things wrong with this idea. First, your primary anchor should be a big, heavy one that can handle almost anything, up to and including full gales or worse at anchor. It will usually be backed up with a lot of heavy chain that is cranked in with a large windlass. That can be a lot of weight up on the bow. Take a typical 45-pound anchor, with 200 feet of 5/15-inch chain (at least 200 pounds), maybe another 100-200 feet of nylon on the end of that, a windlass, assorted anchor rollers, cleats, shackles and whatnot, and there will very likely be over 300 pounds right out on the nose of your boat.  
This boat has dragged onto a reef in the San Blas Islands.
A lot of people believe that a secondary anchor needs to be as big and strong as the primary with plenty of chain, so then double the weight (almost) and don’t be surprised if you feel like a submarine in an old WWII movie — “Dive, dive, dive!” — the next time you find yourself in a big head sea offshore, or running off down some big waves. I have never been in a gale offshore where I wished I had more weight in the anchor locker.

Alright, you think your boat can handle the weight, and you need that anchor there for “safety.” Yes, there are scenarios where anchor No. 1 is dragging, and dropping a second No. 1 anchor quickly can be a good idea, but it is often a mistake to drop the same or a similar type of anchor and expect much better results. What happens then if that second anchor and chain doesn’t hold? Can you lead the second primary anchor’s chain cleanly to the windlass? How do you crank them both in while motoring up into a gale? Do you have two people to work that mess up on the pitching foredeck? This exercise will of course be garnished with an icy rain pouring down the back of your neck in pitch-blackness at 0200.

In my experience, if No. 1 is dragging, you are very likely going to have to move anyway to get your boat back into a safe position. I have already chosen my No. 1 so that it won’t drag, so if it is moving then something is wrong — the anchor is fouled, the bottom is unusually weedy or hard, or possibly it wasn’t set well to begin with. Now if you drop that second primary anchor and chain, it might stop your boat, but you will be well downwind and your second anchor possibly will be in the same poor holding conditions.

Where 2 > 1 
This is where my preferred No. 2 anchor setup comes in. I want an anchor that is not rigged in such a way that it has to live on a bow roller right next to the main anchor. In addition to the weight issue, bows are narrow. Putting two anchors side by side means the anchors can only be so wide. Modern, so-called “new generation” anchors are very wide with hoops and big scoop-shaped flukes. Stowing two of those things next to each other is a puzzle that doesn’t need to be solved. 
Limiting your swinging room can be done using two anchors.
My preferred secondary anchor is one with lots of holding, yet is light in weight and backed up by mostly nylon line so I can stow it all in a sail bag for easy movement anywhere on the boat or into the dinghy. Yes, sometimes the anchor needs to back up the dragging No. 1, but instead of dropping the anchor where the boat has dragged to, I take it out well to windward in the dinghy and at a V to the angle of the other anchor. Because the nylon is in a bag, I can dump the whole lot in the dink and run it out in an instant at high speed instead of waiting while the boat slowly drags backwards far enough to give me adequate scope for holding, but not so far that I’m aground.

If a blow is expected, I will have everything ready to go, possibly on the side deck up forward so I can just bring the dinghy alongside and put the anchor and line in, or have someone pay out the line from the foredeck. The line can be lead easily to the windlass or even back to the cockpit winches, which are more powerful than any windlass. I once dragged a 22,000-pound wooden double-ender through the mud, well heeled over, using the three-speed self-tailing cockpit winch. Plus, cockpit winches can handle lines from strange angles that would be hopeless with a bow-mounted windlass dealing with chain. A few snatch blocks can often solve almost any strange rope anchor lead problems. When it is time to bring in your two anchors, it is much easier to handle one on line and one on chain than it is to struggle with two on chain at the same time.

Complete with 200 feet of 5/8-inch nylon and about six to eight feet of chain in a sail bag, I can easily carry my secondary anchor and the entire rode around the boat to where I can best use it.
A second anchor on nylon rode lead to the bow is easier to handle than two primaries on chain.
Aluminum Fortress FX-23 anchors, for example, are light enough that I have swum them out using flippers, a mask and snorkel many times while in warmer waters. It may sound like a stunt, but when in very clear water in places like the Bahamas or the San Blas Islands off Panama, swimming the anchor out can be an ideal way to place it in just the right spot, particularly when the holding ground is iffy or there is coral around you want to avoid. With heavier anchors like the FX-37, you can float them using a boat fender, though I wouldn’t recommend it with anything larger.

