Good anchors complicate your life
This year we changed our default anchor — the one we use to test anchorage holding for our cruising guides. We picked up one of those new-fangled “modern” designs.
So far, it has worked like a charm, setting quickly and securely every time we drop it regardless of that anchorage’s reputation for holding.
That’s the problem in a nutshell.
Anchoring is a science, but something of a science for the masses. Not everyone can rebuild their diesel engine or rewire their solar array, but everyone is an expert when it comes to anchors and anchoring.
Just go to any online marine forum and take a stand regarding hooks, chain or some obscure anchoring procedure. There will soon be replies from around the world explaining why your opinions show you to be a neophyte, dangerous to yourself and others.
We might not be in the class of the anchoring experts that hang out at the most popular Internet forums, but we anchor a lot.
In fact, we might have one of the highest DPAs in the Salish Sea. That’s Drops Per Anchorage, and yes, I made up the term.
We like to report the holding at anchorages we recommend. If we can’t find resident boaters willing to share their “local knowledge” about bottom quality, we drop the hook a few times to test things for ourselves.
With any luck, the holding will be consistently good. You drop the hook, let out the rode — usually about 3:1 (depth times three) — and set it with the engine, quickly coming to a stop. Repeat once or twice nearby. Put a check mark in the box and move on. Very satisfying.
The worst anchorages are mixed. The anchor doesn’t set, dragging as you motor in reverse. Then it does set. Then it doesn’t. Not satisfying at all and I begin to regret we ever began to test anchorage holding.
Tests for our first two guides, for the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands, were done with a Delta anchor on our previous boat. It was a good anchor, though in soft mud and a stiff wind could drag off to discover a new world.
The next three, to Desolation Sound, Puget Sound and Georgia Strait & the Sunshine Coast, were done with a CQR that came with our new-to-us boat.
Even though CQRs perform miserably in most independent anchor tests, it was good for our use. An old-fashioned anchor, CQRs hang from the bows of many boats in the Salish Sea and seem to accurately verify an anchorage’s reputation — holding is pretty much what you were led to expect.
But a few incidents, which included a scary drag in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, prompted us to switch. Anchor tests and online experts pointed us toward one of the so-called “modern” designs with heavy, sharp flukes to cut into the bottom.
The new anchor is good, one size bigger than our CQR, and so far has set snugly every time it was dropped, whether into sand, mud, rock or weeds.
That’s the problem. We were in a few anchorages over the summer with notorious reputations, but the anchor set securely and quickly.
So we are in a bit of a quandary as we plan to research a new guide in the spring. Do we switch back to the CQR to make observations consistent through all our guides?
Or do we qualify our observations with an asterisk, denoting “modern anchor”?
Modern anchors do complicate our lives, though there is no question we sleep better in a blow.