Q&A: Do You Recommend A Stern Anchor System?

Question: We’re preparing our boat for cruising in the North. Do you advise a dedicated stern-anchor system? Lots of Scandinavians sail around with one. Danforth, CQR or SPADE? Right now our main bower is a 60lb CQR on 100 meters of 12mm chain. Our spares are a 60lb CQR and a 30lb Danforth on board. We have a spare 150lb Fisherman at home.

Answer: No, we do not advise a dedicated stern-anchor. We do not like to moor the boat fore and aft, unless the anchorage is very small and sheltered, in which case we would use lines to the shore and a bow anchor. The reason is that fore and aft anchoring stops the boat swinging bow on to the wind and puts huge loads on the anchors when the wind blows on the side of the boat.

When the anchorage is too small for swinging to one anchor, we prefer to use two anchors set at a ninety degree angle off the bow; this reduces the swing circle but does not have the problem mentioned above. Of course this method has the disadvantage that if the boat swings round in a circle the anchor rodes will become twisted, but this happens less often than you would think.

Our secondary rode is rope and in two parts of 50 meters each shackled together and in two bags that are stowed on the fore deck and cabin top respectively. So when the two rodes get twisted it is comparatively simple to un-shackle half or all of the secondary rode and pass it around the chain primary rode.

One other thing, we do not recommend the CQR anchor in Norway, or anywhere in the North. We used to have one and found it a very poor anchor in hard sand or weed, both of which are common on the west coast of Norway and in the North. We changed to the SPADE, the biggest one they make, and have had no problems getting anchored in many places including Norway, Svalbard, Greenland and Newfoundland.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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