Anchors and anchoring revisited 2022.
I often find that i answer questions on sailing related social media sites and that my best way of answering a question or commenting on a post is to add a link to one of my past blog posts ; that seems to happen most with posts about anchors and anchoring. My posts about anchors and anchoring techniques are spread out across many posts which is why i’m trying to bring them together under their own blog category this year – i’m also revisiting anchors and anchoring problems for two reasons : that iv’e just bought a new (secondhand) anchor for my build project, and secondly in light of the RNLI cause of launch statistics that i commented on last year.
Dealing with the second point first to get it out of the way for now anchoring failures or ‘vessel dragging it’s anchor’ only account for a very low frequency of RNLI lifeboat launches ; in one year that i looked at only 49 launches for this problem, 0.6% of launches, compared with 1500 launches for machinery failure. So vessels dragging their anchor do happen but not very often and i suspect that many more minor anchoring failures are recognized by the vessel’s crew and that they simply reset their anchor.
Anchors , old and new.
So, iv’e recently bought a new although secondhand anchor that i intend to use as my primary or best bower anchor for my Pathfinder cruising dinghy build project and i bought it during my current stage of construction because i wanted to include it’s stowage as part of the build early on. Buying the new one means that i have both anchors that i intend to use with the Pathfinder because i kept my 6 Kg Rocna (Rocky) back from the sale of my last boat and that will be my second anchor and potentially my ‘storm’ anchor as well – lore likely though it will just get used in a two anchor technique that i use for beaching the boat just as i often did with the Liberty.
The new anchor , as seen below, is an Admiralty pattern anchor of 10.6 Kg (23 Lbs) which will surprise a lot of people because they are very old fashioned even compared to the ‘older’ style anchors of today like for instance the CQR and Bruce types…..now often thought of as the Plough and Claw types, the third being the Delta type o modern fixed plough form. My second anchor, the Rocna , is a more modern anchor and was one of 2 similar anchors i had aboard the 22 foot and 1.5 ton Liberty, my usual bower anchor on that boat being a slightly heavier Manson type.
Anchor 1. 10 Kg Admiralty pattern.
Anchor 2, 6kg Rocna.
The lighter Rocna anchor is almost certainly a better anchor with higher ultimate holding power in nearly all situations compared with the heavier and clunky Admiralty pattern so it might seem a strange choice but my experience with the Admiralty type, but not the Fisherman, is that they are still very effective anchors, better than many other anchors in difficult bottom types and that they set quickly and hold at surprisingly low rode to depth ratio’s. I once found in the past when i was experimenting with a Lewmar Delta type of full weight for that boat – Frances 26 and a 10 Kg Delta on a soft silt/mud bottom that the anchor pulled through the soft muddy silt for a while before it would settle and yet the old Admiralty pattern anchor that i had on board ‘bit’ straight away. On the same day in the same anchorage the yacht that anchored ahead of me on a Bruce (Claw) slowly dragged back towards me and i had to move even after i’d pulled up to my anchor and was down to about a 2 : 1 scope. The other interesting part of that little incident for me was that my Admiralty pattern anchor only had a Nylon warp and no chain.
Boat related incidents and primary boat safety.
This post follows on directly from my recent series about incidents, accidents and failures to boats and their crews at sea and where i used a combination of personal experience, anecdotes and actual evidence – the evidence being taken mainly from the RNLI operational reports. As i mentioned above the largest number and greatest percentage of RNLI launches to assist pleasure craft is to deal with machinery failure and most launches are in calm-light-moderate weather so it’s a bit of a surprise to see the number (49) of lifeboat launches to a vessel dragging it’s anchor. Now, my observation and then opinion is that most pleasure craft, that’s both yachts and motor boats are carrying barely adequate anchors that are ‘good enough’ for anchoring in light conditions in easy situations but for not much beyond that.
