When we bought Morgan’s Cloud in 1991, she came with a 75lb CQR primary anchor that fit on the bow roller beautifully. Over the next few years we made cruises throughout the North Atlantic and associated Arctic waters. Our rule was that once north of Newfoundland we did not even try the CQR but used our 150lb Luke fisherman type anchor with all the attendant hassles; and believe me, there are many. We simply believed the wisdom of the time that ‘stockless anchors don’t work in the high latitudes’.
We also had a terrible time getting the CQR to stick in the hard sand of the Bahamas and even in my native Bermuda. In 2001 we cruised Norway and continued to have a bad time with the CQR, often trying two or three potential anchorages before getting it to set, or giving up altogether and tying to a wharf.
I should stop here and say that we don’t consider an anchor securely set until it can withstand 1800 RPM (about 3/4 power) in reverse from our 120 hp engine driving a three blade Max-prop. A tough standard, but we have never dragged after applying it.
None, not contacted.
In 2000, we bought a 30kg (66lb) SPADE anchor and quickly found that, despite being lighter than the CQR and set on rope, it set faster and held better. So toward the end of the 2001 sailing season in Norway we put the SPADE on our chain rode. Suddenly we were getting anchored securely everywhere despite its relatively small size.
That winter we put a 55kg (120lb) SPADE on the primary bow roller on chain, moved the 30kg (66lb) SPADE to our secondary bow roller on rope, and our anchoring problems were over.
Since then we have cruised Norway, Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, anchoring hundreds of times, sometimes in very unfavorable bottom types and often on a very short scope. The SPADE has only failed to set twice (in very thin mud and in roller bearing type rocks) and has never dragged once set. We have not needed to use the Luke since getting the big SPADE.
- Don’t accept that this is as good as it gets.
In offshore sailing we often go along for years with poor gear without ever questioning the prevailing wisdom that this is as good as it gets. Does anyone else remember that incredibly dangerous machine, the halyard reel winch? For years after the drum winch became readily available, we were told that we had to put up with this wrist breaking monster on the main halyard because it was unseamanlike to use rope halyards or have a rope to wire splice take the load when reefed. It’s hard to believe now.
- Be open to new technology.
We still see the majority of cruisers out there with old style anchors when there are several much better modern designs available. The SPADE is only one option; we have heard good things about the Rocna and several other new designs.
- Up-size your anchor—a lot.
We are convinced that the increase in anchor holding as size increases is far more than linear. We also think that once you get over 45kg (100lb) you enter a new world of holding and setting capability. I can hear many of you now, “I’m not putting all that weight on the bow!” But have you thought of going to high tensile chain—G4 or even G7—which will allow you to reduce at least one size on the chain and more than make up for the weight of a bigger anchor? This has been Steve Dashew’s approach for years.
- Don’t be fooled by the tests.
The CQR and other old design anchors often do relatively well in them, but we, and many other experienced cruisers, have not had those results in the real world.
- Don’t let inconvenience stop you from doing the right thing.
Don’t let the hassles of modifying your boat’s bow roller to fit a new style anchor stop you from getting one. It will be worth the expense and aggravation, believe me.