There are some nights, me Boys and Girls, where well set anchors are the best of friends!
Most cruising advice is to carry three anchors; the bower (usually hanging ready at the bow), the kedge (lighter, and ready to deploy form the stern) and storm anchor (often stowed deep and in pieces, it's called upon only in the worst conditions). Many cruisers will double the bower.
This is a pretty good set (especially with the second bower) and covers most cruising for boats that don't dry out. For those that do, however, the more the merrier! But alas, small boats suffer limitations.
Over the years, we've slowly worked out a system of six anchors. These have been chosen for flexibility and synergies among them. Here's the list:
- Bowers - 2 x Manson @ 25lb (spade) on 10ftm of 3/16in chain and 300ft of 1/2" nylon rode, each.
- Kedges - 2 x Northill @ 15lb (fluke) on 10ftm of 3/16in chain and 150ft of 3/8in nylon rode, each.
- Claws - 1 x Lewmar Claw @ 22lb on 30ft of 3/16in chain, no rode, and 1 x Lewmar Claw @ 11lb, same rode set up.
Standby line is used for shore tie, to extend primary rode for deep water or warping, dory line, hauling or hoisting with our 'endless' rope come-along, and any number of oddball projects that come up from time to time.
Anchor ratings are a voodoo science. They are usually given by length-of-vessel... by itself that tells you nothing about a vessel's weight, windage, and most importantly, motion in waves.
Ours are claimed to be adequate for boats considerably larger than ourselves, and this is in fact what we see in the general fleet. I am always amazed to see some multi-millon dollar yacht with a hillside's worth of windage sporting a single, dinky anchor at the bow. Hope their insurance plan delivers to Bleak Reef!
The Mansons are the largest we can comfortably pull. Several features commanded love at first sight. Their roll-bar will rotate the tip downward to engage the bottom. Normally, this is accomplished less reliably by a heavily weighted tip... weight saved goes into a broader spade; more area = more holding power on given weight. Since the weight is out of the tip, it can be sharp and slim for cutting down through moderate weed. Lloyds of London granted them their first, ultra-high holding rating.
You might have noticed the slot along the shank. In iffy bottom (where it could get stuck in rock, say), one can shackle to the slot and stand a chance of pulling it from the crown end, in case of fouling. But these are spendy suckers! We send one of the cheaper styles down if we have any doubts.
We have the pair hanging in rollers at the bow, ready to drop at a moment's notice. If we walk them out over a beach, the roll-bars make convenient grips, and balance fairly well out from our legs.
Northills are one of the early lightweight anchors designed for aircraft, and are favored by many of the local fishermen. They stow flat with cross-bar folded flat along the shank. They bite easier and in firm bottom, hold better than any other fluke anchor, for their size. They're not being made any more, but can often be found at auction (try online), or welded up (be sure to replicate angles, exactly).
Being lighter, they can be rowed out and handled with greater ease. Pretty good in weed. If we can't avoid the weed, we might put down one or both to back up the bowers. Most often we use them on broad, open beaches- they and the bowers splayed out from the quarters - where we need to fix the boat's position (over a sand-patch among rocks, say).
They do leave a fluke up. If anchoring with them, it's always against another holdfast to limit our swing from overrunning the exposed fluke... a half-hitch around that and off you go!
The Claws are broad lobed knock-offs of anchors designed for oil-rig platforms. They're not as easy to set as the others, having blunt entrances, but once in, their geometry holds well. They are reported to out-perform other types on short scope (a plus in offshore anchoring), and this seems to hold up in many's the tight anchorage.
The heavier one is often brought forward as a second bower... in light winds, the boat can turn many times a night, twisting two rodes... the claw, being set on a spool, can easily be set straight by passing the spool with any line still aboard round the fixed, bower rode.
The main use for these two, however, is to anchor in-line with the bowers in storm conditions; claws inboard and the Mansons at the end (best setting/holding anchor outboard). The effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Very strong pulls on the rode straighten the sag in the line. If the line is straight, the inboard anchor shank can lift to match the scope, and possibly pull free. In this case, however, it still acts as a catenary (resisting straightening of the rode), and thereby backing up the outboard anchor by its very presence.
If we know storm conditions are coming, and we're committed to an open anchorage, we'll set up both bowers this way, angled about 60deg to one another.
If it's to be a real bad one, we'll wing the Northills wide along the line formed by the other two (perpendicular to the expected wind), and leave their lines a bit slack. When it all comes down, we can adjust tension among the lines to spread the load.
Better to be snugged into a tight lee, however, and better yet high and dry!