One of the trends that i believe led to that was the huge design change to yachts from the 1970’s through to the modern day and that change was a lot to do with the old International Offshore Rule (IOR) – that rule seemed to encourage the designing of sailing boats that were light, lightly constructed and notably fine in the bow often with a little anchor locker right up forward in the foredeck. Most IOR cruiser-racers also tended to carry the lightest anchor that they thought they could get away with, on minimal amounts of chain and warp ; i can think of several examples – two that come to mind were around the 1 ton rating and the one that i sailed regularly (34 feet) carried a 25 Lb CQR as it’s primary anchor and that one dragged easily in a strong adverse tide in the Solent one day despite having all of the minimal chain out, all of the warp deployed and if i remember with one of the boat’s mooring lines added to the rode as well.
Most owner/drivers of IOR race boats and cruiser-racers knew that their boats sailed badly with weight on the bow which meant that alongside light gear there was very rarely a strong anchor roller arrangement and certainly nothing like an anchor winch or windlass – in 1990 i sailed around the world on an old IOR maxi yacht that had no fixed means of hauling up it’s 50 Kg anchor, rather we had to lead the rode aft and bring it up using a pennant led to one of the grinders. As with other boats it was also quite under-anchored and it’s 50 Kg Bruce dragged 3 times just in my time with that boat….that and having to manually carry a 50 Kg anchor up from the bilge, with about the same amount of weight in chain looped over my shoulders was a grim experience.
In my experience and opinion then most modern cruising boats don’t take anchoring seriously and i suspect that’s because most of them don’t go cruising and actually anchor – rather that most of them today cruise from marina to marina and rarely spend a night away on their own gear. Clearly some anchor out for lunch once in a while and usually only on a nice summer’s day – during my France trip in 2019 for example there would often be 20 or more boats in the anchorage during the day and then one by one they would slip away in the late afternoon and head back to port, the ones that did stay usually doing so on a fixed mooring.
At anchor in Whitsand bay, lunch time…..by that evening we were on our own.
However, and once again, i digress.
Not much of the above is hugely relevant to this post where i’m trying to talk about one of the primary safety features and practices for the small boat that i’m building – most visitors here will know that i’m building a 17 foot cruising dinghy which will be my cruising boat and expedition boat. One of the main principles which i’m working to is setting the boat up for the conditions that i will actually sail it in and secondly for the way i will sail the boat….my intention being that of ‘sail and oar’ rather than small motor boat that occasionally sails. In this regard i know that i’ll often be sailing in light weather and half the time with a foul tide to try and cheat , then, at the end of the day i’ll be at anchor somewhere and hopefully up a quiet creek but maybe once in a while in a more exposed situation and often in a strong tidal stream.
To that end i need anchors that are reliable, that i can handle easily and which will set quickly – i also need to stow and carry those anchors in a boat which could potentially capsize ; it would be embarrassing to say the least and potentially dangerous to have 23 pounds of iron crashing about a lightly constructed plywood boat that is on it’s side. What also might surprise readers is that the Admiralty pattern anchor will be set up permanently on an all warp rode and it will be set up for aft deployed bow anchoring.
Early on in the build i decided that i wasn’t going to have an anchor locker right up in the bow for 2 main reasons : firstly that that’s the worst place to carry weight in a boat and secondly that it’s the most difficult place to work on the boat , balancing on a tiny space ahead of the mast and even getting there will be difficult if i have to try and clamber over and past a cuddy. Right from the start i intended to have 2 full size anchors of different types – i really don’t see the point of a ‘lunch’ hook on such a small boat although i can see good reason to carry a ‘storm’ anchor. Also, that my primary anchor can be deployed from and retrieved back into the cockpit which gives me a much more stable and secure place to work from that also happens to be next to all of the sail controls and if i have one the motor.
Stowage is also important – the pictures above show the Admiralty pattern anchor in it’s ‘offsore-stowed’ or passage making position but i also intend to have 2 other positions on the boat where it will be stowed some of the time : one of those positions will be with it’s crown pulled up to the bow roller and with a fluke caught up under the bobstay and a second position will be on the side deck. I haven’t decided on the at-sea position of the second anchor yet and that’s one of the things i’ll be working on when i close the forward compartments and start setting out the positions of all stowed heavy gear.