Options, options 
Getting your second anchor out of its rut on a bow roller provides you with many other options. For example, when anchored in very shallow water, I sometimes drop the anchor off the stern of the boat and then lead the line back to the bow, creating an instant Bahamian moor. With the anchors in opposite directions, your swinging circle is greatly reduced, which is an advantage in a crowded harbor or when you have to avoid obstacles. There were places in the San Blas Islands where very tight anchoring areas were surrounded by coral. If you dropped your main hook in the middle there was insufficient room to put out adequate scope or you would have your rudder on the rocks. A typical anchoring technique would be to drop the bow anchor closer to the reef, then to take the secondary anchor out in the dinghy to the other side of the clear area. Both anchor rodes would lead to the bow and you would adjust your position so the boat was in between the hazards even if the wind switched 180 degrees.

In other places I have occasionally taken the Fortress out into the shallows and set the anchor by hand (and foot). This was necessitated by lack of swinging room to windward of the main anchor. I’ve also used this technique to make sure the Fortress was perfectly dug in when expecting a big blow, and occasionally to be able to set it on a very long rode well away from other boat traffic.

The tangled web we weave
The big objection I always get when making this argument is that “the anchors will tangle.” Yes, if you leave the boat for days or weeks on two anchors it is possible to have the anchor rodes wind up into a difficult mess. However, putting the rode in a sailbag means that periodically I can simply pass the bag full of line around the main anchor chain and untwist the two — typically once or twice a day, and you’re done. I find this a small price to pay for the flexibility of having the second anchor rode in a bag, ready to move where and when I need it. The bottom line for me is that in the worst-case scenario, I would prefer a couple of tangled anchor rodes to a boat on the rocks.  
A heavy primary like this can be used with a lighter secondary.
Another option I have occasionally used is creating a temporary mooring by lashing the two anchor rodes together. This can work if you are expecting a major wind shift or two with very strong winds, which would make it difficult to re-adjust everything during the storm. Take multiple wraps around the two rodes, leading from the bow, and then let out enough extra scope so the joint is below the waterline. That will help keep the two rodes away from catching on your keel or the rudder when the wind switches around. A third anchor can be added to the mix, creating a star pattern that is far more capable than most permanent moorings. I have used this technique to anchor in hurricanes, tropical storms and when leaving a boat at anchor for long periods.

Greater than the sum of the parts
Using an optimized primary anchor system with an optimized secondary anchor system provides more anchoring options and greater security than the typical dueling primaries seen on the bows of many boats. You’ll be carrying a lot less weight way out on the bow, and you gain the ability to quickly launch the anchor via dinghy, which is often the best way to get an anchor in the precise position where you need it, instead of the position your boat has dragged to. I haven’t even mentioned the ability to use the second anchor to pull your boat out backwards when you go aground, which I have done more times than I care to remember. As always, choosing the right tool for the job means a better result.

Anchor Test in the Chesapeake

In August 2014, Fortress Anchors conducted scientific anchor testing in the Chesapeake, utilizing the 81-foot research vessel Rachel Carson owned by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Testing was observed by Chuck Hawley, the former Vice President of Product Testing at West Marine, and Robert Taylor, a U.S. Navy anchor design and soil mechanics expert for over 45 years, consulted on the project. The bottom condition was soft mud, which is common in the Chesapeake Bay.

I have long argued that a lot of anchor testing is done in unusual bottom conditions that create odd results, whereas mud is the predominant bottom found in most harbors all around the world. Yes, there are extremely rocky bottoms in Chile, and some people never anchor outside of the sandy Bahamas or the coral-strewn waters of the South Pacific, but still the majority of harbors found up and down the coasts of North America and Europe are mud, which goes for most of the rest of the world, too.

Read the rest of this article at Ocean Navigator.