Anchor down.

My recent problem in Chichester harbour when my anchor got completely buried and i needed assistance to get clear caused me to have a re-think about anchors and anchoring.      For the genuine sailor of course anchoring is one of those subjects that is always interesting….unless of course you are a marina-only cruiser.  I didn’t believe until recently what i had heard about some modern cruiser-racers that they were designed and built with no anchoring gear but it does seem to be the case. The opposite is that with each of my last 3 boats i have improved the anchoring ‘power’ and improved the deck gear.  In this series of posts i am going to review my own experiences with and knowledge of anchors, anchoring and try to work out some method that i might use to free a totally ‘hard-in’ hook.  Ironically most of the things i worry about with anchors are them not holding and having the boat drag onto something nasty, before now i had never had to think about what to do when i can’t de-anchor.

First though, as is my want, a little story.   I hope you might notice in the title photograph that the converted fishing boat/motor sailer is quite properly rigged with a black ball in the fore part of the rigging.               Soon after i took this picture his anchor lantern, also hanging with the black ball came on and it was a good reminder to go rig my anchor lantern for the night.  A few years back i had a slight problem with my cat-ketch rigged Liberty when i tried to rig a ball and lantern ahead of the main-mast and it didn’t work because there is hardly any space ahead of the mast.  I asked an expert…marine science lecturer…and he said that the ‘fore-part’ of the rigging could be considered as any part of the rigging of the main mast on my rig so i made up a simple system which allowed me to either hang my anchor ball or a lantern off the lazy-jacks.   The actual story today though isn’t about that minor detail but rather concerns the time when i went to buy the anchor ball.     WABI”’ didn’t come with one and in fact i’m pretty sure from looking at the anchoring gear that the boat was never anchored by it’s previous owner.  Although there was a miniscule anchor set up on a little bit of chain and some very stiff 3 strand it just didn’t look as though it had ever been used.  Bizarrely the previous owner had also left his intended new anchor warp in the locker and that was about 30 metres of kevlar !, i have had to anchor on many things but never considered kevlar as a viable anchor warp.

The story though….so there i am in the sensible yacht chandler in town buying a few essential bits and pieces, one of which was a folding anchor ball.  I take my stuff to the counter where a motor-boater has been having a long and circuitous conversation about spark plugs and pay the bill.   As the assistant is packing my stuff into a bag Mr mobo-owner points at the black-ball and asks “what that thing is for”. Now not everyone knows everything for sure and there are lots of weird bits related to engines which are nothing short of black magic to me but anchor balls are surely generic.  When he said that he’d had boats for nigh-on 30 years and had never known what the anchor ball was for, clearly never owned one or hoisted one it did make we wonder about mobo-owners !

Don’t panic folks i’m not about to start featuring Westerly’s on my site, its just that he was obviously anchored when i brought-up behind Hurst fort and never saw an anchor ball or anchor lantern during the time i was there.


For today’s first anchor post i thought i would talk about my first anchor set-up aboard Inanda once i had finished the clean out and re-stow.  I can tell that i have my anchor ball up because it’s downhaul is the light line going up just behind the forestay.

078 copy

When i bought Inanda she had a CQR anchor of about 25lbs shackled onto 25 metres of 8mm chain and that spliced into about 20 metres of 8-plait nylon.  That wasn’t a bad start although the CQR is a very old-fashioned anchor now and hasn’t made it home with me, i did get it ashore but haven’t seen it since….it’s probably still at the Orwell yacht club. Straight away, when i cleaned the boat out and brought gear ashore i unshackled the old anchor and got it off the boat. I did have a look at the markings on the chain but none of it made sense, at least not in metric terms, and i didn’t have time to mark the rode properly so i did my first night’s anchoring on guesswork.  It was then the case that the first time i had a chance to mark the rode i was actually anchored and so had to leave the job until i could get all the warp out on the pontoon at Newhaven.  I then had a very satisfying afternoon sewing tape markers onto the chain at 5 metre increments and as i had time added a couple onto the warp.   My preferred method is exactly that for small and shallow-draught boats.  With my Frances 26 which i tended to anchor in a bit more depth i made my first mark not at 5 metres but 10 metres and as i only had 15 metres of chain my second mark was the splice….after that the warp was marked off in 10 metre increments but i did keep a card taped inside the hatch of what the marks meant.  That was useful the one time i anchored after a long solo passage and my head was a bit fuzzy and wouldn’t remind me how many marks i needed off the bow.


So, the primary anchor for Inanda is the 7kg Manson i bought for the Liberty but which is clearly a bit over-spec for that boat but seems to be just right for Inanda at 23 feet and 3 and a half tons.  My experience with the Manson aboard the Liberty is that it always dug-in quickly and positively and never caused a dragging problem. The little Liberty by the way has the slightly smaller and lighter Rocna 6kg which also seems about right for it.  Both anchors are pretty much up there with the best of the modern shapes and all i can say so far is that both have served me well (and i anchor a lot).  I have asked around on bigger boats and both types seem to have a good consistent reputation, what puts some people off is the price as ‘Marilyn’ came home at around £160 compared say to a generic ‘D’ (delta) 8kg at around £40.   My anchor chain is still the 25 metres of 8mm chain that came to the boat but high on the budget is 15 metres (2 x boatlength) of very high quality 7mm chain.  The difference in weight will be significant and i am more than happy with the specifications of the 7mm chain.  Also of note with Inanda is that i have moved the chain from an untidy pile right in the bow to a bucket lashed to the mast so the weight of the current rode (approximately 35 kg just for the chain) is now very close to the boat’s centre of pitch and nice and low down.


What i don’t have aboard Inanda is any form of assistance gear to handle the anchor so its all a lot of heave-ho.  I think i could really do with a snubbing plate to at least take the load when i am heaving her up to the anchor.  At the moment the chain drops through a hawse -pipe right up on the bow, that might get moved to just above where the rode is going to live or get ignored completely if i use a deck-bag stow as i did with both the Liberty and my Frances 26.  One thing i loved about my Frances is the short section of sunken foredeck which was a superb anchor handling and stowing position. My anchor stowing position at sea aboard Inanda is at the port shrouds with the pointy-bit going aft. What that needs soon is some nicely made chocks and proper lashings.  Referring back to my Frances 26 what i did was to re-shape some alloy fairleads as deck chocks  and use some eyebolts through the fastening holes as lashing points.


In the second post in this series i will start to review some of the anchor types i have used in the past or have direct experience of starting with the Bruce (claw) type and the Delta (D type).

1 Comment

  1. Good idea the note with the markings on it as I can never remember them, obviously not using the boat enough !
    What was the problem with the motor when it woulden’t start ?


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